This opinion will be unpublished and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

C5-01-655

 

In re the Marriage of:

David Louis Grande, petitioner,

Respondent,

 

vs.

 

Paulette Catherine Grande, n/k/a

Paulette Catherine L’effleur,

Appellant.

 

Filed December 11, 2001

Reversed and remanded

Willis, Judge

 

Anoka County District Court

File No. F68910197

 

 

Daniel J. Goldberg, Messerli & Kramer, P.A., 1800 Fifth Street Towers, 150 South Fifth Street, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for respondent)

 

Michael D. Dittberner, Kissoon, Clugg, Linder & Dittberner, Ltd., 3205 West 76th Street, Edina, MN  55435-5244 (for appellant)

 

            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

WILLIS, Judge

             In this maintenance-modification proceeding, appellant challenges the district court’s award of only temporary maintenance.  Because the district court did not make adequate findings of fact, we reverse and remand.

FACTS

            The 19-year marriage of appellant Paulette C. L’effleur and respondent David L. Grande was dissolved in January 1991.  The district court awarded appellant temporary spousal maintenance of $2,500 per month for five years.  The district court also ordered respondent to maintain a $50,000 life-insurance policy, with appellant as sole beneficiary, as security for his maintenance obligation.

            Respondent lost his job later that year.  In 1992, by stipulation of the parties, the district court ordered the maintenance award reduced to $1,000 per month with gradual increases to $2,000 per month in 1996.  The award was not modified after respondent found other employment in 1993.

            In November 1996, appellant moved to extend the duration and increase the amount of respondent’s maintenance obligation.  The district court found that appellant had a net monthly income of $1,680 and that respondent had a net monthly income of $3,744.  The district court also found that “the current needs of both the parties are difficult to determine” but concluded that appellant’s income did not meet her reasonable monthly expenses.  Based in part on these findings, the district court determined that the previous level of maintenance was unreasonable and unfair and awarded appellant temporary spousal maintenance of $950 per month for four years.  Respondent’s $50,000 life-insurance obligation was not modified.

            In September 2000, appellant again moved to modify respondent’s maintenance obligation.  The district court found that appellant’s net monthly income was unknown and that respondent’s net monthly income was $4,852.  The district court also found that the reasonable monthly expenses of both parties were unknown but noted that neither party denied that appellant’s monthly income did not meet her current needs.  Concluding that appellant had the ability to be financially independent in the near future and that her needs had not significantly changed, the district court awarded appellant temporary maintenance of $950 per month for one additional year.  The district court denied appellant’s request for need-based attorney fees and allowed respondent to reduce his life-insurance obligation to $10,000.

            Appellant contends that the district court abused its discretion by (1) failing to make findings that support temporary, rather than permanent, maintenance; (2) refusing to award permanent maintenance; (3) refusing to award need-based attorney fees; (4) allowing respondent to reduce the amount of life insurance required to secure his maintenance obligation; and (5) failing to attach a cost-of-living clause to the maintenance award.

D E C I S I O N

 

The district court has discretion in modifying an award of spousal maintenance.  Beck v. Kaplan, 566 N.W.2d 723, 726-27 (Minn. 1997); Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989).  This court will find an abuse of discretion only if the district court reached “a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on [the] record.”  Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984) (citation omitted).  Effective appellate review of a district court’s exercise of discretion, however, is possible only when the district court has made sufficiently detailed findings to demonstrate its consideration of all factors relevant to a maintenance award.  Stich, 435 N.W.2d at 53.  Relevant factors include (1) the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including the party’s ability to meet needs independently, and (2) the ability of the party from whom maintenance is sought to meet needs while meeting those of the party seeking maintenance.  Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2(a), (g) (2000); see Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(c) (2000) (providing that factors in Minn. Stat. § 518.552 apply to maintenance-modification proceedings).

I.

Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by not making findings of fact on appellant’s and respondent’s reasonable monthly expenses and appellant’s net monthly income.  The district court found that appellant’s reasonable monthly expenses were unknown “because [appellant] includes in her [claimed] expenses payments for which she is reimbursed by either [respondent] or [appellant’s] boyfriend.”  Similarly, the district court found that respondent’s reasonable monthly expenses were unknown “because the effects of his remarriage are unclear with respect to his expenses.”  The district court also found that appellant’s net monthly income was unknown because “deductions from her business income and the tax liability on her nonbusiness income are unclear.” 

