This opinion will be unpublished and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

C8-01-1704

 

 

In re the Marriage of: Suzanne H. Boeck,

petitioner,

Respondent,

 

vs.

 

G. Robert Boeck,

Appellant.

 

Filed June 18, 2002

Affirmed in part and remanded

Anderson, Judge

 

Washington County District Court

File No. F2885407

 

Nancy L. Ponto, Ponto Law Office, 1323 Southview Boulevard, Suite 203, South St. Paul, MN† 55075 (for respondent)

 

Tracey A. Galowitz, Lawson, Marshall, McDonald & Galowitz, P.A., 3880 Laverne Avenue North, Lake Elmo, MN† 55042 (for appellant)

 

††††††††††† Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.

 

U N P U B L I S H E D† O P I N I O N

G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge.

††††††††††† The partiesí marriage was dissolved in 1990.† In 2000, the parties filed cross-motions with the district court.† In its February 8, 2001 order, the district court addressed three issues: (1) child-support modification; (2) spousal-maintenance modification; and (3) a finding of constructive civil contempt against appellant-father for failing to provide tax returns to respondent-mother.†

††††††††††† Father moved to amend the district courtís February 8, 2001 order.† The district court vacated the contempt order because it had failed to hold an evidentiary hearing.† The district court also amended other findings based on fatherís motion, but left in place the amended child-support and maintenance awards.† Father appeals from both the original February 8 order and the district courtís amended order.† We affirm the district courtís child-support modification and its interpretation of an earlier order that addressed fatherís disclosure of his tax records.† But because we conclude that the district court, in addressing spousal maintenance, failed to make adequate findings to support its conclusion regarding motherís needs, we remand for additional findings.

FACTS

††††††††††† The parties were married in 1973.† The parties have three children.† The partiesí marriage was dissolved in May 1990.†

††††††††††† In 2000, the parties filed several motions, and the district court issued a judgment based on these motions on February 8, 2001.† The district court recognized that the fatherís child-support obligation at the time of the hearing was $1,894 per month and that spousal maintenance was $2,007 per month, plus an additional lump-sum payment each year.

††††††††††† The district court concluded that an increase in child support was necessary because fatherís increased income constitutes a substantial change in circumstances, making the current support unreasonable or unfair.† Because fatherís income exceeds the highest income on the guidelines grid, his support was calculated using the statutory ďcapĒ pursuant to Minn. Stat. ß 518.† 551, subd. 5(k) (2000).† Based on the maximum net monthly income considered by the guidelines of $6,280.00,[1] the district court set child support for the three children at $2,198.00 ($6,280 x 35% [guidelines percentage for three children at maximum net monthly income] = $2,198).† The district court also found that father was partially paying for the sonís schooling and treatment programs.†

††††††††††† The district court then found that it would be reasonable to reduce fatherís child-support obligation because of fatherís payment of sonís tuition and medical expenses.† But the district court recognized that the parties would not be able to work out these arrangements themselves, so the district court simply reduced appellantís guideline support by $150 per month to partially compensate father for his additional contributions to his sonís expenses.

††††††††††† The district court found that the lump-sum payment system used for maintenance in this case was not working and that the best solution was to eliminate the lump-sum payment and to establish a $6,000-per-month maintenance payment.†

††††††††††† Finally, the district court found that father was not following a court order that mandated documentation of his income.† The court found that father was in constructive civil contempt and sentenced father to 90 days in jail.† The district court stayed the sentence so long as father complied with the original order and produced documentation for his 1991-96 income.†

††††††††††† Father moved the district court to amend its findings and vacate the contempt order.† In its August 2, 2001 order, the district court vacated its contempt order because no evidentiary hearing was held.† But the district court reiterated in its order that father must produce tax documents from 1991-96 and ordered that father also turn over the same documentation for the years 1997-2000, but not thereafter, because the lump-sum maintenance, which was the impetus for the district courtís order for disclosure of fatherís tax records, was discontinued.† This appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

I. Spousal Maintenance

††††††††††† The district court has broad discretion in determining spousal maintenance.† Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).† The district court must make findings that reflect relevant factors were considered in determining the amount of maintenance.† Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989).† Findings are necessary even if the record supports the maintenance determination.† Stevens v. Stevens, 501 N.W.2d 634, 637 (Minn. App. 1993).† Further, a district courtís findings of fact will not be set aside unless they are clearly erroneous.† Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.

††††††††††† To modify maintenance, the party seeking modification must show both a substantial change in circumstances and that the substantial change has made the original maintenance amount unreasonable and unfair.† Minn. Stat. ß 518.64, subd. 2(a) (2000); Hecker v. Hecker, 568 N.W.2d 705, 709 (Minn. 1997).† In applying this two-part analysis, we must consider ďin addition to all other relevant factors, the factors for an award of maintenance under section 518.552 that exist at the time of the motion.Ē† Minn. Stat. ß 518.64, subd. 2(c).

