This opinion will be unpublished and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:
Margaret Mary McKasy, petitioner,
Thomas Richard Olson,
Filed September 28, 2004
Ramsey County District Court
File No. F2-01-1399
Denis E. Grande, Joanne H. Turner, Mackall, Crounse & Moore, PLC, 1400 AT&T Tower, 901 Marquette Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)
Roselyn J. Nordaune, Nordaune & Friesen, 1140 Interchange Tower, 600 South Highway 169, St. Louis Park, MN 55426 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
Appellant Thomas Richard Olson challenges the duration of spousal maintenance awarded by the district court to respondent Margaret Mary McKasy, arguing that the award is against logic and the facts in the record. We affirm.
The parties were married in 1995, had children in 1995 and 1997, and dissolved the marriage by a judgment entered in April 2003 following a hearing before the district court. The parties stipulated before the hearing to joint legal and physical custody of the children, who lived with respondent – the primary caregiver – on weekdays and with appellant on weekends.
As of the date of the decree, respondent had been employed by Northwest Airlines (Northwest) as a flight attendant for 16 years. Northwest limits its flight attendants to 75 hours per month; during the parties’ marriage, respondent met her monthly quota primarily by working weekends. Because of the reduced demand for commercial air travel after September 2001, Northwest rescheduled flights and reduced the number of flight attendants on each flight, requiring respondent to start working some weekday trips in order to meet her monthly hours quota. The district court found that respondent’s gross annual income was approximately $38,000 in 2000 and approximately $30,000 in 2001. The district court estimated that respondent’s gross annual income was $35,000 and that her reasonable monthly expenses were $6,000.
As of the date of the decree, appellant, an attorney, had owned his own law firm for nine years. The district court found that appellant’s average gross annual income for the four years preceding the hearing was approximately $247,000. One month before the hearing, appellant incorporated his practice and promoted a former employee to shareholder status. Appellant estimated in filings and testimony to the district court that as a consequence of the incorporation, his 2003 gross annual income for the purposes of awarding spousal maintenance would be $90,000. The district court found that appellant timed the incorporation “to affect th[e] Court’s award of spousal maintenance,” that appellant’s accountant was unable, in testimony, to relate appellant’s income estimate “to any past performance or practice,” and that appellant’s attempt to self-limit his income was “without credible evidence or explanation.” The court found that appellant’s estimated gross annual income was $210,000 and that his reasonable monthly expenses were approximately $1,900. The court ordered appellant to pay respondent $2,500 in monthly temporary spousal maintenance for a period of ten years.
Appellant moved the district court to amend its findings of fact and conclusions of law related, among other things, to (1) the parties’ estimated income and expenses and (2) the amount and duration of the monthly spousal maintenance awarded respondent. The district court denied the motion as it concerned those issues. The court specifically refused to revisit those parts of respondent’s testimony concerning her earning capacity on the ground that the testimony resulted from respondent’s “misunderst[anding of] some of the leading questions asked by [appellant’s] counsel.” As to appellant’s income, the court reiterated its finding that “much of [appellant’s] testimony on financial matters [is] largely not credible and not consistent with other credible evidence” and discredited the testimony of appellant’s accountant and office manager substantiating appellant’s income estimate. The court reiterated its earlier finding that appellant’s challenges to the validity and amount of respondent’s claimed expenses was “not borne out by any independent evidence, resting solely on [appellant’s] recollections and testimony. [Respondent’s] testimony concerning expenses . . . presents a clearer and more credible explanation of the payment of these expenses.”
As to the amount and duration of spousal maintenance, the district court rejected appellant’s argument that respondent should receive monthly support of $1,500 for three years instead of $2,500 monthly for ten years. The court found that “the duration of the spousal maintenance award allows the parties’ agreement for the care of the children to continue in effect” and reflects respondent’s reduced earning capacity resulting from her inability to fulfill her weekly quota by working primarily on weekends.
In its order, the court also (1) reduced appellant’s net monthly income from $8,760 to $6,599 on the basis of a revised calculation and (2) reiterated its finding that appellant’s income was such that he could satisfy an outstanding $140,000 debt for past taxes by paying $5,000 each month, or $60,000 each year. This appeal follows.
The sole issue on appeal is whether the district court abused its discretion in awarding respondent temporary spousal maintenance for a period of ten years. Appellant contends that the award’s duration was unwarranted because the parties’ marriage was relatively brief and because respondent will have the earning capacity before ten years have passed to meet her financial needs with the child support payment.
