This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).






In Re the Marriage:

Jeffrey H. Hippert, petitioner,





Cynthia M. DePetro Hippert,




Filed August 29, 2000

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Amundson, Judge



Ramsey County District Court

File No. F597287



William H. Godbout, Jr., 2451 – 15th Street Northwest, New Brighton, MN 55112 (for respondent)


Lawrence H. Crosby, Crosby & Associates, 2233 Hamline Avenue North, 630 Roseville Professional Center, St. Paul, MN 55113 (for appellant)



            Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D    O P I N I O N




Appellant wife challenges the judgment dissolving the parties’ marriage alleging (1) her physical and psychological condition entitles her to permanent maintenance; (2) she is entitled to a larger maintenance award because the district court’s finding of husband’s income understates his actual income; (3) she is entitled to a larger share of the marital property; and (4) the district court erroneously understated her non-marital interest in the parties’ homestead.  We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


Jeffrey Hippert (Hippert) and Cynthia DePetro Hippert (DePetro) were married on November 2, 1991, and separated in November 1996.  Hippert is employed as a truck equipment salesman at Crysteel Truck Equipment.  DePetro worked for State Farm Insurance Company in various positions from 1973 until she quit in November 1997.

After Hippert brought a marital dissolution action, an order for temporary relief was issued.  At trial, Dr. Paul Reitman testified that DePetro suffered from chronic psychological maladjustment, a significant personality disorder, a generalized anxiety disorder, dysthymia,[1] and somatoform[2] disorder.  Reitman testified that DePetro’s  conditions are long-standing, perhaps lifelong and preclude her from working in any capacity within the foreseeable future.  Reitman testified that DePetro might even qualify for social security benefits based on her disability.  Reitman felt that DePetro needed intensive and comprehensive psychological and psychiatric treatment, on an inpatient basis, for 12 months, after which time she should be re-evaluated.  Reitman stressed that it is possible that DePetro’s conditions may be much more serious and totally untreatable.

DePetro, never providing the district court with information regarding her financial resources, did not attend the final day of trial.  On August 16, 1999, the district court ordered judgment, awarding certain marital and nonmarital property to DePetro, but limiting spousal maintenance to a single year of support at $1,250 per month.

DePetro brought a motion for amended findings or a new trial, which the trial court denied.  This appeal followed.



This court reviews a district court’s maintenance award under an abuse-of-discretion standard.  Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 38 (Minn. 1982).  “Findings of fact concerning spousal maintenance must be upheld unless they are clearly erroneous.”  Gessner v. Gessner, 487 N.W.2d 921, 923 (Minn. App. 1992) (citation omitted).

DePetro argues that the district court erred in limiting her spousal maintenance award to a maximum of 12 months rehabilitative maintenance.  She suggests the district court should have found she was entitled to permanent maintenance, or it should have retained jurisdiction over the award of temporary maintenance.

Where there is some uncertainty as to the necessity of a permanent award, the court shall order a permanent award leaving its order open for later modification.

Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 3 (1998).  But permanent maintenance is most appropriate for a spouse who, after a long-term “traditional” marriage, is likely to have difficulty returning to the workplace.  Eckholm v. Eckholm, 368 N.W.2d 386, 390 (Minn. App. 1985).  Here, there was no “long-term” or traditional marriage.  The marriage lasted approximately five years, during which time DePetro maintained her career.  Accordingly the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining an award of permanent maintenance.

