This opinion will be unpublished and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
In re: Christine Marie Luoma,
Arne Edward Matthew Luoma,
Filed September 17, 2002
St. Louis County District Court
File No. F097100701
Dennis J. Korman, Six 11th Street, Cloquet, MN 55720 (for respondent)
Jack E. Setterlund, 825 Alworth Building, 306 West Superior Street, Duluth, MN 55802 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Arne Edward Matthew Luoma appeals from the district court’s denial of his motion to reduce or terminate his spousal maintenance obligation. Because the district court failed to make adequate findings on the parties’ needs and financial resources, we are unable to determine whether the court fully considered the appropriate statutory factors. We therefore reverse and remand for findings.
A district court has broad discretion regarding modification of spousal maintenance, and its decision will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989). Such an abuse occurs when the district court resolves the matter in a manner that is “against logic and the facts on the record.” Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). Effective appellate review of the district court’s exercise of its discretion is possible only when the district court issues sufficiently detailed findings to demonstrate that it considered the statutory factors relevant to an award or modification. Stich, 435 N.W.2d at 53. In several respects, the district court here either applied faulty reasoning or failed to make adequate findings to support its denial of appellant’s modification motion.
First, the district court appears to have concluded that because the parties’ stipulation anticipated that respondent Christine Marie Luoma would complete her schooling and become employed, this change cannot be considered as a basis to modify the parties’ stipulation. But the fact that the original obligation is based on a stipulation does not preclude later modification when a substantial change occurs. Kemp v. Kemp, 608 N.W.2d 916, 921 (Minn. App. 2000). A stipulation, like a maintenance obligation awarded by a district court following a trial, is examined to determine the baseline circumstances that existed at the time the original obligation was imposed. Hecker v. Hecker, 568 N.W.2d 705, 709 (Minn. 1997).
Here, it is undisputed that respondent’s net monthly income has substantially increased, from zero at the time of the original judgment to at least $1,796 per month. This figure is based on respondent working approximately 24 hours per week and allows deduction of amounts that respondent voluntarily pays for an adult daughter’s medical insurance. Because respondent acknowledged that she is capable and willing to work more hours and because the expenses of adult children are not properly considered when determining maintenance, respondent’s net monthly income appears to be understated. On remand, the district court must consider these issues and reach a fair and accurate calculation of respondent’s net monthly income, supported by adequate findings.
Second, the district court rejected appellant’s claim that a substantial change has occurred because his income has decreased, based on the court’s comparison of the gross receipts from his chiropractic business and its conclusion that those gross receipts have not changed. But a comparison of appellant’s annual gross receipts from his practice does not provide an accurate picture of his ability to pay maintenance. In order to determine whether a substantial change has occurred, the court must make findings on appellant’s current net monthly income and on his net monthly income at the time of the parties’ divorce.
Finally, the district court failed to make any findings on either party’s reasonable monthly expenses, either at the time of the divorce or at the time of this modification motion. Because these findings are crucial to determine appellant’s ability to pay and respondent’s need for maintenance, a remand is necessary. See, e.g., Stich, 435 N.W.2d at 53 (reversing and remanding permanent maintenance award for findings on parties’ expenses and obligor’s ability to pay); Stevens v. Stevens, 501 N.W.2d 634, 637 (Minn. App. 1993) (reversing and remanding where district court abused its discretion by failing to make findings to support maintenance award); Rapacke v. Rapacke, 442 N.W.2d 340, 343-44 (Minn. App. 1989) (reversing and remanding due to lack of findings on party’s needs and income).
On remand, the district court must demonstrate that it has properly considered the relevant statutory factors enumerated in Minn. Stat. § 518.552 (2000) and Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2 (Supp. 2001). When making these findings, the district court should not consider amounts that respondent voluntarily spends on her adult children. Musielewicz v. Musielewicz, 400 N.W.2d 100, 103 (Minn. App. 1987) (while party’s desire to assist adult children is “commendable and understandable,” district court must “fairly determine maintenance without considering the needs of adult children”), review denied (Minn. Mar. 25, 1987). Moreover, appellant’s maintenance obligation must still be related to meeting respondent’s needs, while considering appellant’s ability to pay. See Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 39-40 (Minn. 1982) (maintenance intended to balance financial needs and ability of recipient to meet those needs against financial condition of obligor).
We therefore reverse and remand for reconsideration of appellant’s motion to modify his maintenance obligation.
Reversed and remanded.