This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:† Karen Jean Gross,
n/k/a Karen Jean Harbal, petitioner,
Kevin John Gross,
Filed December 18, 2001
Dodge County District Court
File No. FX98391
Jill I. Frieders, OíBrien & Wolff, LLP, 206 South Broadway, Suite 611, P.O. Box 968, Rochester, MN† 55903 (for respondent)
David W. VanDerHeyden, VanDerHeyden and Ruffalo, P.A., 1915 Highway 52 North, Suite 218, Marketplace Center, P.O. Box 6535, Rochester, MN† 55903 (for appellant)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N
On appeal after remand, appellant challenges the district courtís refusal to award him spousal maintenance.† Because the district court did not abuse its discretion on remand by considering posttrial evidence in deciding that appellantís income exceeds his expenses, and because the district courtís finding on the marital standard of living is supported by the record, we affirm.
††††††††††† The 18-year marriage of appellant Kevin J. Gross and respondent Karen J. Harbal was dissolved in September 1999.† The district court denied Grossís request for spousal maintenance, based on its findings that he had a net monthly income of $2,006.41 and reasonable monthly expenses of $2,000.
††††††††††† Gross appealed, and this court remanded for adequate findings, noting that the district court did not explain why it rejected Grossís claimed reasonable monthly expenses of $2,620 and accepted Harbalís claimed expenses of $3,947 when the partiesí needs were to be based on the same marital standard of living.† Gross v. Gross, No. C7‑00-193, 2000 WL 1376446, at *2 (Minn. App. Sept. 26, 2000) (Gross I).
††††††††††† On remand, the district court amended its findings and determined that (1) Grossís net monthly income is $2,570.93, calculated from his October 9, 2000, posttrial affidavit in support of his motion for attorney fees on appeal; (2) Grossís reasonable monthly expenses are $2,387, based on his posttrial affidavit claiming expenses in that amount; (3) Harbalís reasonable monthly expenses of $3,947 included loan payments of $1,292; and (4) the partiesí marital standard of living was artificially inflated by debt.† The district court did not amend its conclusion of law that neither party be awarded spousal maintenance.† This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
††††††††††† The district court has broad discretion in deciding whether to award spousal maintenance, and this court will not reverse the district courtís decision unless there has been a clear abuse of that discretion.† Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 202 (Minn. 1997).† Before this court may determine that there has been an abuse of discretion, it must determine that the district court made a ďclearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on record.Ē† Id. (citation omitted).
1.†††††††† Scope of remand
Gross argues that the district court exceeded the scope of this courtís remand by revisiting its finding of his income.† In Gross I, this court remanded to permit the district court to address the $1,947.05 disparity between its findings of Grossís and Harbalís reasonable monthly expenses and to address Grossís need for maintenance in light of the partiesí marital standard of living.† Gross v. Gross, No. C7‑00-193, 2000 WL 1376446, at *2 (Minn. App. Sept. 26, 2000) (Gross I).† We remanded ďfor the limited purpose of allowing the district court to make adequate findings of fact and, if necessary, award spousal maintenance.Ē† Id. at *3.† No specific directions were given to the district court on how to proceed in making findings and in determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate.
††††††††††† The district courtís duty on remand is to execute the mandate of an appellate court strictly according to its terms.† Halverson v. Village of Deerwood, 322 N.W.2d 761, 766 (Minn. 1982).† But if the appellate court does not specifically direct the district court on how to proceed, that court has broad discretion to handle the matter so long as the exercise of its discretion is consistent with the remand order.† Duffey v. Duffey, 432 N.W.2d 473, 476 (Minn. App. 1988) (citing John Wright & Assocs., Inc. v. City of Red Wing, 256 Minn. 101, 102, 97 N.W.2d 432, 434 (1959)).† Because this courtís remand in Gross I was without specific directions on how to proceed, the district court had broad discretion to make the necessary findings to support its determination of whether spousal maintenance was appropriate.† See id.† We believe this discretion was properly exercised here.
††††††††††† On remand, the district court found that Grossís net monthly income is $2,570, based on his October 9, 2000, posttrial affidavit that he had a net monthly income of $150 as a farrier and on a pay stub, dated June 7, 2000, attached to the affidavit.† Gross does not challenge this amount, and this courtís remand did not limit the district courtís consideration of evidence to the record as it existed at the time of the dissolution decree.† See Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 216 (Minn. 1988) (allowing evidence from partyís posttrial claimed expenses).† The district court did not abuse its discretion by revisiting its finding of Grossís income.
