This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).








In re Janet Rae Saunier, petitioner,





Gordon Keith Saunier,



Filed December 16, 2003

Reversed and remanded

Minge, Judge



Hennepin County District Court

File No. DC 275730



Michael J. Froelich, 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 500, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent)


Daniel J. Van Loh, Ramsay, DeVore & Olson, 2860 Snelling Avenue North, Roseville, MN 55113 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Poritsky, Judge.*




U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N

MINGE, Judge


            In an appeal from the amended judgment dissolving the parties’ marriage, appellant claims that the district court erred in denying him permanent maintenance and need-based attorney fees.  Because the findings do not support the district court’s conclusion of law regarding maintenance, we reverse and remand that portion of the proceeding.  Because the issue of need-based attorney fees is not properly before us, we do not reach this issue.


            Appellant Gordon Keith Saunier and respondent Janet Rae Saunier were married on June 24, 1978.  On March 10, 2003, the parties’ 24-year marriage was dissolved.  The parties do not dispute the district court’s findings of fact.  They show that (1) there are no minor children involved; (2) appellant is 48 years old and respondent is 46; (3) appellant had been employed by Dana Corp. since 1978 as a quality inspector, but his position was terminated on April 30, 2002, and he is unemployed; (4) appellant is currently enrolled in a two-year re-training program to become a radiological technician; (5) appellant’s gross monthly income is $2,884, which includes severance pay and unemployment benefits, which will end in January 2004; (6) appellant’s reasonable monthly living expenses are $3,661; (7) appellant’s “job placement and starting salary are speculative and uncertain”; and (8) appellant demonstrated a need for spousal maintenance in the short term.  The district court also found that respondent is self-employed as a warranty processing specialist for several automobile dealerships with a gross monthly income (after business expenses) of $9,000 with reasonable monthly living expenses of $5,102.  The district court awarded appellant rehabilitative maintenance in the amount of $1,500 per month for 30 months.  

            Although no post-trial motions were made to the district court, the attorneys for both parties advised the court of certain inconsistencies in the findings of fact and conclusions regarding spousal maintenance and an amended judgment was entered on April 10, 2003.  This court dismissed the appeal from the March 14, 2003 judgment and limited this appeal to the April 10, 2003 amended judgment and the spousal maintenance issue.  Thus, the arguments raised by appellant as to the findings of the district court in its March 14 order regarding the issue of attorney fees are not properly before this court. 


The question for review is limited to whether the evidence supports the findings of fact and the findings of fact support the conclusions of law and the judgment.  Erickson v. Erickson, 434 N.W.2d 284, 286 (Minn. App. 1989).  In making an award of spousal maintenance, the district court first determines whether an award is appropriate and, if so, then determines the amount and duration of the award.  Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subds. 1, 2 (2002).  Respondent concedes, and the findings recognize, that an award of spousal maintenance is appropriate.  The issue is the duration of the maintenance.

Appellant argues that the spousal-maintenance award should be permanent rather than rehabilitative because the district court’s finding that “job placement and starting salary are speculative and uncertain” requires a permanent award.   Minnesota law provides that the following factors are used to determine the amount and duration of a spousal maintenance award:

(a)   the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to the party, and the party’s ability to meet needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian;

(b)  the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, and the probability, given the party’s age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming fully or partially self-supporting;

(c)  the standard of living established during the marriage;

(d)  the duration of the marriage and, in the case of a homemaker, the length of absence from employment and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience have become outmoded and earning capacity has become permanently diminished;

(e)  the loss of earnings, seniority, retirement benefits, and other employment opportunities forgone by the spouse seeking spousal maintenance;

(f)   the age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;

(g)  the ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance; and

(h)  the contribution of each party in the acquisition, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, as well as the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker or in furtherance of the other party’s employment or business.


Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2.  The statutes also contain the following legislative admonition:

            Nothing . . . shall be construed to favor a temporary award of maintenance over a permanent award, where the factors under subdivision 2 justify a permanent award.

Where there is some uncertainty as to the necessity of a permanent award, the court shall order a permanent award leaving its order open for later modification.


Id., subd. 3 (2003).  The supreme court has considered the interplay of these provisions in several cases and has emphasized that permanent maintenance is to be awarded if there is uncertainty about the recipient’s ability to be self-sufficient.  See Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 201 (Minn. 1997); Gales v. Gales, 553 N.W.2d 416, 419 (Minn. 1996); Nardini v. Nardini, 414 N.W.2d 184, 196 (Minn. 1987).  The amount and duration of the permanent maintenance award can be modified.  Hecker v. Hecker, 568 N.W.2d 705, 708 (Minn. 1997). 

The April 2, 2003, judgment and decree includes the following finding of fact:

That [appellant] has a demonstrated financial need for spousal maintenance from Respondent [sic] in the short term.  The parties enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle during the marriage.  [Respondent] has the ability to pay $1500.00 a month in maintenance.  Considering the lifestyle of the parties, the financial need of [appellant], and the need for [appellant] to continue in his re-training process to secure work, [appellant] shall be awarded maintenance in the amount of $1,500 a month for 30 months, which represents time needed to complete re-training and to secure new employment. 


Accordingly, the district court ordered respondent to pay $1,500 per month in spousal maintenance for 30 months.  However, the district court also made a finding that “[j]ob placement and starting salary [for appellant] are speculative and uncertain.”

Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd 3, provides that “where there is some uncertainty as to the necessity of a permanent award, the court shall order a permanent award leaving its order open for later, modification.”  Thus, the finding that “job placement and starting salary are speculative and uncertain” is inconsistent with the district court’s other finding of fact and with its conclusion of law that rehabilitative, rather than a permanent award of maintenance, is adequate and appropriate.

Because the findings of fact do not support the conclusion of law, we reverse and remand for the district court to clarify its findings and to make any appropriate changes in its conclusion of law with respect to the duration of maintenance.  The district court may request that the parties provide such additional material and arguments as it deems necessary in its further consideration of this matter.

Reversed and remanded.



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