This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







In Re the Marriage of:

Wesley R. Martins, petitioner,





Maryellen Barnes, f/k/a

Maryellen B. Martins,



Filed October 22, 2002

Reversed and remanded

Willis, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. MF263280


Joel B. Wilson, Niemi, Barr & Jerabek, P.A., 510 Marquette Avenue, Suite 700, Minneapolis, MN  55402-1110 (for appellant)


Maryellen Barnes, P.O. Box 822, Flagstaff, AZ  86002 (pro se respondent)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Minge, Judge, and Parker, Judge.*

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant challenges an order denying his motion to terminate or reduce his spousal-maintenance obligation and finding him in civil contempt, arguing that the district court abused its discretion by concluding that evidence of his increased expenses was irrelevant because it stemmed from his remarriage and by finding him in contempt without giving him a full hearing.  Because the district court did not make adequate findings to support its denial of appellant’s motion regarding maintenance and abused its discretion by not granting appellant a full hearing on the contempt motion, we reverse and remand.


On October 26, 1990, appellant Wesley R. Martins and respondent Maryellen Barnes, f/k/a Maryellen Martins, dissolved their 18-year-old marriage.  In May 1991, the district court granted Barnes spousal maintenance in the amount of $300 per month for a period of 36 months.   At the expiration of the 36 months, Barnes moved for continued maintenance, and in August 1994, the district court granted her maintenance in the amount of $704 per month for six months and $582 per month thereafter.  Martins appealed the order, arguing that the district court lacked jurisdiction to modify the award and abused its discretion by modifying the spousal maintenance.  This court affirmed.  See Martins v. Martins, No. C6-94-2037, 1995 WL 81385 (Minn. App. Feb. 28, 1995).

            Martins remarried in August 1991 and has a son from that marriage.  He and his second wife separated in February 2000.  Martins alleges that this separation substantially increased his expenses and that he has not made spousal-maintenance payments to Barnes since the date of his separation because of the increased expenses.  Martins moved to terminate or decrease his spousal-maintenance obligation to Barnes.  Barnes responded by filing motions to find Martins in contempt of court and for a cost-of-living increase on the spousal-maintenance obligation.

            On January 10, 2002, the district court denied Martins’s motion to terminate or decrease his spousal-maintenance obligation.  The court granted Barnes’s motions for a cost-of-living increase and to find Martins in contempt of court.  This appeal follows.




            The district court has broad discretion in determining whether to modify a spousal-maintenance award.  Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).  “Maintenance awards are not altered on appeal unless the district court abused its wide discretion.”  Hecker v. Hecker, 543 N.W.2d 678, 680 (Minn. App. 1996) (quotation omitted), aff’d, 568 N.W.2d 705 (Minn. 1997).  This court will find an abuse of discretion only if the district court reaches “a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on record.”  Rutten, 347 N.W.2d at 50. 

            When determining whether findings are clearly erroneous, this court views the record in the light most favorable to the district court’s findings and defers to district court credibility determinations.  See Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 472 (Minn. App. 2000) (citations omitted).  Further, this court does not reweigh the evidence; rather, it determines whether the evidence as a whole sustains the district court’s findings.  In re Salkin, 430 N.W.2d 13, 16 (Minn. App. 1988), review denied (Minn. Nov. 23, 1988).  “That the record might support findings other than those made by the trial court does not show that the court’s findings are defective.”  Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d at 474 (citing cases).  The district court must, however, make findings that reflect that it considered the relevant factors in determining the amount of maintenance.  Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989).

            A party seeking modification of spousal maintenance bears the burden of demonstrating that a substantial change in the needs or resources of either party has occurred and that the change in circumstances has rendered the existing maintenance award unreasonable and unfair.  Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(a) (2000); Hecker, 543 N.W.2d at 680.

Martins argues that Barnes is not entitled to maintenance because her income is greater than her claimed current monthly expenses of $518.45.  Cf. Lyon v. Lyon, 439 N.W.2d 18, 22 (Minn. 1989) (stating maintenance depends on need).  But a need for maintenance is not based on the recipient’s current monthly expenses; it is based on expenses reflecting the standard of living established during the marriage.  Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 1(a), (b) (2000); Chamberlain v. Chamberlain, 615 N.W.2d 405, 411 (Minn. App. 2000).  The judgment dissolving the parties’ marriage states that the marital standard of living was “about average for a family of four with a single wage earner.”  It is self-evident that Barnes’s monthly expenses of $518.45 do not reflect an “average” standard of living. 

            Regarding Barnes’s income, the district court found that her 2000 tax return shows an adjusted gross income of $7,757; that this figure may not include the maintenance she received that year; and that, including maintenance, Barnes’s adjusted gross income for 2000 could be as high as $8,339.  The district court then noted that $8,339 “is less than 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines of $10,437 of annual family income for one person before taxes.”  The district court further found that: (a) while Barnes can increase her earnings when she does not receive maintenance, she has a limited earning capacity; (b) whether Barnes works “a lot or a little[,]” classifying her financial circumstances as “abject poverty” is “close to the mark”; (c) Barnes’s monthly expenses show she has a “very simple lifestyle” and that “[h]er need is great”; and (d) Barnes has been previously diagnosed with psychological disorders.  On this record, the district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that Barnes’s financial circumstances do not preclude her from receiving spousal maintenance.