††††††††††† The factors set forth in ß 518.552 include: (1) the financial resources of the person seeking maintenance; (2) the time necessary for that person to acquire appropriate employment; (3) the standard of living established during the marriage; (4) the duration of the marriage and its effect on employment opportunities and benefits; (5) the age and capacity of the person seeking maintenance and the contribution of each spouse to marital property or to the otherís employment; and (6) the ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to provide maintenance.† Minn. Stat. ß 518.552, subd. 2 (2000); Cisek v. Cisek, 409 N.W.2d 233, 236 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Sept. 18, 1987).

††††††††††† Father challenges the district courtís findings on maintenance, specifically: (1) motherís income; (2) fatherís ability to pay; (3) fatherís needs; and (4) motherís needs.†

††††††††††† First, father claims, ďit may be an abuse of the Courtís discretion to not require [mother] to show her efforts to obtain employment at a more reasonable level of income.Ē† But because permanent maintenance was awarded to mother, she is under no obligation to become self-sufficient to relieve father of his obligation.† Schroeder v. Schroeder, 405 N.W.2d 267, 269 (Minn. App. 1987) (recognizing difference between rehabilitative maintenance and permanent maintenance, and that latter did not require wife from ďtraditional marriageĒ to gain full-time employment).[2]

††††††††††† Next, father challenges the district courtís analysis of his ability to pay and his monthly expenses.† The district court considered all the financial information before it and found that fatherís reasonable monthly expenses were $4,000, and that fatherís net monthly income far exceeded $13,202.† The district court also found that father failed to disclose sufficient information to determine whether father had other sources of income, such as rental property in Florida.† We will not review the district courtís ability-to-pay findings when father did not disclose all necessary information.† Taflin v. Taflin, 366 N.W.2d 315, 319 (Minn. App. 1985) (ďThis court will not engage in speculation and the father will not be heard to complain when he has failed to provide this court with a reviewable record.Ē).

††††††††††† Lastly, father challenges the district courtís consideration of motherís needs and income.† The district court considered motherís alleged $10,432 in monthly expenses.† The district court disallowed motherís inclusion of payment of past-due taxes and reduced her claimed $2,168 monthly payment for debt reduction based on motherís failure to budget.† The district court considered the situation with the partiesí minor son, including his private school tuition, and the substantial increase in fatherís income.† See Minn. Stat. ß 518.64, subd. 2(a)(2) (allowing modification when there has been substantial increase in needs of child).† The district court found that the changes in the partiesí situation made the original award unreasonable and unfair.†

††††††††††† But the district court failed to make adequate findings regarding motherís financial resources and needs, and relied solely on motherís affidavit to support its findings as to motherís needs.† While the district court did adjust motherís claimed needs from $10,432 to $8,135, its findings are not supported.† For example, mother claims to be paying approximately $2,168 per month to a credit-management agency for her consolidated debt.† Under her description of this debt, mother states that medical expenses and legal expenses were consolidated.† The district court adjusted this claimed $2,168 per month downward to $1,084.† But there is no indication, other than motherís cursory comments, as to what debts were involved in this consolidation, and the district courtís failure to make more specific findings as to this claimed need was an abuse of discretion.† See Minn. Stat. ß 518.552, subd. 2(a) (the district court must consider ďfinancial resources * * * and the partyís ability to meet needs independentlyĒ and the ďfinancial resourcesĒ of the recipient); see also Stich, 435 N.W.2d at 53 (ďEffective appellate review * * * is possible only when the trial court has issued sufficiently detailed findings of fact to demonstrate its consideration of all factors relevant to an award of permanent spousal maintenance.Ē)

††††††††††† It is necessary for the district court to revisit its spousal-maintenance modification to ensure that father is not inappropriately paying for debt or expenses for which he is not responsible.† See Dick v. Dick, 438 N.W.2d 435, 437 (Minn. App. 1989) (reversing maintenance award because the district court made no findings regarding the reasonableness of the obligeeís expenses).† In remanding this case to the district court, we make no suggestion that the district courtís award of $6,000 per month in spousal maintenance is incorrect.† We conclude only that the district court failed to make adequate findings to support its conclusion as to motherís needs, and, therefore, that this court is unable to review the merits of the maintenance questions.† On remand, the district court must reassess motherís needs and provide detailed findings as to those needs.†

II. Modification of Child Support

††††††††††† We will reverse a district courtís order regarding modification of child support ďonly if we are convinced that the court abused its broad discretionĒ by reaching a ďconclusion that is against the logic and the facts on [the] record.Ē† Gully v. Gully, 599 N.W.2d 814, 820 (Minn. 1999) (alteration in original) (quotation omitted).

