This opinion will be unpublished and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
Randie Conner, petitioner,
Filed January 18, 2005
Stevens County District Court
File No. F1-02-121
Elroy Hanson, 304 Northeast Main Street, P.O. Box 340, Mahnomen, MN 56557 (for respondent)
Jan M. Wahlquist, 14 Franklin Street South, Glenwood, MN 56334 (for appellant)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N
††††††††††† The district court denied Thomas Connerís motion to modify maintenance.† In this appeal from the denial of his motion, Conner challenges the adequacy of the district courtís findings, the legal standard applied to determine a change of circumstances, and the determination that changed circumstances failed to make the existing obligation unreasonable and unfair.† Because the district court made adequate findings, applied the proper legal standard, and did not abuse its discretion in denying the modification motion, we affirm.†
F A C T S
††††††††††† In the stipulated agreement that formed the basis for their August 2003 judgment, Thomas Conner agreed to provide Randie Conner permanent maintenance of $1,400 a month.† The stipulated judgment also contained a provision that ďany inheritanceĒ Randie Conner received that allowed her to become the fee owner of properties in Mahnomen and Becker Counties would provide a basis for Thomas Conner to bring a motion to modify maintenance, but that ďthis provision in no way constitutes a substantive determination of whether maintenance should be modified.Ē†
††††††††††† Following her motherís death in August 2003, Randie Conner received fee title to an undivided one-half interest in the Mahnomen and Becker County properties (an income-producing farm and a lake home).† With the change in ownership, her monthly income increased by $1,372 from rental of the farmland.†
††††††††††† Five months later Thomas Conner moved to decrease or terminate maintenance. The district court denied the motion to modify, concluding that, although the additional rental income constituted a substantial change in Randie Connerís circumstances, it did not make the original provision unreasonable and unfair.† In support of that determination, the court found that Randie Connerís monthly expenses had increased and continued to exceed her income, that a gap existed in the Connersí respective earning capacities, and that Randie Conner continued to require maintenance.
D E C I S I O N
††††††††††† In this appeal Thomas Conner presents three arguments to support his claim that the district court erred in denying his motion to modify spousal maintenance: first, that the court failed to make adequate findings to support its decision; second, that the court legally erred by applying an incorrect standard to determine whether there were changed circumstances; and third, that the court abused its discretion in concluding that changed circumstances did not make the original provision unreasonable and unfair.
Under Minn. Stat. ß 518.64, subd. 2 (2002), the terms of a maintenance order may be modified on a showing of, among other things, substantially increased or decreased earnings that make the terms of the original order unreasonable and unfair.† To determine whether modification is appropriate, the district court is required to consider the statutory factors relevant to amount and duration of maintenance.† Id.; Minn. Stat. ß 518.552, subd. 2 (2002) (listing eight factors for consideration in determining maintenance).† The district court must also make particularized findings to show that the relevant statutory factors have been considered, Tuthill v. Tuthill, 399 N.W.2d 230, 232 (Minn. App. 1987), 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).†
In its order denying the motion to decrease maintenance, the district court made findings on the terms of the stipulated judgment, the circumstances of Randie Connerís inheritance, the current monthly expenses of both Thomas and Randie Conner, and the increase in income to Randie Conner resulting from her motherís death.† The court also found that Thomas Connerís income and expenses remained the same as at the time of the judgment.† The courtís findings specifically incorporated the factual findings of the initial stipulated judgment.† Thomas Conner does not identify the deficiency in the courtís findings, and we can discern none.† The district court complied with its obligation to provide specific findings in support of its determination.†
We also disagree with Thomas Connerís claim that the district court legally erred by relying, in part, on the failure to show a decrease in Randie Connerís need for maintenance as a basis for denying the motion.† He contends that an increase in income is a sufficient reason to reduce maintenance.† But the district courtís finding of a substantial change of circumstances does not, by itself, make the terms of an existing maintenance agreement unreasonable and unfair.† Beck v. Kaplan, 566 N.W.2d 723, 726 (Minn. 1997).† Under Minn. Stat. ß 518.64, subd. 2, the party requesting modification has the burden to demonstrate, not only a change in circumstances, but also the unfairness of the existing obligation as a result of the change.† Tuthill, 399 N.W.2d at 232.† Thus, the district court applied the correct legal standard in considering the motion.
Finally, Thomas Conner argues that, on these facts, the district courtís denial of the modification motion was an abuse of discretion.† An abuse of discretion occurs when the district court makes a determination that is ďagainst logic and the facts on record.Ē† Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).† A maintenance determination must balance the financial needs of the obligee and the obligeeís ability to meet those needs against the obligorís ability to pay.† Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 39-40 (Minn. 1982).†
The record demonstrates that Thomas Connerís available net monthly income, after adding back in $9,184 of optional annual payments to his 401(k) plan and subtracting the $1,400 monthly maintenance, still exceeds, by more than $200, Randie Connerís net monthly income from maintenance, farm rental, and social-security disability.† The district court found that Randie Conner had monthly expenses of $4,030, including prescription-medication expenses, home-maintenance expenses, and monthly credit-card payments of $629 that may have been partially marital debt.† It is undisputed that Randie Conner still owed substantial attorneysí fees from the dissolution proceeding.† The court found that Thomas Conner had monthly expenses of $3,050.† Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion by balancing the income and expenses of the parties in its findings.
The record also establishes that Randie Conner, who has received social-security-disability benefits for almost thirteen years and is unable to perform gainful employment, remains in need of permanent maintenance.† Her circumstances are unusual because she has substantial medical expenses caused by back injuries following a third-degree assault to which Thomas Conner pleaded guilty.† Under the particular circumstances of this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to modify maintenance.