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Toni v. Toni

Supreme Court of North Dakota
636 N.W.2d 396 (N.D. 2001)


Facts

Conrad Toni (plaintiff) filed a petition for divorce form Sheila Toni (defendant) after 28 years of marriage and the birth of three children, one of whom was a minor during the divorce proceedings. Prior to a hearing, Conrad and Sheila entered into a custody and property-settlement agreement (Agreement) that was drafted by Conrad’s attorney and provided for joint physical custody of the minor daughter, who was expected to graduate from high school in a matter of weeks. Additionally, the Agreement divided the marital property and required Conrad to pay Sheila $5,000 per month in spousal support that would terminate upon either (1) Conrad’s or Sheila’s death or Sheila’s remarriage or (2) the end of three years. The Agreement also stated that the document was the final resolution of all relevant issues and that the Tonis had entered the agreement of their own free will after review. The Agreement divested the trial court of ongoing jurisdiction to modify the amount or term of support. At a hearing, the trial court reviewed and found the Agreement to be a fair, just, and equitable settlement of the Tonis’ interests, granted the divorce, and incorporated the Agreement into the divorce decree. Sheila did not have representation when she executed the Agreement or at the subsequent hearing. The following year, Sheila filed a motion to modify the spousal-support award on the basis that the monthly support amount was insufficient, that the assets she received as part of the distribution of the marital estate were not valuable, and that a subsequent relationship with another man she had hoped would result in marriage and thus financial dependence had not materialized. The trial court dismissed Sheila’s motion. Sheila appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Vande Walle, C.J.)

Dissent (Maring, J.)

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