2.†††††††† Posttrial expenses
††††††††††† Gross contends that the district court abused its discretion by arbitrarily basing its finding of his reasonable monthly expenses on his October 9, 2000, posttrial affidavit.† We see no abuse.† In its amended findings on remand, the district court stated:
Throughout these proceedings [Gross] set forth various budgets.† In his pretrial statement he claims a budget of $5,517.91 per month.† At trial, he set forth a budget of $2,620.91 per month.† In his affidavit dated October 9, 2000 (submitted to the Court of Appeals) [Gross] states: ďMy reasonable expenses are $2,387.00.Ē† In his affidavit dated February 5, 2001, he claims a budget of $3,118.00 per month.† The court finds that [Grossís] reasonable monthly expenses are $2,387.00 per month.
The district court accepted the itemized list of monthly expenses that Gross attached to his October 9 affidavit.
We find no merit in Grossís argument that the district court arbitrarily rejected other claimed expenses.† On remand, the district court was required to determine Grossís reasonable monthly expenses, and it did so by accepting Grossís own statement of what those expenses were.† As we have already noted regarding posttrial income, the district court was not limited to evidence of reasonable expenses as they existed at the time of the marriage dissolution.† See Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d at 216.† Because Gross presented widely varying claims of reasonable expenses at different stages in this proceeding, and because Gross makes no assertion that the district courtís finding of his expenses is otherwise erroneous, we conclude that the district court acted within its discretion by accepting Grossís claimed expenses of $2,387.
3.†††††††† Marital standard of living
When determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate, the district court must consider the standard of living established during the marriage.† Minn. Stat. ß 518.552, subd. 1(a), (b) (2000).† On remand, the district court found:
The parties inflated the standard of living they enjoyed by going into debt.† At the time of trial, they had secured and unsecured debt for automobiles, horse trailers, and living expenses.† The debt exceeded $46,800.† The Court cannot order maintenance to maintain a standard of living that was artificially inflated by debt.† [Gross] has the ability to adequately support himself through reasonable employment consistent with the standard of living enjoyed by the parties (adjusted for the debt).† Further, [Harbal] has been ordered to pay virtually all of the marital debt.
Gross asserts that this finding has no support in the record, arguing that the partiesí indebtedness for living expenses was incurred while Harbal furthered her education and, therefore, should not be considered.† The record indicates, however, that the parties incurred indebtedness of $18,810.88 for two trucks and $5,604 for a horse trailer, in addition to the additional indebtedness for living expenses.† The record also indicates that Harbalís educational expenses were reimbursed by or accompanied by a stipend from her employer.† Also, Gross appears to recognize that under the dissolution decree Harbal is obligated to pay some $1,200 per month to discharge marital indebtedness.† Given the broad discretion afforded the district court in addressing the factors set forth in Minn. Stat. ß 518.552 (2000), we find no error in the determination that the marital standard of living was maintained only through incurring substantial debt.
††††††††††† In view of our decision that the district court properly established that Grossís income exceeded his expenses and that the marital standard of living was maintained only through incurring substantial indebtedness, Gross has not demonstrated a need for spousal maintenance.† Therefore, we need not address his argument that the district court erred in failing to review Harbelís claimed expenses.† See Minn. Stat. ß 518.552, subd. 1(a), (b) (providing that maintenance may be awarded if party lacks sufficient property to provide for reasonable needs or if party is unable to provide adequate self-support).†
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, ß 10.
† The decree indicates that (1) from September 1990 through September 1992 Harbal attended nurse anesthesia school on a full-time basis and received a $600 per month stipend from her employer, and (2) at the time of the dissolution Harbalís employer was paying her educational expenses as she pursued a masterís degree while working full time.
† We note, nonetheless, that there appears to be little merit in Grossís argument that the district court erred in permitting Harbal to include in her reasonable expenses the $1,292 per month obligation to discharge marital indebtedness.† Our review of the record indicates the likelihood that both parties would be liable to these creditors if payments were not made on the indebtedness.