This opinion will be unpublished and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:
Teresa Marie Maples, petitioner,
James Edwin Maples,
Filed September 21, 2004
Reversed and remanded
Goodhue County District Court
File No. F6-95-675
Charles J. Lee, Esq., Suite 103, 910 Main Street, Red Wing, MN 55066 (for respondent)
A. Rhett Taber, Esq. Olive, Taber & Owens, P.A., Suite 300, 5270 W. 84th Street, Bloomington, MN 55437 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Willis, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
James Maples appeals from the district court’s order denying his motion to decrease child support and spousal maintenance and granting Teresa Maples’s motion to reimburse her for insurance and medical payments that she made during the time James Maples allowed his insurance coverage on their minor child to lapse. Because the order provides no findings on the reasons for denying the reduction motions and the record contains no evidentiary basis for the reimbursement order, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
F A C T S
In a May 1996 dissolution judgment that incorporated James and Teresa Maples’s marital-termination agreement, the district court ordered joint legal custody of the Mapleses’ minor child and placed physical custody with Teresa Maples. The judgment provided that James Maples would pay Teresa Maples $748 a month in child support, based on his net monthly income of $2,994; would reimburse Teresa Maples for their child’s health insurance; and would pay $730 a month in spousal maintenance with a step increase at the conclusion of his child-support obligation. The judgment was later amended to reduce child support to $643 a month based on a decrease in his net monthly income to $2,572 and to order that he would provide, through his employment, medical coverage for the child.
In April 2003, James Maples brought the current motion to reduce child support and maintenance. He alleged decreased net monthly income of $2,324 and increased expenses resulting from a lender’s refusal to continue to forbear on an outstanding student loan. Teresa Maples filed a responsive motion, challenging the computation of his net monthly income, requesting that the health-insurance deduction reflect the cost of only single-employee medical insurance; and requesting that the court reinstate the original provision for the child’s medical insurance because of past lapses in coverage. Teresa Maples also requested reimbursement for insurance premiums and medical expenses incurred during the coverage lapses.
The district court denied the motion to reduce maintenance and child support, ordered James Maples to reimburse Teresa Maples for medical-insurance premiums and unreimbursed medical expenses incurred during the payment lapse between 2001 and 2002, ordered that James Maples’s future child-support obligation be computed to reflect only the cost of single-employee medical insurance, and found that the Mapleses had stipulated to provision of the child’s health insurance by splitting equally the insurance premiums and all unreimbursed costs.
James Maples appeals, arguing that the district court (1) legally erred by failing to make adequate factual findings on the denial of his motions to reduce child support and maintenance; (2) abused its discretion by ordering reimbursement of past medical-insurance premiums and medical expenses without evidence of expenditures; and (3) failed to properly state the terms of the stipulation on future medical-insurance premiums and reimbursements. Teresa Maples did not file a brief, and the case was submitted on the merits under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 142.03.
D E C I S I O N
In the order denying James Maples’s motions to decrease child support and spousal maintenance, the district court stated only that the motions were “respectfully denied.” James Maples contends that the district court erred by making insufficient findings.
The district court’s discretion in modifying child support and spousal maintenance is limited by an affirmative requirement of changed circumstances as set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(a) (2002). Under this provision the district court must determine whether any of the statutory factors alone or in combination creates a substantial change of circumstances that makes the existing order unfair or unreasonable. Id., subd. 2(b).
District court findings are necessary to ensure that the relevant statutory factors have been assessed, to satisfy the litigants that their case was fairly resolved, and to permit reasoned appellate review. Rosenfeld v. Rosenfeld, 311 Minn. 76, 82, 249 N.W.2d 168, 171 (1976); see also Erickson v. Erickson, 385 N.W.2d 301, 303 (Minn. 1986) (stressing the importance of findings of fact to demonstrate the district court actually considered all relevant factors). Even when evidence supporting the district court’s determination may be extrapolated from the appellate record, the reasons for granting or denying a modification motion must still be provided in the first instance by the district court. Erickson, 385 N.W.2d at 303.
The order denying James Maples’s motions to decrease his child-support and spousal-maintenance obligations was not supported by findings that explained the denial. Absent an explanation, we are unable to determine whether the district court found that James Maples’s income had decreased or his expenses had increased or whether any change in income or expenses affected the fairness of the order. Consequently, we must remand for additional findings. See Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989) (requiring remand for additional findings to enable appellate review). We reverse and remand to the district court for findings, as required by statute, in its consideration of the motions to reduce maintenance and support.
Motions in family court must “be supported by appropriate affidavits relevant and material to the issues before the court.” Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 303.02(a). James Maples contends that the district court abused its discretion in ordering reimbursement of past medical-insurance premiums and unreimbursed medical expenses without proper evidentiary support in the form of affidavits. See State ex rel. Hennepin County v. Erlandson, 380 N.W.2d 578, 581 (Minn. App. 1986) (concluding that district court abused its discretion in ordering child-support increase when no affidavit was submitted in support of motion).
At the motion hearing, Teresa Maples’s attorney asserted that affidavits were unnecessary because no change in circumstances warranted a modification of the previous orders. But Teresa Maples first raised the issue of reimbursement for insurance premiums and medical expenses in her responsive motion. Therefore, rule 303.02(a) requires evidentiary support for the request.
In the absence of affidavits, testimony, or evidence of unreimbursed insurance premiums or medical expenses, we are unable to sustain the district court’s order requiring James Maples to reimburse Teresa Maples for the expenses. We recognize that both James and Teresa Maples have limited financial resources and that the district court was attempting to resolve the disputed issues efficiently and fairly, but evidence is necessary to support the order. On remand the district court, at its discretion, may reopen the record to receive additional evidence of reimbursable expenses.
James Maples’s final contention is that the district court did not, in its order, include the terms of the Mapleses’ stipulation on the future provision of their child’s medical insurance, the allocation of premiums, and unreimbursed medical expenses. The district court’s order states that the Mapleses stipulated that Teresa Maples would “carry health insurance” on the child, and that the Mapleses agreed “to split equally the insurance premiums and all unreimbursed [medical] costs.”
James Maples does not dispute the accuracy of the district court’s statement of the stipulation, but apparently objects to its inclusion in the order’s initial provisions rather than the order’s operative provisions. The district court designated the entire document as its “order” but within the document provided an additional subheading of “order” for the final four paragraphs. We are not persuaded that the placement of the stipulation provisions within the order is significant. See, e.g., Graphic Arts Educ. Found. v. State, 240 Minn. 143, 146, 59 N.W.2d 841, 844 (1953) (labeling a conclusion of law as a finding of fact does not affect its validity); 2 David F. Herr & Roger S. Haydock, Minnesota Practice § 52.5 (1998) (designating a finding of fact as a conclusion of law does not alter its effectiveness). In light of our remand for additional findings, however, James Maples may direct this request to the district court.
Reversed and remanded.