In the Matter of the Marriage of Donna J. RANDLE, Petitioner-Respondent, and James K. RANDLE, Respondent-Appellant.
Submitted December 1, 2017
County Circuit Court 15DR10225; Carol R. Bispham, Judge.
W. Kelly fled the briefs for appellant.
J. Randle fled the brief pro se.
Ortega, Presiding Judge, and Egan, Chief Judge, and Powers,
Summary: Husband appeals from a general judgment of
dissolution of marriage and contends, among other arguments,
that the trial court erred in concluding that the separation
judgment had expired because the parties did not convert that
separation judgment into a dissolution judgment within two
years as described in ORS 107.465. Husband argues that the
separation judgment, which explicitly provided that it was
for an unlimited duration, was intended to be a complete and
final distribution of the parties' property. Wife defends
the trial court's understanding of ORS 107.465 and its
congruent conclusion that the separation judgment expired.
Held: The trial court erred in determining that the
separation judgment had expired. Because the trial court
found that it had expired, the court did not address what the
parties intended the effect of the separation judgment to be
on a later dissolution proceeding. The Court of Appeals
vacated the property division and award of spousal support
portions of the dissolution judgment and remanded the case to
the trial court so that it may determine in the first
instance what the parties intended.
Or.App. 792] POWERS, J.
dissolution case, husband appeals from a general judgment of
dissolution of marriage, challenging the trial court's
division of property and award of spousal support. The issue
in this case centers on whether a stipulated settlement that
was reduced to a separation judgment automatically expires or
ceases to have any legal effect if the parties do not trigger
a dissolution proceeding within 24 months or two years of
entry of the separation judgment.
prior case, husband and wife negotiated a stipulated
settlement that was later incorporated into a stipulated
judgment of separation. Approximately four years later, wife
filed a petition for dissolution and argued that, because the
parties did not convert that separation judgment into a
dissolution judgment within two years as described in ORS
107.465, the separation settlement had no effect on the
court's dissolution determinations. Husband argued that
the separation judgment, which explicitly provided that it
was for an unlimited duration, was intended to be a complete
and final distribution of the parties' property, that it
never expired, and that no further spousal support was
warranted. The trial court agreed with wife's argument
and concluded that the stipulated separation judgment expired
after 24 months. For the reasons explained below, we conclude
that the trial court erred in concluding that the separation
judgment had expired. Accordingly, we vacate and remand the
property division and award of spousal support and otherwise
affirm the dissolution judgment.
party has requested de novo review, and we decline
to exercise our discretion to conduct such review in this
case. See ORS 19.415(3)(b) (describing discretionary
de novo review); ORAP 5.40(8)(c) (explaining that we
exercise de novo review "only in exceptional
cases"). Accordingly, we are bound by the trial
court's factual findings if they are supported by any
evidence in the record, and we review the court's legal
conclusions for errors of law. Kirkpatrick and
Kirkpatrick, 248 Or.App. 539, 541 n 1, 273 P.3d 361
(2012). We set out the facts below in a manner consistent
with that standard.
Or.App. 793] In 2012, after seven years of marriage, husband
filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. The parties,
who were both represented by counsel, proceeded to a judicial
settlement conference to negotiate a settlement. During the
negotiations, the parties believed that wife had a terminal
medical condition, that she would be unable to work or
support herself, and that she would have to rely on social
security benefits after the marriage was dissolved. The
parties also believed that wife would have been eligible to
draw on husband's social security benefits, which were
far more significant than wife's benefits, if their
marriage lasted for a minimum of ten years. As a result,
instead of dissolving the marriage, the parties agreed to a
separation settlement that, in addition to dividing their
property, assets, and debts, provided for three years of
spousal support payments to wife and further provided that
the parties would wait three years before filing for
dissolution as a way of ensuring wife's eligibility to
draw on husband's benefits.
conclusion of the settlement conference, the parties placed
the stipulated settlement on the record. The trial court
accepted and approved of the settlement and thereafter
entered a stipulated general judgment of separation that
incorporated the parties' settlement agreement. Notably,
the separation judgment was unlimited in duration. The
separation judgment, however, did not explicitly address what
effect it should have at any future dissolution proceeding.
2016, after the requisite three-year period had elapsed, wife
filed a petition for dissolution. Wife acknowledged the prior
separation judgment in her petition and sought to keep the
property that she had been awarded. She also sought a
redistribution of personal property and other marital assets
as well as indefinite maintenance spousal support. Wife had
learned that the parties were mistaken in their belief that
wife would be eligible to draw on husband's social
security benefits at the end of the three-year period.
Although their marriage needed to last for a minimum of ten
years, wife learned that she would not be eligible to draw on
husband's benefits until he himself became eligible to
draw on them, which was not until 2023.
Or.App. 794] At the time of the dissolution trial, wife was
living in a mobile home, claimed $1, 278 in monthly expenses,
and testified that she was receiving $661 a month from her
own social security benefits and that she received some
financial assistance from family and friends. Husband, who
was working for a nuclear medicine company where he had been
employed since 1997, had a gross monthly income of
approximately $9, 600. His monthly expenses, including
payment of martial debt, were $5, 588. During the