This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Virginia Lee Harris, petitioner,
Dana Joel Harris,
Crow Wing County District Court
File No. F0-95-0438
Thomas R. Borden, Virginia J. Knudson, Borden, Steinbauer & Krueger, P.A., 302 South Sixth Street, P.O. Box 411, Brainerd, MN 56401 (for respondent)
John H. Erickson, Erickson, Pearson & Aanes, 319 South Sixth Street, P.O. Box 525, Brainerd, MN 56401 (for appellant)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Kalitowski, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N
††††††††††† On appeal from an order denying his motion for termination of spousal maintenance, appellant argues the district court:† (1) failed to make adequate findings; and (2) abused its discretion by concluding the original maintenance award remained reasonable and fair despite a substantial change in circumstances.† We affirm.†
This court will not reverse a district courtís determination of a spousal maintenance award absent an abuse of discretion.† Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 202 (Minn. 1997). †A district courtís findings of fact will be upheld unless clearly erroneous.† Gessner v. Gessner, 487 N.W.2d 921, 923 (Minn. App. 1992).† Appellant argues the district court failed to make sufficient findings regarding respondentís reasonable needs and appellantís ability to pay maintenance, and engaged in impermissible speculation regarding respondentís employment prospects.† We disagree.††
In its March 5, 2003, order denying appellantís motion for termination of spousal maintenance, the district court made specific findings on: (1) appellantís involuntary reduction in hours; (2) both partiesí adjusted gross incomes for several years up to and including 2001; (3) respondentís savings and money market accounts; (4) respondentís current employment and earning prospects; and (5) respondentís estimated retirement benefits.† The district court did not make specific findings regarding appellantís retirement assets because appellant did not provide any information on them.† Thus, the district court made adequate findings to support its decision, particularly since the same district court judge had previously made findings in the dissolution judgment and in a subsequent order denying appellantís previous motion to terminate maintenance.† We conclude that the record provides sufficient support for the district courtís findings regarding respondentís needs and appellantís ability to pay, and that there is no ďclearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on the record . . . .Ē† Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).
An individual seeking modification of spousal maintenance has the burden of showing not only that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, but also that the substantial change renders the previous spousal maintenance decree unreasonable and unfair.† Hecker v. Hecker, 568 N.W.2d 705, 709 (Minn. 1997).† In determining whether an individual seeking modification has met the burden of showing a substantial change in circumstances, the district court must consider, in addition to all other relevant factors, the factors for an award of maintenance under Minn. Stat. ß 518.552 (2002) that exist at the time of the motion.† Minn. Stat. ß 518.64, subd. 2(c).
Appellant contends the district court abused its discretion by determining the original maintenance award remained fair and reasonable despite a substantial increase in respondentís income.† Specifically, appellant argues the district court abused its discretion by: (1) engaging in speculation about respondentís continued employment prospects; and (2) failing to address whether appellant agreed to pay permanent maintenance in exchange for retaining his entire pension fund in the partiesí stipulation for dissolution.† We disagree.
The district court determined that respondentís ability to continue at her present employment was uncertain, and respondentís retirement assets were unlikely to provide sufficient post-retirement financial support.† We conclude that in making these findings the district court did not engage in impermissible speculation.† Rather, the district court considered respondentís age, education, training and the nature of her employment.† Appellant has the burden to show the original maintenance award is unfair and unreasonable.† Because appellant failed to meet his burden, the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining the original maintenance award remained fair and reasonable.
Further, the district court adequately considered whether appellant had agreed to pay permanent maintenance in exchange for retaining his entire pension fund in the partiesí stipulation for dissolution.† When a maintenance obligation is based on the partiesí prior stipulation, deference is given to the stipulation because it represents the partiesí voluntary settlement of their financial rights and obligations.† Claybaugh v. Claybaugh, 312 N.W.2d 447, 449 (Minn. 1981).† Deference is given even where a party was not represented by counsel if the party was advised of the right to counsel and waived that right.† Schroeder v. Schroeder, 405 N.W.2d 267, 269 (Minn. App. 1987).†
Respondent contends appellant agreed to pay maintenance in exchange for retaining his pension fund, but appellant claims the maintenance obligation was not meant to be permanent.† The district court noted the partiesí positions, but did not expressly adopt either position.† But in its earlier order, the district court determined it should exercise caution in reviewing the maintenance award because respondent argued, and appellant did not deny, the maintenance was given in exchange for the pension.† Thus, while we agree with appellant that res judicata does not apply, we conclude that the district court properly considered the partiesí intent in drafting the stipulation and did not abuse its discretion in determining the original maintenance award remained fair and reasonable despite a substantial change in circumstances.†