Maintenance is generally appropriate where the district court finds that the spouse seeking maintenance “(a) lacks sufficient property, including marital property . . . to provide for reasonable needs of the spouse considering the standard of living established during the marriage [or] (b) is unable to provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances.” Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 1 (2002). Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2 (2002), lists factors to be considered in setting the amount and duration of a maintenance award. But no single factor is dispositive, and the issue is basically the recipient’s need balanced against the obligor’s financial condition. Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 39-40 (Minn. 1982); see also Maeder v. Maeder, 480 N.W.2d 677, 679 (Minn. App. 1992) (observing that a maintenance determination generally balances the incomes and needs of the two parties, and the central determination in that balancing process is the available resources of each party), review denied (Minn. Mar. 19, 1992).
The district court has “wide discretion” in awarding maintenance, and absent an abuse thereof, its determination “is final.” Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d at 38. An abuse of discretion occurs if the district court resolves the matter in a manner that is “against logic and the facts on record.” Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).
Appellant acknowledges that the district court made the requisite findings of fact concerning each statutory factor in setting the amount and term of maintenance, but argues that those findings were erroneous as they concerned his income and ability to pay support. We disagree.
Appellant first challenges the district court’s findings concerning his income for the purpose of establishing his maintenance obligation. A district court’s determination of income for maintenance purposes is a finding of fact and is not set aside unless clearly erroneous. See Schreifels v. Schreifels, 450 N.W.2d 372, 373 (Minn. App. 1990) (affirming net income determinations within a “reasonable range” of figures). Here, the district court found, based on uncontroverted evidence, that appellant’s average gross annual income in each of the four years preceding the hearing was approximately $247,000. Appellant claimed that following the incorporation of his law firm, his gross annual income should be estimated at $90,000. The district court discredited appellant’s evidence and testimony offered in support of this estimate and observed that the incorporation appeared timed to self-limit appellant’s income for the purpose of avoiding maintenance payments.
The record contains evidence that appellant’s monthly expenses, including child support, maintenance, and a $5,000 monthly payment on a tax debt, are over $11,000, or over $130,000 each year. This figure is consistent with the district court’s estimate that appellant’s gross annual income is $210,000. The district court did not clearly err in finding that appellant’s claim that his gross annual income was $90,000 constituted an attempt to self-limit his income and that appellant’s gross annual income is $210,000.
Appellant does not contend that respondent was awarded sufficient property to provide for her reasonable needs. The record demonstrates that respondent was awarded (1) the $270,000 marital homestead, which is encumbered by a $190,000 mortgage that is her sole responsibility and (2) a retirement account worth approximately $30,000. Respondent received no other cash, cash equivalents, or liquid assets with which to pay expenses.
The district court found that as a result of the restrictions placed on respondent’s ability to work weekends, she would be required to work more weekdays, which in turn would decrease her earnings and require her to incur child-care expenses. The court found that a ten-year maintenance obligation will allow respondent to stay home with the children during the week until the point the children will be ages 17 and 15, when they could potentially stay home on weekdays or weekends without adult supervision if necessary. This finding is reasonably supported by the record.
The record demonstrates that respondent earned approximately 14% of the parties’ combined marital income of $245,000, and that the dissolution judgment allocated to respondent over $200,000 in debt, including the homestead mortgage and various consumer debt, while appellant assumed liability for approximately $140,000 in tax debt. The district court’s equitable division of marital assets and debt was consistent with logic and the facts in the record. See Koenen v. Koenen, 413 N.W.2d 280, 282 (Minn. App. 1987) (stating there is no requirement that district courts perform “a mathematically equal property division”).
Virtually all of appellant’s assertions of error concern the district court’s findings of fact and credibility determinations, which we are not inclined to disturb. The district court exhaustively applied the relevant statutory factors concerning maintenance and carefully considered appellant’s positions and arguments at length in both its initial order and in its memorandum accompanying its order denying appellant’s motion for new findings and conclusions. The record before us amply supports the district court’s decision to award respondent temporary maintenance for a period of ten years. See Wilson v. Moline, 234 Minn. 174, 182, 47 N.W.2d 865, 870 (1951) (stating appellate court need not “discuss and review in detail the evidence for the purpose of demonstrating that it supports the trial court’s findings” and that its “duty is performed when [it] consider[s] all the evidence . . . and determine[s] that it reasonably supports the findings”); Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 472, 474-75 & n.1 (Minn. App. 2000) (applying Wilson in a family case).