In addition, the district court based its maintenance award on its finding that “[appellant’s] needs have not significantly changed” from the time of the previous maintenance award.  But the district court did not explain how it made this finding when it also found that appellant’s reasonable monthly expenses and net monthly income were unknown.  We are unable to effectively review the district court’s award of maintenance because it did not adequately demonstrate its consideration of appellant’s financial resources and her ability to meet needs independently.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2(a).  Further, because the district court found that respondent’s reasonable monthly expenses were unknown, it did not adequately demonstrate its consideration of respondent’s ability to meet his needs while meeting those of appellant.  See id., subd. 2(g).

Even if the record supports the district court’s decision, its failure to make specific findings compels a remand.  Stevens v. Stevens, 501 N.W.2d 634, 637 (Minn. App. 1993); see Stich, 435 N.W.2d at 53 (reversing award of spousal maintenance when district court failed to make specific findings on each party’s expenses and obligor’s ability to pay).   Accordingly, we remand to allow the district court to make adequate findings of fact and, if necessary, award spousal maintenance.

II.

            Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to award permanent spousal maintenance.  The district court, after considering all relevant factors, including those listed in Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2 (2000), may award maintenance that is either temporary or permanent.  Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 3 (2000).  When there is uncertainty whether a permanent award is necessary, the district court must order a permanent award.  Id. 

            After finding that appellant’s income was not sufficient to meet her expenses and that she had the ability to establish independence in the near future, the district court concluded that she had the need for an extension of temporary maintenance of $950 for one year.  But again, the district court did not explain how it reached these findings when it also found that appellant’s reasonable monthly expenses and net monthly income were unknown.  We remand for the district court to make adequate findings of fact, determine whether a permanent award is appropriate, and, if so, award permanent maintenance.

III.

Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to award need-based attorney fees.  The district court shall award attorney fees, costs, and disbursements if it finds

(1)  that the fees are necessary for the good-faith assertion of the party’s rights in the proceeding and will not contribute unnecessarily to the length and expense of the proceeding;

(2)  that the party from whom fees, costs, and disbursements are sought has the means to pay them; and

(3)  that the party to whom fees, costs, and disbursements are awarded does not have the means to pay them.

 

Minn. Stat. § 518.14, subd. 1 (2000).  This court will not reverse a refusal to award attorney fees unless the district court clearly abused its discretion.  Kitchar v. Kitchar, 553 N.W.2d 97, 104 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Oct. 29, 1996). 

            The district court found that “[b]oth parties have the means to pay their own attorney fees, costs, and disbursements.”  We note that there is a basis in the record to conclude that both parties were in difficult financial situations.  In an affidavit, appellant stated that she was forced to withdraw $4,000 from an IRA to pay a retainer to her attorney.  Also in an affidavit, respondent stated that he borrowed $30,000 from his current wife’s investments to pay for part of his expenses.  But without specific findings on appellant’s and respondent’s reasonable monthly expenses and appellant’s net monthly income, we are unable to effectively review the district court’s decision on attorney fees.  We remand for the district court to determine, after making adequate findings, whether need-based attorney fees are appropriate and, if so, to award need-based attorney fees.

IV.

Appellant claims that the district court abused its discretion by allowing respondent to reduce the amount of life insurance required to secure his maintenance obligation.  Requiring life insurance on an obligor’s life is justified when it would provide the recipient with “a measure of security for loss of maintenance in the event” that the obligor dies before the recipient.  O’Brien v. O’Brien, 343 N.W.2d, 850, 853 (Minn. 1984).  The district court has discretion to determine whether the circumstances justifying an award of maintenance also justify securing it with life insurance.  Maeder v. Maeder, 480 N.W.2d 677, 680 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Mar. 19, 1992). 

The district court reduced respondent’s life-insurance obligation from $50,000 to $10,000.  But because the district court did not make adequate findings to support its maintenance award, we are unable to effectively review whether the district court abused its discretion by reducing the obligation.  We remand for the district court to determine, after making adequate findings, what amount of life insurance, if any, is appropriate to secure respondent’s maintenance obligation.

V.

Appellant claims that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to attach a cost-of-living clause to the spousal-maintenance award.  But such a clause is in the maintenance award’s appendix and is incorporated by reference.

            Reversed and remanded.