This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C1-01-569

 

In Re the Marriage of:

 

Lance R. Heisler, petitioner,

Respondent,

 

vs.

 

Patricia M. Heisler,

Appellant.

 

Filed November 20, 2001

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge

 

Becker County District Court

File No. F300227

 

 

Lance R. Heisler, Heisler Law Office, 407-1/2 Division Street, P.O. Box 740, Northfield, MN 55057 (respondent pro se)

 

Jill I. Frieders, O’Brien & Wolf, L.L.P., 206 South Broadway, Suite 611, P.O. Box 968, Rochester, MN 55903-0968 (for appellant)

 

            Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Schumacher, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge

            Appellant-wife appeals the district court’s denial of her motion for a new trial; award of temporary, rather than permanent, maintenance; and limitation on an award of attorney fees.  We conclude that the district court erred by denying appellant’s motion for a new trial and by not awarding permanent maintenance.  However, we find no support for appellant’s claim that the district court abused its discretion in its award of attorney fees.  We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

FACTS

            On November 6, 2000, after a trial, the district court ordered the dissolution of the 26-year marriage of appellant Patricia Heisler and respondent Lance Heisler.

            The district court found that both parties were 49 years old and had been married since October 26, 1974.  They both graduated from college in 1973, and appellant then taught school for one year.  After the parties married, they moved to Indiana so that respondent could attend law school.  During respondent’s last two years in law school, appellant worked outside the home to help with finances.  In 1976, they moved to North Dakota and respondent began practicing law.  Appellant worked as a substitute teacher for about a year.

            The district court also found that appellant sacrificed her teaching career so that she could raise the parties’ three children and, despite the fact that she does not want to return to teaching, found that if appellant obtained recertification as a teacher and became employed in that profession, “her income potential would substantially increase.”  Currently, appellant is employed in a job that has little room for advancement and she earns a gross monthly income of $1,500 and a net monthly income of $1,200.

            Noting that appellant is in good health but “suffers from a low self-esteem complex and does not have a strong sense of self-confidence * * *,” the district court found that

[a]n award of permanent maintenance would be detrimental to [appellant] because it would unnecessarily perpetuate [appellant’s] reliance upon [respondent] for support by reducing [appellant’s] motivation to become retrained into a more highly-paid occupation.

 

            Finding no uncertainty as to the necessity of permanent maintenance, the court awarded temporary spousal maintenance of $1,000 each month for 120 months.

            The court awarded to appellant attorney fees of $2,500 upon a finding that appellant did not have the means to pay attorney fees.  But the court also found

that [appellant] has unreasonably contributed to the length and expense of these proceedings by wholly refusing to undertake any negotiation in good faith to resolve or settle this case prior to trial.

 

            After the decree was entered, appellant filed a motion for a new trial under Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01 but the court declined to hear it, ruling that, because Minn. R. Civ. P. 81.01 excepts marriage dissolution proceedings from the rules of civil procedure, the court did not have jurisdiction to hear a motion for a new trial brought under those rules.

            On appeal, appellant challenges the district court’s ruling on the motion for a new trial, its award of temporary rather than permanent maintenance, and its limitation of attorney fees.  Respondent contends that the appeal is not timely.

D E C I S I O N

1.         Timeliness of Appeal

            An appeal from a marriage dissolution judgment may be filed within 60 days after final judgment is entered.  Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 104.01, subd. 1.  However, the time for appeal may be extended if a “proper and timely” motion for a new trial is pending.  Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 104.01, subd. 2.  Respondent argues that appellant’s motion for a new trial was not “proper” because it failed to state any ground or set forth the relief desired.  Thus, respondent contends the motion was insufficient to extend the time limit for this appeal. 

            Respondent’s argument raises a jurisdictional issue.  We review legal issues concerning jurisdiction de novo.  McLain v. McLain, 569 N.W.2d 219, 222 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Nov. 18, 1997).

            Appellant’s motion for a new trial stated in its entirety as follows:

[Appellant] hereby moves the Court for an Order granting a new trial pursuant to Rule 59.01 of Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure.

 

Said motion is based upon all of the files, records and proceedings herein, [appellant’s] Memorandum in Support of Motion for New Trial along with attached exhibits, and any other evidence that may be submitted to the Court.

 

            Although appellant did not state any ground or identify any desired relief in the motion itself, she set forth the grounds and requested relief in a memorandum which was filed and served with the motion.  A motion is proper, for purposes of extending the time for appeal under rule 104.01, subds., 2, if it is authorized and complies with the rules of civil procedure.  Madson v. Minn. Mining & Mfg. Co., 612 N.W.2d 168, 172 (Minn. 2000).  Compliance with the rules of civil procedure includes in part:

stating the grounds for the motion with “particularity,” setting forth the relief sought, with any required supporting documents, such as affidavits, and serving and filing the motion with the appropriate signatures in place.

