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You can search the entire site. or go to the recent opinions, or the chronological or subject indices. Ford v. Ford (4/25/2003) sp-5683

Ford v. Ford (4/25/2003) sp-5683

     Notice:   This opinion is subject to correction  before
     publication  in  the  Pacific  Reporter.   Readers  are
     requested to bring errors to the attention of the Clerk
     of  the  Appellate  Courts, 303  K  Street,  Anchorage,
     Alaska 99501, phone (907) 264-0608, fax (907) 264-0878,
     email corrections@appellate.courts.state.ak.us.


            THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA

HENRY H. FORD,                          )
                              )    Supreme Court No. S-10188
             Appellant,                 )
                              )    Superior Court No.
     v.                       )    1KE-99-382 CI
                              )
DARLENE D. FORD,                        )    O P I N I O N
                              )
             Appellee.                   )     [No. 5683 -  April
                              25, 2003]
_______________________________    )


          Appeal  from the Superior Court of the  State
          of    Alaska,   First   Judicial    District,
          Ketchikan, Michael A. Thompson, Judge.

          Appearances:  Karla F. Huntington, Anchorage,
          for   Appellant.   Chrystal  Sommers   Brand,
          Juneau, for Appellee.

          Before:     Fabe,  Chief  Justice,  Matthews,
          Eastaugh, Bryner, and Carpeneti, Justices.

          CARPENETI, Justice.


I.   INTRODUCTION

          Henry H. Ford appeals from the superior courts decision

upholding  the  settlement  agreement  reached  between  him  and

Darlene  D.  Ford,  its order enforcing the  agreement,  and  its

findings  of  fact and conclusions of law.  Because the  superior

courts  finding  that  the  parties  intended  to  enter  into  a

settlement  was not clearly erroneous, and its enforcement  order

was well within its discretion, we affirm its decision.

II.  FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

          Darlene D. Ford and Henry H. Ford were married in Sitka

in 1978.  In October 1999 Darlene sued for divorce, alleging that

Henry desired a divorce and that she would not contest a divorce.

Although Henry and Darlene had no children, they did have marital

property to divide.

          Prior  to his marriage to Darlene, Henry owned property

in Craig.  During their marriage, Darlene and Henry developed the

property into the Ford Marina, although it is disputed as to  how

much  each party contributed.  The marina is the parties  primary

asset.

          Darlene  and  Henry hired Vance Sanders  to  conduct  a

mediation  on August 31, 2000.  Both parties were represented  by

counsel  during the mediation process.  The mediation produced  a

settlement, and the parties went into an empty courtroom to place

their agreement on the record.  Because the mediation did not end

until  approximately 6:30 p.m., no court personnel  were  present

when  the  parties recorded the settlement.  Sanders recited  the

settlement  and, as he had invited counsel to do, was interrupted

numerous   times  by  both  parties  counsel  for   clarification

purposes.  At no time during the recital did Sanders ask  Darlene

or  Henry  whether they understood the contents of the agreement,

whether  the agreement was voluntarily entered into,  or  whether

they  were  willing to abide by its contents.   Chrystal  Sommers

Brand,  counsel  for Darlene, was responsible for  preparing  the

settlement documents.

          On October 5 counsel for Henry, H. Clay Keene, informed

the  Ketchikan court that the mediation had settled the  case  in

its  entirety.  That same day, Brand filed a notice of settlement

with the court.  In it, Brand notified the court that the parties

had  settled  and  that she was in the process of  preparing  the

settlement papers.

          The  parties scheduled a hearing to put the  settlement

on  the record on December 13.  On November 28 Keene requested  a

continuance of the hearing  because Brand had failed  to  provide

him with a copy of the agreement.  Brand filed a non-objection to

Keenes  request.   In it she stated that the hearing  would  only

entail entry of the final decree and findings, as the parties had

settled  the  case.  The continuance was granted and the  hearing

rescheduled  for  February 5, 2001.   Prior  to  the  February  5

hearing, Keene asked for another continuance because he  had  not

yet had the chance to review the settlement documents with Henry.

