This opinion will be unpublished and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
In re the Marriage of:
Peggy Ann Mohelski-Braun,
Joseph Martin Braun,
Filed January 21, 2003
Isanti County District Court
File No. F19320
Mark W. Benjamin, Parker, Satrom, O’Neil & Benjamin, P.A., 123 South Ashland, Cambridge, MN 55008-1593 (for respondent)
B. William Ekstrum, Newquist & Ekstrum, Chartered, 6401 University Avenue NE, #301, Fridley, MN 55432 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.*
Appellant Joseph Martin Braun challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to terminate his spousal maintenance obligation. He argues that the district court abused its discretion by failing to eliminate maintenance where a substantial change of circumstances exists due to respondent Peggy Ann Mohelski-Braun’s involvement in a long-term meretricious relationship. Respondent has filed a notice of review, arguing that the district court erred in modifying the parties’ stipulated permanent spousal maintenance obligation and that the court further failed to make adequate findings to support its decision reducing spousal maintenance from $568 to $268 per month. Respondent also challenges the district court’s denial of her motion for attorney fees and its failure to include a provision regarding the children’s uncompensated health-related expenses.
Because the record supports the district court’s decisions and it did not otherwise abuse its discretion in resolving the matter, we affirm.
Appellant argues that spousal maintenance should be terminated or eliminated because respondent is involved in a long-term meretricious relationship. Respondent argues that her relationship with another man should not affect her receipt of spousal maintenance; she further argues that even if some modification is justified, the district court’s findings are deficient and fail to support its reduction of maintenance by $300, to $268.
Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 3 (2002), requires that spousal maintenance terminate upon a recipient’s remarriage. Minnesota courts have refused, however, to terminate maintenance merely because a recipient is involved in a meretricious relationship. See Abbott v. Abbott, 282 N.W.2d 561, 566 (Minn. 1979) (“Since a man cohabiting with another’s former wife incurs no [legal obligation to support her], it cannot be said that the former husband’s obligation is extinguished.”). Rather, the district court is directed to “disregard a meretricious relationship except in so far as it might improve an ex-spouse’s economic well-being.” Sieber v. Sieber, 258 N.W.2d 754, 758 (Minn. 1977) (footnote omitted).
Here, some modification was warranted, given evidence that respondent’s live-in companion is the father of her fourth child, shares in the couple’s expenses, and is now a joint owner of the homestead. Respondent’s economic well-being is thus bettered and her need for maintenance is undisputedly reduced by her relationship with this man. The district court therefore did not abuse its discretion by concluding that respondent has experienced a substantial change in circumstances since the divorce, so as to justify a modification of appellant’s spousal maintenance obligation.
With respect to that change, the district court found that although respondent has worked several part-time jobs since the parties’ divorce, she quit her last job “due to bulging disks in her back.” The court further found that respondent “shares living expenses with a domestic partner” and that the “homestead equity has increased in value since the time of the divorce.”
While these findings could have been more explicit in explaining how the court reached its decision to reduce maintenance by $300 per month, from $568 to $268, we cannot conclude that the court abused its discretion. Respondent acknowledged that her companion contributes at least $400 per month for his child, in addition to the other contributions that he makes towards the couple’s shared living expenses, which include the mortgage payment and several of the utilities. The evidence is also fairly clear that respondent has significant medical problems, that she has only worked part-time at minimal wage jobs, and that she continues to struggle to meet her needs even with the contributions from her companion. We therefore conclude that given evidence that respondent receives more than $300 per month from her companion, the district court did not abuse its discretion in reducing maintenance by $300 per month, to $268.
By notice of review, respondent challenges the district court’s failure to specifically order appellant to pay one-half of any uncompensated health-related expenses within ten days after he receives a receipt of those expenses. At the evidentiary hearing on the present motions, appellant agreed that under the terms of the parties’ stipulated divorce decree, he was responsible for one-half of these expenses and that he has been paying these expenses when he receives a receipt from respondent. While respondent claimed that appellant had not been paying his share of these expenses, she also acknowledged that she had not asked him to cover these expenses because she did not want to start a fight.
In its order, the district court reiterated that each party shall be “responsible for one-half (1/2) of all co-pays for uncompensated health-related expenses for the minor children.” Given appellant’s testimony on the record that he will pay these expenses upon receiving a receipt from respondent, the district court likely assumed that no further findings were necessary on this issue. We cannot conclude that the district court abused its discretion by failing to be more specific in this regard. See Casper v. Casper, 593 N.W.2d 709, 714 (Minn. App. 1999) (holding that ALJ “acted within his discretion” in ordering appellant to be responsible for unreimbursed medical and dental expenses).
Respondent argues that the district court abused its discretion by denying her motion for attorney fees without adequate findings. She claims that she is entitled to an award of fees, given the disparity in the parties’ incomes.
District courts are accorded great discretion in determining whether to award attorney fees. See Haefele v. Haefele, 621 N.W.2d 758, 767 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Feb. 21, 2001). Minn. Stat. § 518.14, subd. 1 (2002), requires a court to award attorney fees if it finds that one party lacks the means to pay fees necessary for the good-faith assertion of that party’s rights and that the other party has the means to pay those fees.
When the district court’s findings are considered in their entirety, they support the court’s denial of fees. The court found that the parties were able to reach a stipulation as to the amount of ongoing child support, which was one of the main issues in the case. The court’s findings further suggest that respondent has some resources from her occasional employment, the contributions made by her companion, and her increased equity in the homestead. Finally, the court found that respondent owed $2,355.50 in attorney fees and costs, an amount that respondent now claims totals $3,411. Given these findings, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying respondent’s request for fees. See Geske v. Marcolina, 624 N.W.2d 813, 817 (Minn. App. 2001) (“lack of specific findings on the statutory factors * * * not fatal to an award where review of the order reasonably implies that the district court considered the relevant factors and * * * was familiar with the history of the case and had access to the parties’ financial records”) (quotation omitted).
Finally, in the beginning pages of her brief, respondent has included a request to strike appellant’s brief as untimely and for attorney fees on appeal, citing Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 127 and 139.06. Because this request or “motion” was not separately served on appellant and filed with this court, it is not in the proper form under rule 127, which governs motion practice before this court.
Even if appellant’s brief was untimely, a conclusion which we do not reach, the rules do not provide any specific sanction for failure to file a timely brief. See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 131.01, subd. 1 (time for filing and service of appellant’s brief). This court may choose to accept a late-filed brief, particularly when the other party has not been prejudiced and the appeal has not been delayed. See Boom v. Boom, 361 N.W.2d 34, 36 (Minn. 1985).
The decision to award attorney fees on appeal is also within the discretion of this court. Bogen v. Bogen, 261 N.W.2d 606, 611 (Minn. 1977); Case v. Case, 516 N.W.2d 570, 574 (Minn. App. 1994). But a request for attorney fees must be made by separate motion. Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 139.06. Because there is no separate motion for fees here and because we do not believe that appellate fees are otherwise warranted, we deny respondent’s current request for fees on appeal.
The district court’s decision is affirmed.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.