Supreme Court of Alaska (2022)
In Sternquist v. Sternquist, No. S-17594, 2022 WL 2137285 (Alaska June 15, 2022) (unpublished), the supreme court held that a version of a settlement agreement between a divorcing couple that was drafted by the husband and adopted by the court did not reflect the couple’s actual agreement. (Id. at *1). A divorcing couple settled their property disputes through mediation, memorialized in a handwritten list of terms and a recording in which the husband and wife orally consented to each term. (Id.). The couple agreed to a qualified domestic relation order (QDRO) regarding marital portions of retirement accounts and divided personal property according to a spreadsheet. (Id.). When the court refused to enforce the settlement because of disagreement about the meaning of the QDRO term, the husband submitted a set of “non-stipulated pleadings” that included his version of the settlement agreement and a property division spreadsheet. (Id. at *1–2). Over the wife’s objections, the court signed the divorce decree and incorporated the husband’s version of the settlement agreement. (Id. at *2). On appeal, the wife argued that the settlement agreement adopted by the court did not reflect the couple’s actual agreement as to the QDRO term and the personal property division. (Id.). The supreme court reasoned that there was no meeting of the minds as to the QDRO term because the adopted agreement provided that documentation other than QDROs could be used, but the handwritten list and recording did not. (Id. at *2–3). Further, the court reasoned that the couple reasonably expected that the agreement incorporated a specific property division spreadsheet with yellow highlighting, referenced in the recording, and the spreadsheet adopted did not contain yellow highlighting. (Id. at *3–4). Remanding to the superior court for further consideration of the QDRO term and personal property division, the supreme court held that a version of a settlement agreement between a divorcing couple that was drafted by the husband and adopted by the court did not properly reflect the couple’s actual agreement. (Id. at *1).