          On  February 14 Darlene moved to enforce the settlement

agreement.   In  the motion, Darlene argued, among other  things,

that  Henry had failed to vacate the marina by December 31,  2000

as  the parties had agreed he would.  Darlene further argued that

Henry had failed to remove his personal property from the marina,

failed  to clean up the property, and failed to ensure  that  any

other  persons residing there also vacated the property, as  they

agreed he would.  All of these actions, Darlene argued, had  been

agreed  upon  so  that the marina could be sold  under  the  best

possible  conditions as quickly as possible.  Darlene  and  Henry

were  then to divide the profits from the sale according to their

agreement.

          Henry opposed Darlenes motion to enforce the settlement

agreement.   He asked the court to allow the case to  proceed  to

trial  with  his new counsel, Michael P. Heiser.   The  basis  of

Henrys  objection  and  motion was  that,  at  the  time  of  the

mediation, he was in poor health.  Henry claimed that because  of

his  health he could not concentrate during the mediation and did

not  understand the true nature and consequences of  his  actions

and  did  not  know how to express settlement intentions  to  his

attorney present at the conference.  Henry claimed, All I  [knew]

is  [that] I needed to have the hearing end so I could  get  rest

and get away from the intolerable stress of the mediation.

          Henry contended that had he not been in poor health, he

would  have vigorously opposed the sale and distribution  of  the

marina,  as he believed it to be his separate property,  improved

and  developed with his separate funds.  Henry also claimed  that

Darlene  devoted  very little, if any, effort to the  management,

maintenance  or improvement of the property and that [t]he  title

to  this  property was put in both our names on advice of counsel

for  estate  planning  purposes only.   Henry  also  argued  that

Sanderss  failure to inquire as to whether Henry  understood  the

nature  of  the  settlement and if he entered into the  agreement

freely  and voluntarily was grounds for finding no agreement  had

occurred.

          Darlene responded to Henrys objection to her motion  to

enforce  and  she opposed Henrys cross-motion to set  for  trial.

Darlene  contended that the transcript of the settlement  recital

showed  that  Henry was an active participant in the  proceeding.

Darlene  also  noted that Henry made no specific objections  that

the  settlement documents submitted by Brand did not conform with

the  settlement agreed to at mediation.  Thus, assuming the court

found  the  agreement was enforceable, Darlene  argued  that  the

proposed  findings  of  fact and conclusions  of  law  should  be

entered.   Darlene  attached  an  affidavit  from  Vance  Sanders

stating  that Darlene and Henry did reach a final settlement  and

that the settlement was placed on the record.

          In his reply, Henry requested an evidentiary hearing to

determine whether the case should be set for trial.  Henry  filed

an additional affidavit on March 27.  In it, he states:

          I  also want to point out that I was confused

          about  the purpose of mediation.  I  believed

          that  the  mediation  involved  hashing   out

          various  points of view before a referee.   I

          thought  anything  at the mediation  was  not

          final until I had an opportunity to look over

          a  document and decide whether or not to sign

          it.   I  thought a contract had to be signed.

          I  thought if I did not like what a  document

          said we could go to trial.

          Superior Court Judge Michael A. Thompson held a hearing

on  all pending motions in April 2001.  At the hearing, Henry and

Darlene  testified.   Henry testified that  the  marina  was  his

separate  property  and  that  he  had  no  recollection  of  the

placement  of  the  settlement on the record, claiming  that  his

memory was very vague and that he did not understand the proposed

division  of  the  marina.  Henry testified  that  Darlenes  only

participation with the marina was as its bookkeeper.

          Darlene  testified  that she believed  the  marina  was

marital  property.   After  the  parties  were  married,  Darlene

claimed to have helped develop the marina, helping Henry to build

the dock as well as other tasks.  Darlene also testified that she

understood the agreement at the time of the recital to  be  final

and binding.

          The  court  found  that the mediation  had  produced  a

binding settlement agreement between the parties.  Judge Thompson

then  issued  an order to enforce the settlement and  signed  the

decree  of  divorce and findings of fact and conclusions  of  law

submitted by Darlene.