 

Id.  (citation omitted).

            The grounds for a motion for a new trial must be stated with particularity so that both the court and opposing counsel will be apprised of the precise errors being alleged.  Id.  The better practice is to identify the particular grounds in the motion itself.  But the purpose of the rule is met when, as here, the motion discloses that it will be based on a memorandum and that memorandum, which does in fact set forth the grounds for a new trial with particularity, is filed and served with the motion.

            We are to construe the rules of civil procedure “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 1.  Furthermore, we recognize that “[n]o technical forms of pleading or motions are required.”  Minn. R. Civ. P. 8.05. To accept respondent’s argument on the facts of this case would be to elevate form over substance and would not foster the just determination of this action.  Thus, we hold that appellant adequately complied with the rule for extending the time for appeal.

2.         Motion for New Trial

            Appellant brought her motion for a new trial under Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01.  The district court declined to hear the motion because Minn. R. Civ. P. 81.01 provides that marriage dissolution proceedings are excepted from the rules of civil procedure.

            Marriage dissolution proceedings are governed by Chapter 518, Minnesota Statutes.  Minn. Stat. §§ 518.02-.68 (2000).  In that chapter it is stated that “[u]nless otherwise specifically provided, the rules of civil procedure for the district court apply to all proceedings under this chapter.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.005, subd. 1.

            A party to a marriage dissolution proceeding may move to reopen a judgment under Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subd. 2 (2000), and the district court may order a new trial under that statute.  But there is nothing in chapter 518 that suggests that section 518.145, subdivision 2, provides the exclusive procedure for correcting a judgment, or that Minn. R. Civ. P. 59.01 does not apply to posttrial proceedings.

            It is well established that parties to dissolution proceedings may make motions for new trial under rule 59.01.  See Lewis v. Lewis, 572 N.W.2d 313, 315 n.2 (Minn. App. 1997) (discussing appellant’s motion for new trial), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1998); Weikle v. Weikle, 403 N.W.2d 682, 686 (Minn. App. 1987) (stating that appellant properly appealed from the district court’s denial of motion for amended findings or new trial), review denied (Minn. June 30, 1987); Otte v. Otte, 368 N.W.2d 293, 299 (Minn. App. 1985) (awarding appellant a new trial based on new evidence discovered).

            Furthermore, under the district court’s interpretation, there would be no way to correct errors of law in dissolution proceedings because section 518.145, subdivision 2, does not list errors of law as a ground for reopening a judgment under that statute.  It would lead to an absurd result to hold that only the issues identified in section 518.145, subdivision 2, could be the subjects of posttrial motions.  Such a reading would insulate errors of law from both posttrial motions and appellate review.  Thus, we hold that the district court erred in refusing to hear appellant’s motion for a new trial, and we remand to allow appellant an opportunity to be heard.

3.         Maintenance

            Absent an abuse of discretion, a district court’s decision on spousal maintenance will be upheld on appeal.  Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 38 (Minn. 1982).  The district court will be found to have abused its broad discretion only if its factual findings are “against logic and the facts on [the] record.”  Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984) (citation omitted).

            Minn. Stat. § 518.552 (2000) governs awards of spousal maintenance and provides in part:

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.

            In addition to its finding that appellant could substantially increase her income potential by returning to the teaching profession, the district court found that, after making $4,000 in repairs, appellant could rent out a portion of the family home for $800 a month.  This finding was based on respondent’s estimate.

            Recognizing that appellant has been out of the teaching profession for over 20 years and that she is now nearly 50 years old, we note the absence of evidence regarding the requirements for recertification, the necessity of any additional training, the availability of teaching jobs, the likely stability of such jobs, and the rate of pay appellant could be expected to earn.  We also note the absence of evidence regarding the possibility of realizing rental income.  There were no facts beyond respondent’s speculation that there is a rental market available or that the premises could produce $800 a month in rental income.

            We hold that on this record there is “some uncertainty” as to the necessity of permanent maintenance, and that the court erred by awarding only temporary maintenance.  This award must be reversed.

4.         Attorney Fees

            Finally, appellant challenges the amount of attorney fees she was awarded by the district court, contending that the award was inadequate.  An award of attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 518.14, subd. 1 (2000), “rests almost entirely within the discretion of the [district] court and will not be disturbed absent a clear abuse of discretion.”  Crosby v. Crosby, 587 N.W.2d 292, 298 (Minn. App. 1998) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Feb. 18, 1999).  The district court carefully considered all the circumstances of the case, financial and otherwise, and determined the attorney fee award upon those circumstances.  We hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion in its award of $2,500 in attorney fees to appellant.

            Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.