However, where a district court failed to retain jurisdiction over a temporary maintenance award for a disabled, unemployable spouse for whom there was no basis to conclude that he would be able to support himself when the maintenance expired, this court has remanded for retention of jurisdiction.  Moon v. Moon, 378 N.W.2d 49, 53 (Minn. App. 1985); see also Peterson v. Peterson, 367 N.W.2d 90, 95 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding that district court abused its discretion in terminating maintenance without evidence in the record that the recipient-spouse would be self sufficient), review denied (Minn. Jul. 17, 1985).  The same rationale applies here.  There was significant testimony that DePetro’s disorders would be long-standing, and possibly permanently disabling.  In fact, the district court found that DePetro was currently unemployable, and did not have evidence that she would ever be employable again.  Although the court noted that her disorders had not precluded her from being employable in the past, given Reitman’s testimony regarding the severity of her condition, the district court abused its discretion in assuming that DePetro would be employable one year from the date of the decree without any evidence to support that assumption and without any ability to alter maintenance at the conclusion of the temporary maintenance award.  See McCarthy v. McCarthy, 293 Minn. 61, 66, 196 N.W.2d 305, 308 (1972) (holding that courts lose jurisdiction over maintenance unless the court specifically reserves jurisdiction over maintenance or there is ongoing maintenance being paid).

The district court inferred that, employable or not, DePetro must have had sufficient financial resources available to her, and nevertheless, she must “assume some personal responsibility” for her failure to provide the court with information regarding her finances.  The court inferred the probable existence of such resources from DePetro’s apparent ability to maintain vehicle payments and housing, as well as to pay for other necessary living expenses.  Although the paucity of evidence explaining DePetro’s financial condition was unquestionably due to DePetro’s failure to provide such data, this does not excuse the court from retaining jurisdiction over the matter.  If DePetro remains contumacious, the district court will likely be without a basis for altering the award of temporary maintenance.  However, as in Moon, without evidence supporting a conclusion that DePetro can be self-sufficient, the district court should have retained the authority to modify the order.  Thus we remand to enable the district court to amend the decree to provide that after payment of $1,250 for one year, maintenance shall be reserved.


DePetro also challenges the district court’s determination of Hippert’s monthly income.  This court will not reverse a district court’s income determination if it has a reasonable basis in fact.  Strauch v. Strauch, 401 N.W.2d 444, 448 (Minn. App. 1987).  Specifically, DePetro argues that the district court erred by using respondent’s 1997 taxable income instead of his net income as required by Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) (1998).  For child support purposes, net income is total monthly income less federal income tax, state income tax, social security deductions, pension deductions, union dues, dependant and individual health insurance coverage, and current child support.  Id.  DePetro argues that the district court should not have subtracted Hippert’s $16,784 in itemized deductions to determine his average net monthly income.  But section 518.551 explicitly provides that standard deductions apply in determinations of net income.  Id.  Accordingly, the district court did not err in its computation of Hippert’s net income.


Next DePetro claims error in the district court’s calculation of her share of marital assets, arguing that her mental illness necessitates a higher percentage of the marital assets be given to her.  But she fails to cite specific examples of how the property division is inadequate.  A district court has broad discretion with respect to division of property.  Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).  And absent an abuse of discretion, the court’s decision is unassailable.  Id.  DePetro fails to cite specific examples of how the property division is inadequate.  Here, the district court divided the property almost equally between the parties and therefore, did not abuse its discretion.


Finally, DePetro challenges the district court’s calculation of her non-marital contributions to the marital homestead, alleging that the district court ignored $8,500 in contributions made by her father toward the repair of the couple’s home.  She claims that, in his testimony, Hippert admitted that the gift was non-marital.  But, in fact, Hippert testified that he understood the gift was given to the couple jointly.  And, of course, property acquired subsequent to the marriage is presumed marital property.  Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 5 (1998).   Accordingly, the district court was within its discretion finding DePetro’s father’s gift to be marital in nature.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.



* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1]   A type of depression involving long-term, chronic symptoms that, while not necessarily disabling, may keep a person from fully functioning or from feeling well.  Dysthymia is a usually considered less severe type of depression than a major depression.

[2]   Such disorder presents physical symptoms suggesting a general medical condition, but are not fully explained by a general medical condition, by the direct effects of a substance, or by another mental disorder.  The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.  Unlike factious disorders and malingering, the physical symptoms are not under voluntary control.