          Henry appeals.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

          I.   We analyze a settlement agreement under traditional contract

principles.1   [C]ourts need not accept property  settlements  as

controlling  when  the facts indicate that an agreement  was  not

made  with  full  understanding.2   Whether  the  parties  to  an

informal  agreement  become  bound  prior  to  the  drafting  and

execution  of  contemplated  formal writings  is  a  question  of

intent.3   We  determine  the parties intent  under  the  clearly

erroneous  standard  by  looking to  the  surrounding  facts  and

circumstances  in  each  case.4  A finding  of  fact  is  clearly

erroneous  when [we are] left with a definite and firm conviction

that the trial court has made a mistake.5

          We  review questions regarding a trial courts  response

to a motion to enforce a settlement under the abuse of discretion

standard.6   We  will  find an abuse of discretion  has  occurred

when,  after  a review of the entire record, we are left  with  a

          definite and firm conviction that the trial court has erred in

its ruling.7

IV.  DISCUSSION

     A.   The Superior Courts Finding that Darlene and Henry Intended

          To Enter into a Final Agreement when They Placed Their Property

          Settlement on the Record Directly After Mediation Was Not Clearly

          Erroneous.

          Henry   contends   that  the  trial  court   erred   in

determining that the recital of the agreement reached  on  August

31 was a final and binding settlement.  We disagree.

          1.   Expressed intentions

          1.   Henry claims he did not think recitation of the agreement

after  mediation constituted a final agreement.   In  determining

the  parties  intent,  [we] look first to the  parties  expressed

intentions.8

               a.   The transcript

          Preliminarily,   Henry  notes   that   the   transcript

available to the superior court  is incomplete as it ends  before

the  termination  of the proceeding.9  Henry  argues  that  Judge

Thompson could not have properly assessed whether the recital led

to  a  binding settlement because he did not rely on  a  complete

transcript of the proceeding.  From his comments at the  hearing,

it   appears   that  Judge  Thompson  relied  on  the  incomplete

transcript.   Judge Thompson made reference to page numbers  from

the incomplete transcript at the hearing.

          Henrys  argument was not raised below and is  therefore

waived.   Moreover, the superior courts failure to use a complete

transcript  in rendering its decision was not  clearly erroneous.

The  dialogue missing from the transcript used by the trial court

only   further  supports  Judge  Thompsons  findings  that  Henry

intended  the  settlement to be binding, as it  makes  clear  the

parties intent that the agreement is final.  There are some minor

instances  where the incomplete and complete transcripts  differ;

however,  none  of  these  differences  provides  any  basis  for

          reversing the trial courts decision.

               b.   Judge Thompsons findings

          a.   At the April 12 hearing, Judge Thompson found that the

degree of Henrys participation indicated his intent to engage  in

a final, binding process on the day of mediation.  Judge Thompson

noted  eleven  separate  instances in the recital  process  where

Henry made topical and relevant observations regarding settlement

of various issues:

          The  subjects being discussed at the time hes

          making  his  contribution, all of which  seem

          sensibl[e] contributions on his part where he

          points out the difficulty in disposing  of  a

          documented  vessel,  where  he  reminds   the

          participants that Ms. Ford cant mail firearms

          .  .  . .  I mean these are all very sensible

          observations.  [These do] not  appear  to  be

          observations that would be made by  a  person

          who  is  in  so much pain [he] can hardly  be

          aware of whats going on around him.  He seems

          to   have  been  a  full-fledged  participant

          there.

          There  is  no  expression  to suggest  that  Henry  was

suffering  any  type of pain, that he in some way did  not  agree

with the final settlement, or that he did not understand what was

taking place.  Henry argues that this is because he tuned out and

just wanted the mediation to be over.

          We rejected a similar argument in Pavek v. Curran.10  In

Pavek, Curran was present and spoke at the hearing11 and did  not

object to the terms of the agreement.12  Curran then claimed  she

did not understand the significance of the agreement and  alleged

that  the  settlement  was invalid.13   We  found  Currans  claim

groundless,  finding  that her presence at  the  hearing  without

objection and her participation in it implied her understanding.14

Similarly,  in light of Henrys active participation, particularly

          at the end of the day when he now alleges he was exhausted and

unable  to  understand the process, the superior  courts  finding

that  Henry  intended to settle the case on  August  31  was  not

clearly erroneous.15

               c.   The proposed later reduction of the settlement to writing

          Henry next argues that the parties stated intention  to

reduce the agreement to writing shows that their oral recital was

not  a  binding  agreement.  But a brief review  of  all  of  the

participants  statements  shows  the  incorrectness   of   Henrys

position.   Sanders began the recital process by stating  that  a

settlement  had been reached and was going to be  placed  on  the

record.  Brand stated that it was her intent to put the agreement

in  written  form  so that the parties could  have  something  to

reference  but that the settlement was final.  Keene stated  that

the  agreement, as stated on the record, was binding on Henry and

Darlene.   Sanders ended the proceedings by stating  that  Alaska

law  was clear the parties would be held to the settlement as set

out at that point by the parties.  Under these circumstances, the

references to a later writing do not support Henrys position that

the recital was not final and binding.

