This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Gretta Jennelle Bowser, petitioner,
Michael Wayne Bowser,
Filed December 31, 2002
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
Daniel M. Fiskum, Luther, Heckt & Cameron, P.L.L.P., 601 Carlson Parkway, Suite 750, Minnetonka, MN 55305 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
Appellant Michael Wayne Bowser (husband) challenges the district court's denial of his postdissolution motions requesting (1) a court-ordered distribution of disputed marital property that was initially ordered distributed through mediation, and (2) a reduction of his child-support obligation. We affirm.
The three-year marriage of Bowser and respondent Gretta Jennelle Bowser (wife) was dissolved by stipulated judgment and decree filed September 19, 2000. The judgment incorporated the terms of a marital termination agreement previously prepared and signed by the parties. The judgment granted wife primary physical custody of the parties' minor child, found that husband's monthly net income was approximately $1,500, and ordered that husband pay monthly child support of $475. The judgment also required the parties to submit the division of various disputed marital property and debt to a mediator.
Husband subsequently filed a motion for reduction of his child support obligation and for a court-ordered distribution of the disputed marital property, the mediation having failed. The district court denied husband's motions, reasoning that it lacked jurisdiction to distribute the property in light of the dissolution provision requiring mediation and husband had failed to show a substantial change in his financial circumstances rendering the terms of the existing support award unreasonable or unfair.
1. Husband first challenges the district court's refusal to revisit the division of certain disputed marital property whose distribution was assigned to mediation in the stipulated judgment and decree. Husband asserts that because the mediation failed, a final property division never occurred and the district court may properly amend the decree and distribute the property. See Steele v. Steele, 304 N.W.2d 34, 35 (Minn. 1981). We hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to distribute the property.
The district court has broad discretion with respect to the division of property. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). When husband first moved the district court to distribute the property assigned to mediation, the property consisted of personal property and assets husband claimed wife had induced him to loan her during the marriage by falsely promising she would repay him. The parties resolved the distribution of personal property prior to the district court's April 2002 order. The only property issues remaining concern the alleged loans.
We conclude first that husband's motion requesting the district court to reopen the stipulated judgment and distribute the disputed assets was not timely brought. Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subd. 2 (3) (2002) authorizes the district court to reopen a judgment within one year for fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct. Here, husband was served with a written notice of the filing of the judgment on September 19, 2000. Husband first alleged wife's intentional false representations in a memorandum filed November 25, 2001, over a year after the original judgment. The district court therefore lacked statutory authority to distribute the assets.
Even had it been timely filed, husband's motion lacked merit in that it requested the district court to distribute marital debts that husband had paid for wife. Although a trial court's apportionment of debt is treated and reviewed as a property division, debts paid during the marriage are not considered in this property division. Freking v. Freking, 479 N.W.2d 736, 740 (Minn. App. 1992); Justis v. Justis, 384 N.W.2d 885, 889 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. May 29, 1986). The district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to consider this repaid debt in its property division.
2. Husband argues that the district court erred by refusing to reduce his child support obligation. We will reverse a district court's order regarding the modification of child support "only if [we are] convinced that the court abused its broad discretion" by reaching a "clearly erroneous conclusion that is against the logic and the facts on [the] record." Gully v. Gully, 599 N.W.2d 814, 820 (Minn. 1999) (quotation omitted).
Husband bore the burden of showing a substantial change in his earnings rendering the terms of the existing support order unreasonable and unfair. Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2 (2002). The 2000 dissolution decree found that husband, an acupuncturist, earned a net monthly income of $1,500. In his motion, husband claimed that his net monthly income had decreased to approximately $670. The district court found that husband was voluntarily underemployed, imputed $1,500 net monthly income to him, and denied his motion for failure to show a substantial change in earnings.
A district court may impute income to a parent "[i]f the court finds that a parent is voluntarily unemployed." Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5b(d) (2002). Imputed income is
the estimated earning ability of a parent based on the parent's prior earnings history, education, and job skills, and on the availability of jobs within the community for an individual with the parent's qualifications.
Id. The district court enjoys broad discretion in imputing income. See, e.g., Murphy v. Murphy, 574 N.W.2d 77, 82 (Minn. App. 1998) (applying abuse-of-discretion standard of review to ALJ's setting child support on basis of imputed income).
Husband argues the district court erred both in deciding to impute income to him and in determining the amount to impute. We disagree. First, husband incorrectly argues that the district court was required to find that he acted in bad faith with respect to his support obligation before imputing income to him. See Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 351 (Minn. 2002) (holding that when imputing income, district courts are permitted, but not required, to "consider whether an obligor's unemployment or underemployment is in bad faith toward his or her support obligation").
Husband also challenges the sufficiency of the findings on which the district court relied in imputing income to him, arguing that the court failed to consider the factors set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5b(d). The district court found that husband was underemployed and capable of earning $1,500, his income in the same profession and job market two years earlier. The district court also considered husband's specialized education and unique job skills, including husband's own statements that he holds a master's degree in Traditional Oriental Medicine and is an accomplished acupuncturist. See Strauch v. Strauch, 401 N.W.2d 444, 448 (Minn. App. 1987) (stating finding of net income for child-support purposes "will be affirmed if it has a reasonable basis in fact" (citations omitted)).
Because there is evidence in the record to support the finding that husband was voluntarily underemployed and capable of earning $1,500 net monthly income, the district court did not abuse its discretion by imputing income to husband and denying his motion to modify his child support obligation.