This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






In Re the Marriage of:

Roxanne Mary Rossini, petitioner,





Michael J. Rossini,



Filed April 17, 2001

Reversed in part and remanded

Lansing, Judge


Dakota County District Court

File No. F09814735


Dianne Wright, McCullough, Smith, Wright & Kempe, P.A., 905 Parkway Drive, St. Paul, MN 55106 (for appellant)


John F. Wagner, McDonough, Wagner & Ho, LLP, 14501 Granada Drive, Suite 200, Apple Valley, MN 55124 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            On appeal from an amended judgment dissolving his marriage, Michael Rossini challenges the district court’s determination on spousal maintenance, the requirement to secure the maintenance obligation, and an alleged double imposition of the marital property-equalization payment.  Because the findings do not support the amount of maintenance or the necessity for securing the obligation, and because the court’s factual finding and legal conclusion are inconsistent on the marital-property equalization payment, we reverse in part and remand.


            Michael and Roxanne Rossini married in 1972, separated in June 1998, and stipulated to a judgment dissolving their marriage in September 1998.  In December 1999, the district court reopened the provisions of the judgment relating to property distribution and spousal maintenance after the Rossinis learned they had made a mutual mistake in assessing the amount of compensation deferred during their marriage.

Following a trial on the reopened issues, the district court found that Roxanne Rossini had net monthly income of $1,639 (with standard tax deduction) and reasonable monthly expenses of $1,660.  The district court found that Michael Rossini had net monthly income of $2,528, or $2,561 if union income was included.  The court concluded that Michael Rossini was obligated to pay Roxanne Rossini $750 a month for permanent spousal maintenance and directed Michael Rossini to secure his maintenance obligation with $100,000 of life insurance.

The court divided Michael Rossini’s retirement plans, including the deferred-income account, and required Michael Rossini to make a property-equalization payment.  In providing for the property-equalization payment, the district court ordered both that Roxanne Rossini should receive $18,004.50 from one of the retirement accounts and that she should receive half the marital fraction of the retirement accounts.

  Michael Rossini challenges the determinations on (1) spousal maintenance, including the requirement that the obligation be secured by insurance; and (2) the imposition of two property-equalization payments.  



            The standard of review for a maintenance determination is whether the district court abused its discretion.  Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 38 (Minn. 1982).   A district court abuses its discretion if its maintenance determination is unsupported by logic or the facts on record.  See Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 202 (Minn. 1997).

A court may award maintenance to either spouse if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance (a) lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs considering the standard of living established during the marriage, or (b) is unable to provide adequate self-support through appropriate employment considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances.  Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 1 (2000).  In determining maintenance, the court is required to consider statutory factors relevant to amount and duration.  Id. at subd. 2.  Each case must be decided on its own facts, and no single statutory factor is dispositive.  Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d  at 39. 

            The district court found Roxanne Rossini’s net monthly income to be $1,639 or $1,695, depending on whether she itemizes her tax deductions, and Michael Rossini’s net monthly income to be $2,528 or $2,561, depending on whether he works for his union as well as his employer.  The court found Roxanne Rossini’s reasonable monthly expenses to be $1,660 and Michael Rossini’s reasonable monthly expenses to be $2,477.  Neither party specifically challenged these findings.  The court did not list the expenses individually and did not explain why Michael Rossini’s monthly expenses exceeded Roxanne Rossini’s monthly expenses by more than $800.  The court did note that Roxanne Rossini was sharing her townhome with her son and that her son paid for all utilities.

The court did not explain how it arrived at its conclusion that Michael Rossini should pay $750 in spousal maintenance.  The findings on income and expenses would indicate that Roxanne Rossini has a monthly shortfall of, at most, $21 and Michael Rossini has an excess of, at most, $84.