               d.   Henrys age and condition

          a.   Henry also claims that his age and condition affected his

understanding  and that it was error for Judge Thompson  to  find

that  his  age  could  only have benefitted  him  throughout  the

mediation  process.   It is true that Henry  has  well-documented

medical  problems and that he was 73 years of age at the time  of

the  litigation below.  There is no evidence, however, that these

conditions affected Henry at the mediation.  Moreover, Henry  was

represented  by  counsel.   Neither  Keene  nor  any  doctor  has

submitted an affidavit stating that Henry was incompetent at  the

time, that he did not understand the proceedings, or that he  had

trouble  concentrating.  And his active participation  throughout

the  recital process undercuts his present claim.  Henry  asserts

that  he  felt safe in tuning out because he did not believe  the

          agreement was final, but there is no contemporaneous evidence

that Henry did in fact tune out.

          Rather,  Henry actively participated in discussions  on

how  the  marina would be divided:  Henrys counsel asked  how  an

allowance  granted to Darlene for her efforts  in  marketing  the

marina would be impacted by expenditures over the alloted amount.

When  Henry  heard  the  answer, he commented,  Thats  fair.   He

volunteered  to  contact the Coast Guard  regarding  disposal  of

garbage  at the marina.  Henry also stated that he would work  to

ensure  that  a vessel was removed from the marina prior  to  his

vacating the property.  He discussed how profits from the sale of

oil  containers would be shared.  In all, he contributed no  less

than  seven  comments  to the discussion concerning  the  marinas

division.

          From these statements, we conclude that Judge Thompsons

findings  that Henry not only participated at the mediation,  but

that  it was his intent for Darlene to sell the property and that

the  proceeds from that sale would be distributed to the parties,

and  that  Henry intended the settlement to be binding, were  not

clearly erroneous.

               e.   Extrinsic circumstances

          Henry  last argues that extrinsic circumstances support

his  contention  that  he  did not intend  to  be  bound  by  the

agreement.  While the trial court pointed to the delay  from  the

August  mediation  to Henrys first objection to  the  settlements

validity  in February as evidence that Henry originally  intended

to be bound and was now only suffering from buyers remorse, Henry

argues  that  during  the entire period he did  not  believe  any

agreement  had occurred; therefore he had no reason  to  ask  his

lawyer to try and rescind the agreement.  Henry claims his  delay

was  simply the result of Brands delay in reducing the  agreement

to a written document.  Henry argues that his failure to abide by

the agreement was further evidence of his not knowing that it was

binding.

          Henrys  argument  does not account  for  what  actually

occurred  during  the recital and is not persuasive  as  to  what

occurred  later.   Henry  was present after  the  mediation  when

Sanders,  Brand,  and  Keene  (Henrys  lawyer)  stated  that  the

agreement  was binding.  Moreover, it is not entirely  true  that

Henry  failed  to  abide by the agreement.  At  one  point  Keene

requested  an  extension  of the date  Henry  was  to  leave  the

property, which suggests that Henry did in fact know there was an

agreement.  Also, at both sides request, the trial was taken  off

the calendar, and no further settlement conferences or litigation

ensued.   Yet  Henry  took  no step to  resolve  a  matter  that,

according  to his present position, was unresolved.  Finally,  we

agree  with  Darlenes contention that to credit  Henrys  argument

that  his failure to abide by the agreement is evidence  that  he

did  not believe he was bound by it opens the door for any  party

to  a contract to breach the contract and then use that breach as

evidence of his or her belief that no contract had been entered.

          2.   Enforcing an agreement where the mediator failed to ask the

               parties whether the agreement was entered into voluntarily and

               whether they understood the agreement does not violate public

               policy.