            Similarly, the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to consider Martins’s expenses associated with his son from his second marriage in addressing Martins’s maintenance obligation to his first wife.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.68, subds. 1, 2 (2000 & Supp. 2001) (requiring maintenance-related orders to include a notice stating, among other things, that parties who accept additional obligations of support do so with the “full knowledge” of their prior obligations); Ramsay v. Ramsay, 305 Minn. 321, 323, 233 N.W.2d 729, 731 (1975) (holding that obligor’s remarriage to a woman with three children was not a sufficient change in circumstances to support a change of maintenance); Halverson v. Halverson, 402 N.W.2d 168, 172 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that remarriage of obligor who had two young children by his second marriage was not a sufficient change in circumstances to support termination of maintenance).[1] 

            While we agree with the district court that Barnes has a need for maintenance and that Martins’s expenses related to the child of his second marriage need not be considered here, we cannot affirm its denial of Martins’s motion because the district court made no findings of Martins’s monthly expenses and his ability to pay maintenance.  The district court found that Martins claims monthly expenses of $2,986, but reciting a party’s claim is not making a finding; a court’s finding must be affirmatively stated.  Dean v. Pelton, 437 N.W.2d 762, 764 (Minn. App. 1989). 

            The district court also found that Martins overstated his child-care expense by $80, and that his claimed monthly expense of $400 for recreation and vacations was “not reasonable” in light of Barnes’s financial circumstances.  But even if Martins’s claimed monthly expenses are reduced by $480, the resulting $2,506 is only $168 less than Martins’s monthly income of $2,674.  The district court ordered Martins to pay $582 as current monthly maintenance and an additional $116.40 toward his arrearages, a total of $698.40 monthly.  We cannot determine whether that order is an abuse of discretion unless we know what the district court found in regard to Martins’s reasonable monthly expenses and ability to pay maintenance.[2]  Absent findings of a maintenance obligor’s reasonable monthly expenses and ability to pay maintenance, a remand is required.  Stich, 435 N.W.2d at 53. 

            We remand for the district court to make specific findings on Martins’s reasonable monthly expenses and his ability to pay maintenance, and to reevaluate its denial of his motion in light of those findings.  On remand, whether to reopen the record regarding maintenance shall be discretionary with the district court. 


The factual findings of a contempt order are subject to reversal only if they are clearly erroneous, and the district court’s decision whether to invoke its contempt powers is subject to reversal only if the appellate court finds an abuse of discretion.  See Mower County Human Servs. v. Swancutt, 551 N.W.2d 219, 222 (Minn. 1996).  The purpose of civil contempt is to enforce the rights of one party against another.  Hopp v. Hopp, 279 Minn. 170, 174, 156 N.W.2d 212, 216 (1968).  The requirements for the issuance of a valid civil-contempt order include:

(5) a hearing, after due notice, at which nonperforming parties can show compliance or reason for failure; (6) formal determination by the court for a failure to comply and a determination of whether conditional confinement will aid compliance;  (7) an opportunity for the nonperforming party to show inability to perform a good-faith effort; and (8) an ability to gain release through compliance or a good-faith effort to comply.


Walz v. Walz, 409 N.W.2d 39, 40 (Minn. App. 1987) (citing Hopp, 279 Minn. at 174-75, 156 N.W.2d at 216-17).

            Martins asserts that the district court abused its discretion by finding him in contempt of court.  He argues, in part, that he was not given proper notice or a full hearing on the matter.  The contempt issue was raised at the August 27, 2001, modification hearing but was not addressed in its entirety.  Martins was not given an opportunity to show compliance or a reason for noncompliance.  See Walz, 409 N.W.2d at 40 (stating that a requirement for civil contempt is a hearing, after due notice, where the alleged contemnor can show compliance or reason for noncompliance).  Moreover, rule 309.02 of the Rules of Family Court Procedure, states that

[t]he alleged contemnor must appear in person before the court to be afforded the opportunity to resist the motion for contempt by sworn testimony. 


            Martins was not given an opportunity to offer sworn testimony.  Because the district court abused its discretion by finding Martins in contempt without affording him a full hearing, we do not reach Martins’s other arguments on this issue.  We reverse and remand for a full hearing on the contempt issue.

            Reversed and remanded.


* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1] The district court relied on Ramsay, Halvorson, and Schroeder v. Schroeder, 405 N.W.2d 267 (Minn. App. 1987), for the proposition that remarriage is not a change in circumstances within the meaning of Minn. Stat. § 518.64.  Martins argues that these cases are distinguishable because his claimed change in circumstances is not his remarriage but rather his need to pay his own living expenses after his separation from his second wife.  The district court, however, rejected this claim because it did not believe that Martins made no contribution to the home he shared with his second wife.  We defer to a district court’s credibility determinations.  Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988).

[2] We note that setting maintenance in an amount that produces a monthly deficit for the obligor does not automatically render a spousal maintenance obligation defective.  See, e.g., Ganyo v. Engen, 446 N.W.2d 683, 687 (Minn. App. 1989) (affirming maintenance obligation creating monthly deficit of $201 for the obligor where the trial court considered “all the circumstances of the case”); Justis v. Justis, 384 N.W.2d 885, 891-92 (Minn. App. 1986) (noting each maintenance case must be determined on its own facts and affirming a maintenance obligation creating a monthly deficit of about $143 for the obligor), review denied (Minn. May 29, 1986).