Although the district court has broad discretion in determining spousal maintenance, the court must make findings that reflect it considered the relevant factors in support of an award.  Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989).  The equation for determining the amount and duration of maintenance is essentially the recipient’s need balanced against the obligor’s financial condition.  Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d at 39-40.  Reasonable need necessarily takes into account the standard of living established during the marriage.  Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 1(a); Arundel v. Arundel, 281 N.W.2d 663, 666-67 (Minn. 1979) (stating maintenance recipient is entitled “not simply that [amount] which will supply her with the bare necessities of life” but amount that also considers obligor’s means and recipient’s circumstances).  The reasonable needs of the recipient are an essential part of the equation.  See  Lyon v. Lyon, 439 N.W.2d 18, 22 (Minn. 1989) (stating “maintenance depends on a showing of need”) (citation omitted).

            Absent further findings or explanation, the $750 monthly maintenance amount is not a logical balancing of Roxanne Rossini’s need for maintenance and Michael Rossini’s apparent ability to pay maintenance.  Therefore, we reverse the maintenance award and remand for the district court to readdress the maintenance question, to augment or explain the findings on the amount and duration of the spousal maintenance, and to make any necessary adjustment of the maintenance determination. 

            Because we reverse and remand the maintenance question, we also remand the issue of whether to require that Michael Rossini secure his maintenance obligation.  On remand, the district court shall address the security question in light of its maintenance decision and determine, within its discretion, whether the facts demonstrate that this is the exceptional case that warrants a requirement to secure the obligation.  See Arundel, 281 N.W.2d at 667.


            Factual findings in marital-property divisions will not be set aside unless the findings are clearly erroneous on the record as a whole.  Maurer v. Maurer, ___ N.W.2d ___, 2001 WL 278708, at *14 (Minn. Mar. 22, 2001).  Interpretation of provisions in a marital-dissolution judgment is a legal question.  Anderson v. Archer, 510 N.W.2d 1, 3 (Minn. App. 1993).

            The Rossinis stipulated to the value of their retirement account, and in Finding XXIII the court listed all of the marital assets, the value, and who would receive the asset.  The total marital estate was divided equally, with each party receiving assets worth $80,934.50.  As part of the equalization, Roxanne Rossini received $18,004.50 from Michael Rossini’s deferred compensation.

            In addition to the deferred-compensation retirement account, Michael Rossini also has a Minnesota State Retirement System pension, which the Rossinis stipulated would be divided between them, with Roxanne Rossini receiving one-half of the marital fraction of the future payments.  When retirement accounts can be valued without undue speculation and sufficient assets are available to divide retirements accounts at the time a dissolution judgment is entered, it is preferable to divide the accounts in the judgment.  Taylor v. Taylor, 329 N.W.2d 795, 798-99 (Minn. 1983).  This method of dividing retirement accounts is referred to as the “present cash value method.”  Dubois v. Dubois, 335 N.W.2d 503, 505 (Minn. 1983).  Because of the nature and composition of the Rossinis’ marital estate, the “present cash value method” is the appropriate way to divide Michael Rossini’s deferred-compensation account.

            In the first amended decree, the operative provisions of the judgment, Conclusion 9, provided that Roxanne Rossini would receive “one-half of the marital fraction of said funds as an equalizing award of the marital assets” instead of the $18,004.50 from the deferred-compensation plan that was provided for in Finding XXIII.  In response to Michael Rossini’s posttrial motion, the district court included the $18,004.50 in Conclusion 9, but failed to delete “one-half of the marital fraction.”

            The effect of the attempted correction is that Roxanne Rossini retains the total interest in her own retirement accounts and receives a substantially greater interest in Michael Rossini’s retirement accounts than the amount needed to equalize the distribution of the disputed marital assets as provided in Finding XXIII.  Under the wording of amended Conclusion 9, Roxanne Rossini would receive more than twice as much of the disputed marital assets as Michael Rossini, rather than the equal division provided in Finding XXIII.  Because Conclusion 9 cannot be reconciled with Finding XXIII, we remand this issue to the district court to either equalize the account division in accordance with Finding XXIII or to augment the findings by explaining the unequal division in the operative provisions of Conclusion 9.

            Reversed in part and remanded.