          1.   Henry contends that it would violate public policy to

enforce an agreement where no one asked the parties whether  they

had  entered  into it voluntarily, understood its  contents,  and

agreed  to  be  bound.   Henry argues  that  the  presumption  of

enforcing  settlements should not apply in  these  circumstances.

Darlene  responds  that  any such magic words  requirement  would

itself be against public policy.  We agree with Darlene.

          Henry argues that, because he was not asked whether  he

entered  into the agreement voluntarily, no valid settlement  was

reached.   He  claims  that  the  court  erred  in  applying  the

presumption  in  favor of settlement,16 as that presumption  only

applies  to those settlements that are valid.  Henry misconstrues

both  the  law  and Judge Thompsons statements.  In his  remarks,

          Judge Thompson stated that settlements are favored and should be

enforced.   But  Judge  Thompson was careful  to  note  that  the

presumption  applied only to a valid settlement:  for  their  own

sake we should enforce settlements when theyre reached. (Emphasis

added.)   Thus,  it is clear that the court carefully  determined

the  settlement to be valid before it applied the presumption  of

enforcement.

          In  Crane  v.  Crane,17 we held that a party  need  not

expressly  state on the record that it entered into a  settlement

agreement voluntarily for the agreement to be considered valid.18

We made this finding based on the fact that Crane was represented

by  counsel  and by looking to the record.19  Henry distinguishes

himself from Crane by arguing that, unlike Crane, he did not have

the  final  settlement agreement before him, he was  not  present

before a superior court judge, and he was not required to read or

sign  off on a written document.  These distinctions do not  call

for  a  different result.  Henry did not have an agreement before

him  because  the parties had yet to put the oral agreement  into

written form.  And the presence of a superior court judge is  not

required  for  the  parties to enter into  a  binding  agreement.

Henry  argues  the lack of a judge is evidence that  he  did  not

intend the recital to be final.  However, non-judicial settlement

officers,  mediators,  and arbitrators are  frequently  used  and

Henrys  rule  would  require a judges  presence  to  complete  an

agreement  in  any  of these settings, an obviously  unattractive

rule.

          It  is true that this case would be easier for us   and

would  have  been easier for the superior court  if the  mediator

had  directly  addressed the parties during the recorded  session

and confirmed that each understood the settlement and agreed with

it.   Simple  affirmations by the parties of their  understanding

and  intent  to  be  bound  may have obviated  the  need  for  an

extensive  evidentiary hearing and for later detailed reviews  of

the  recitations  made at the recorded session.  Nonetheless,  we

          reject Henrys contention that, without particular questions or

recitations when a settlement is put on the record, either  party

may  successfully attack the settlement.  We encourage judges and

mediators  who  conduct  settlement proceedings,  and  who  reach

settlements, to confirm on the record directly with  the  parties

their  understanding  of the settlement and their  intentions  to

enter into it, but we reject the proposition that the failure  to

conduct  such inquiries is necessarily fatal to the  entry  of  a

settlement.

          It  was not clear error for Judge Thompson to find that

Henry  did  intend to settle.  It was not an abuse of  discretion

for   Judge   Thompson  not  to  have  required   statements   of

voluntariness from the parties for the agreement to be valid.

     B.   The  Trial Court Properly Entered Findings of Fact  and

          Conclusions of Law, and Minor Factual Errors in the Findings and

          Conclusions Do Not Require Reversal.

          Henry  claims the trial court committed legal error  by

not  reading the findings of fact and conclusions of  law  before

signing  them.   He  points  to  two  mistaken  dates20   and   a

misstatement   that   Henry  appeared  personally   rather   than

telephonically  at the hearing.  Henry also notes  a  substantive

error in the divorce decree:  The property table states that  the

Ford  Marina  is valued at $1,400,000 and apportions $700,000  to

both  Darlene and Henry, whereas paragraph 2 of the decree states

that  fifty-five  percent of the value of the  marina  should  be

distributed to Darlene and forty-five percent to Henry.

          Darlene  argues  in response that Henry never  properly

objected  to  these factual errors at the trial  court  level  to

allow for their correction.  She further contends that the errors

are  merely  clerical  and do not affect  the  substance  of  the

divorce  decree or findings of fact and conclusions of  law.   We

agree with Darlene.