††††††††††† Here, the district court deviated downward based on fatherís contribution to his sonís care.† Father claims that the district court deviated upward from the guidelines because he was already contributing to his sonís expenses.† Father agreed to pay for one-half of his sonís expenses and did so willingly and voluntarily.† Father argues that he should be paying far less in child support because he is paying one-half of his sonís expenses and that the district courtís $150 reduction per month is not sufficient or justified by the record.† We disagree.

††††††††††† The guideline support amount is presumed to be the correct support amount, but that presumption is rebuttable and deviations from the guideline amount may be justified with appropriate findings.† See Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(i) (2000) (stating guidelines-support obligation is rebuttable presumption, deviation from guideline amount requires findings, identifying certain findings required for deviation, and stating that deviation requires additional findings on factors listed in Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(c)).†

††††††††††† The district court recognized that the partiesí son is in and out of motherís home and that there was no guarantee that he will be able to continue attending his private school.† The court also found that son cannot be left unsupervised and that there are few people who can care for him besides mother.† Finally, the district court stated, ďthe [$150] reduction shall be applied whether or not [son] is in [motherís] home.Ē†

††††††††††† The district court considered the relevant statutory factors, including the financial and educational needs of the children, and made the appropriate findings to support its conclusion.† See Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(c).† On this record, the district courtís $150 reduction of fatherís guideline child support is sensible because father receives the benefit of the reduction regardless of whether or not son is in motherís home.† Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in modifying fatherís child support.

III. Fatherís Tax Records and Income Documentation

††††††††††† Father claims that the district court abused its discretion when it required him to provide documentation that included joint tax returns filed with his new wife.† Furthermore, father asks this court to require mother to return the copies of the tax documents he provided to her.†

††††††††††† ďOn appeal, the trial courtís construction of its own decree has great weight.Ē† Mikoda v. Mikoda, 413 N.W.2d 238, 242 (Minn. App. 1987) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Dec. 22, 1987); see also Ladwig v. Chatters, 623 N.W.2d 266, 267 (Minn. App. 2001); LaChapelle v. Mitten, 607 N.W.2d 151, 162 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. May 16, 2000).† We will not reverse a district courtís order interpreting a dissolution judgment absent a clear abuse of discretion.† Potter v. Potter, 471 N.W.2d 113, 114 (Minn. App. 1991).† The district court based its disclosure order on a December 1997 order that required father to produce documentation of his income,[3] but did not require the production of any information in fatherís new wifeís name.†

††††††††††† A plain reading of the December 1997 order directs father to produce documents, unless they are in his new wifeís name only.† Therefore, any joint returns or documents were subject to production.† Father can not avoid producing documents merely because they are jointly filed with his new wife.

††††††††††† Furthermore, fatherís claim that this court should require mother to return the tax documents he provided to her is unsupported by authority and therefore will not be considered.† Schoepke v. Alexander Smith & Sons Carpet Co., 290 Minn. 518, 519-20, 187 N.W.2d 133, 135 (1971) (ďAn assignment of error based on mere assertion and not supported by any argument or authorities in appellantís brief is waived and will not be considered on appeal unless prejudicial error is obvious on mere inspection.Ē (citations omitted)).

††††††††††† Because the district court interpreted its own previous order and had the statutory authority to require such production, it did not abuse its discretion.†

††††††††††† Affirmed in part and remanded.



[1] The maximum monthly income was increased to $6,280 for the period of July 1, 2000, to June 30, 2002.† See Cost of Living Adjustment to Child Support Guidelines, No. C9- 85-1134 (Minn. Mar. 12, 1998 & Apr. 19, 2000).

[2]Father claims, ďThere is no statement that said maintenance was Ďpermanent.íĒ† This statement is not correct.† The dissolution decree stated father ďshall pay [mother] as and for permanent spousal maintenance the sum of $1,800.00 per month.Ē† Furthermore, a district court order stated that mother ďwas awarded permanent maintenance at dissolution.Ē†††

[3] Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5b (2000), addresses determination of income:

 

The parties shall timely serve and file documentation of earnings and income.† * * * Documentation of earnings and income * * * includes, but is not limited to, pay stubs for the most recent three months, employer statements, or statement of receipts and expenses if self-employed.† Documentation of earnings and income also includes copies of each parentís most recent federal tax returns, including W-2 forms, 1099 forms, unemployment benefits statements, workersí compensation statements, and all other documents evidencing income as received that provide verification of income over a longer period.