          Henry  failed  to  bring these errors to  the  superior

courts  attention after initially requesting additional  time  to

          bring objections under Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b),

raising  the possibility that he waived the alleged errors.   But

we  need  not  decide whether Henrys failure to  file  objections

under Rule 78(b) constituted a waiver of these arguments, because

Henrys arguments for reversal lack merit.

          Although  Henry is correct that the decree  of  divorce

and  findings  of fact and conclusions of law do contain  factual

errors, the errors are not substantial.21  They hardly constitute

evidence   that  Judge  Thompson  did  not  read  the  documents.

Further,  the one substantive error does not warrant undoing  the

settlement.   This is because the mistake in the distribution  in

the  property table is evident from the text of that table.   The

property  table states entire property (upper and  lower)  to  be

sold  and proceeds distributed as set forth in Paragraph 2 below.

Paragraph 2 thus controls and the division should be governed  by

the  fifty-five percent/forty-five percent division  in  Darlenes

favor  found  in that paragraph.  Moreover, even if the  document

were  ambiguous, the transcript of the recital of  the  agreement

makes clear that the parties intended a fifty-five percent/forty-

five percent split.  There is, therefore, no basis to reverse the

superior courts findings and conclusions.  It is sufficient  that

the  superior court correct the clerical errors concerning dates,

note that Henry participated telephonically rather than in person

at  the  hearing,  and insert the correct distributional  figures

(fifty-five and forty-five percent of $1,400,000 for Darlenes and

Henrys shares, respectively, of the marina).

     C.   The Trial Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion in Issuing the
          Order To Enforce the Settlement Agreement.
          
          A.   Henry argues that the order to enforce the settlement
agreement  grossly exceeded the terms of the actual agreement,  a
modification  the court did not have the power  to  enforce.   We
disagree.
          Under the decree Darlene was charged with marketing the
marina,  and Henry agreed to undertake certain tasks  to  aid  in
that endeavor.  The decree provided Darlene with payment for  her
          services and advanced her the sum of $3,500.  Darlene was to
notify  Henry of proposed expenditures in excess of  this  amount
and obtain his consent.  Darlene and Henry would then split these
costs.  When Henry failed to meet his obligations, Judge Thompson
ordered  Henry  to  pay Darlene $10,000 as  an  advance  for  her
expenses  in hiring people to help her clean up the Ford  Marina.
Henry  claims this was a unilateral modification of the  property
settlement and thus impermissible.
          Henry  relies on Davis v. Dykman,22 where  we  found  a
settlement  agreement  invalid because it was  uncertain.23   The
agreement  failed to state a dollar amount of the  settlement  or
any  method  for calculating the dollar amount.24   Although  the
parties asked the superior court to fill in this gap for them, we
held  that   [t]he  courts  should not  impose  on  a  party  any
performance to which he [or she] did not and probably  would  not
have agreed. 25  Henry argues that the trial court should not have
been  allowed  under Davis to order the additional payment.   But
Davis  is  inapposite.   Here  the trial  court  was  faced  with
remedying  a  breach, not filling in the gaps  of  an  agreement.
Henry  did  not  fulfill  any of his responsibilities  under  the
agreement  with regard to the Ford Marina.  He did not clean  the
property,  sell  the  equipment on the property,  or  ensure  the
property  was  vacated by its tenants.  Indeed, the condition  of
the property allegedly worsened after the August 31 mediation.
          In  order to remedy the situation, Darlene requested in
her  motion to enforce that she be entitled to take all necessary
actions  and be compensated for her actions to ready  the  marina
for  sale.   She also requested that she be advanced $10,000  for
this  purpose.  Judge Thompson thus ordered Henry to pay  Darlene
an  advance of $10,000 to accomplish this.  Henry did not  object
to  this request at the superior court level and only now  voices
his  opposition.   The  order falls within  the  superior  courts
powers  to enforce its own orders26 and was not an abuse  of  the
courts discretion.
          Henry  also  asks that the award of attorneys  fees  be
vacated  as  an  improper exercise of the courts  authority.   We
          decline to consider the argument because it is inadequately
briefed.27
V.   CONCLUSION
          The  superior courts finding that Henry intended to  be
bound by the recorded recital of the parties settlement agreement
after  mediation  on  August 31 was not clearly  erroneous.   The
superior  court properly issued findings of fact and  conclusions
of  law,  and factual errors in the findings should be  corrected
upon remand.  The superior court did not abuse its discretion  in
issuing  the  order  to  enforce  the  property  settlement.   We
therefore  direct that the clerical and computational  errors  in
the decree be corrected upon remand and we AFFIRM the decision of
the superior court.
_______________________________
     1     Courts  will treat settlement agreements as  contracts
provided  they meet minimal contractual requirements.   Crane  v.
Crane,  986 P.2d 881, 885 (Alaska 1999) (citing Gaston v. Gaston,
954  P.2d 572, 574 (Alaska 1998); Davis v. Dykman, 938 P.2d 1002,
1006 (Alaska 1997)).  To form a contract, an offer including  all
essential terms, an unequivocal acceptance of those terms by  the
offeree, consideration, and an intent to be bound by the contract
are required.  Young v. Hobbs, 916 P.2d 485, 488 (Alaska 1996).

     2    Notkin v. Notkin, 921 P.2d 1109, 1112 (Alaska 1996).

     3    Juliano v. Angelini, 708 P.2d 1289, 1291 (Alaska 1985).

     4    Id.

     5    Hamilton v. Hamilton, 42 P.3d 1107, 1111 (Alaska 2002).

     6    Dickerson v. Williams, 956 P.2d 458, 462 (Alaska 1998).

     7     Liimatta v. Vest, 45 P.3d 310, 313 (citing  Peter  Pan
Seafoods, Inc. v. Stepanoff, 650 P.2d 375, 378-79 (Alaska 1982)).

     8    Juliano, 708 P.2d at 1291.

     9    A transcript prepared by another transcriber was lodged
with this court and contains a complete record of the proceeding.

     10    754 P.2d 1125 (Alaska 1988).

     11    Id. at 1126-27.

     12    Id. at 1127.

     13    Id. (alleging agreement did not provide enough security
in the event Pavek defaulted on payments).

     14    Id.

     15     It is true that we qualified our holding in Pavek  by
noting that Curran made no claim that she was defrauded or  under
duress.   Id.   Although  Henry does allege  duress  here,  Judge
Thompson  found Henry was not a credible witness  on  this  point
when  he testified at the April 12 hearing, a finding within  the
ambit of the superior court, not the appellate.  Barios v. Brooks
Range  Supply,  Inc., 26 P.3d 1082, 1087 (Alaska  2001)  (Witness
credibility determinations are left to the trial court.).

     16     [S]tipulations  and settlements are  favored  in  law
because  they  simplify,  shorten and settle  litigation  without
taking  up valuable court resources. Murphy v. Murphy,  812  P.2d
960,  965  (Alaska  1991)  (internal quotations  omitted).   This
principle applies in the context of divorce property settlements.
Notkin v. Notkin, 921 P.2d 1109, 1111 (Alaska 1996).

     17    986 P.2d 881 (Alaska 1999).

     18    Id. at 886.

     19    Id.

     20     Henry  argues  that [b]oth the  decree  and  findings
erroneously state that the Divorce hearing was on February 5, not
April  13.  (The hearing was actually on April 12.)  And he notes
that  the  Decree of Divorce misstates the date  of  the  initial
recitation as August 2001, not August 2000.

     21     The  decree  as well as the findings both  state  the
hearing took place on February 5, whereas it actually occurred on
April  12.   That is most likely because the hearing was  at  one
point  scheduled  for  February 5.  These pleadings  were  lodged
January  30, 2001 to allow Henry five days to make objections  to
them  under  Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 78(b) in  order  that
they could be signed at the February 5 hearing.
          The  statement  that Henry appeared  personally  rather
than  telephonically  is  factually incorrect,  although  it  may
merely  reflect  incorrect  usage.  The  decree  does  contain  a
typographical error concerning the year of mediation.

     22    938 P.2d 1002 (Alaska 1997).

     23    Id. at 1006.

     24    Id.

     25    Id. at 1007 (Alaska 1997) (quoting Rego v. Decker, 482
P.2d 834, 837 (Alaska 1971)).

     26     Johnson  v.  Johnson, 544 P.2d 65, 72  (Alaska  1975)
(noting that the courts inherent power to enforce its decrees may
justify a court in going even beyond the parties requests).

     27    Stoshs I/M v. Fairbanks N. Star Borough, 12 P.3d 1180,
1183 & n.12 (Alaska 2000).