This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Thomas Joseph Daley, petitioner,
Anne Elizabeth Daley,
Filed April 5, 2005
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Hennepin County District Court
File No. DC276366
Thomas F. Miller, Thomas F. Miller, P.A., 130 Lake Street West, P.O. Box 387, Wayzata, MN 55391; and
Kay Nord Hunt, Theresa A. Bofferding, Jill Sonnek, Lommen, Nelson, Cole & Stageberg, P.A., 2000 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Pamela L. Green, Bassett Creek Office Plaza, 5801 Duluth Street, Suite 360, Golden Valley, MN 55422 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Wright, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this dissolution proceeding, appellant challenges the district court’s award of spousal maintenance to respondent, arguing that the findings failed to establish respondent’s need and that the court failed to determine appellant’s net income. Appellant also argues that the district court’s division of marital property was not just and equitable. Respondent challenges the spousal-maintenance award, arguing that the district court incorrectly limited the amount and duration of the maintenance. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.
Appellant Thomas Daley and respondent Anne Patrick-Daley were married on August 13, 1988. The parties have four minor children and jointly own a home in Wayzata. The parties separated on December 11, 2001, and respondent continued to reside at the parties’ homestead in Wayzata. The dissolution proceeded to trial in November 2003.
Beginning in December 1997, appellant had been employed by Linsco/Private Ledger (LPL) and at the time of trial was its vice-president for branch development. His income from salary, commissions, and bonuses was $270,000 for 2002 and was estimated to be the same for 2003. Respondent had been a stay-at-home parent for approximately 15 years. Although respondent earned her college degree in accounting, she never worked in that field and, therefore, her earning potential was limited to $14 per hour as a bookkeeper. Respondent was seeking to become licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and anticipated that the process would take approximately 24 months. If she became licensed as a CPA, her earning potential would increase to approximately $40 per hour.
The marital assets consisted of the homestead which had an equity of $74,549, appellant’s 401(k) account which was valued at $61,000, and appellant’s net 2003 bonus in the amount of $33,284. Also, appellant had stock options through his employment, but their value was difficult to estimate. Appellant had possession of a 1998 Lexus that had an equity value of $2,000. The parties incurred substantial debt over the course of the marriage that totaled approximately $73,408. Appellant estimated that monthly expenses for himself and the children were $5,000, exclusive of debt repayment. Respondent estimated her monthly expenses for herself and the children were $12,092.
On March 12, 2004, the district court ordered, inter alia, that appellant pay respondent $8,200 per month in spousal maintenance for 24 months, at which time the district court would review the maintenance order on a de novo basis. Also, appellant was ordered to pay respondent $2,633 per month in child support and $2,340 for respondent’s CPA exam course. As for marital debts, appellant was ordered to deposit his 2003 bonus and the proceeds of his 401(k) account into his attorney’s trust account for payment of the debts. Respondent was awarded 60% of the stock options received on or before January 31, 2001, and 40% of the stock options received in January 2002 and May 2003. Finally, the district court ordered that appellant pay $47,000 in attorney fees. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal both parties have asked us to review the district court’s award of spousal maintenance to respondent; appellant also seeks review of the district court’s marital property division and its award of attorney fees to respondent. Where, as here, there is no motion for a new trial, appellate courts may review substantive issues of law properly raised at trial. Alpha Real Estate Co. of Rochester v. Delta Dental Plan of Minn., 664 N.W.2d 303, 310 (Minn. 2003). Appellate courts may also determine whether the evidence supports the findings of fact and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law and the judgment. Gruenhagen v. Larson, 310 Minn. 454, 458, 246 N.W.2d 565, 569 (1976).
Appellant argues the district court erred in its award of spousal maintenance because it (1) failed to make required findings establishing respondent’s need; (2) failed to make required findings establishing appellant’s net income; and (3) inappropriately counted appellant’s bonus as both income and as an asset for debt repayment. Respondent argues that the district court (1) incorrectly limited the amount of the maintenance; (2) incorrectly limited the duration of the maintenance; and (3) inappropriately allowed appellant to make indirect maintenance payments. Appellate courts review a district court’s maintenance award under an abuse-of-discretion standard. Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 202 (Minn. 1997). A district court abuses its discretion regarding maintenance if the findings of fact are unsupported by the record or if the law is improperly applied. Id.
Under state law, the district court may award respondent maintenance if (1) she lacks sufficient property to provide for her reasonable needs, or if (2) she is unable to support herself through appropriate employment. Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 1 (2004). The factors to be considered when awarding maintenance include: (1) the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance; (2) the time necessary for the payee spouse to acquire sufficient education; (3) the length of absence from employment; (4) the age and physical condition of the party seeking maintenance; and (5) the ability of the payor spouse to contribute maintenance payments. Id., subd. 2 (2004). But the court is not required to make findings on each factor considered. Justis v. Justis, 384 N.W.2d 885, 891 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. May 29, 1986).
Here, the district court ordered appellant to pay respondent maintenance of $8,200 per month for 24 months, at which time the district court would conduct a de novo review of the issue. In making this determination, the district court made express findings related to many of the factors stated in Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2. The district court found that a reasonable monthly budget for appellant and the children was $10,200, but even with child support and maintenance, respondent had expenses that exceeded the budget. See Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2(a) (providing that district court must consider financial resources of party seeking maintenance). Respondent was expected to become licensed as a CPA within 24 months, which would increase her earning potential to $40 per hour. See id., subd. 2(b) (considering time necessary for a recipient to acquire sufficient education). Finally, the district court found that the parties enjoyed, in the year before the dissolution, a standard-of-living budget of approximately $12,000, of which $10,000 was attributable to respondent and the children. See id., subd. 2(c) (providing that the district court consider the parties’ standard of living). The district court’s findings are more than adequate to establish that respondent was unable to support herself through appropriate employment. See id., subd. 1(b) (allowing maintenance if circumstances show that payee is unable to be self-sufficient).
Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion in determining appellant’s ability to pay spousal maintenance because the district court failed to determine appellant’s net income. We agree. “In order to determine ability to pay, the court must make a determination of the payor spouse’s net or take-home pay.” Kostelnik v. Kostelnik, 367 N.W.2d 665, 670 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. July 26, 1985); see Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989) (stating the district court must make “sufficiently detailed findings of fact to demonstrate its consideration of all factors relevant to an award of permanent spousal maintenance”); see also Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2(g) (stating that district court may grant spousal maintenance upon a finding of “the ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance”). Here, while the district court made express findings regarding appellant’s ability to pay spousal maintenance based on his gross income, it failed to make similar findings regarding his net income. Because such a finding is necessary in order to appropriately determine appellant’s ability to pay spousal maintenance, we remand the issue of spousal maintenance for further findings by the district court.
Appellant also challenges the district court’s consideration of appellant’s bonus for purposes of spousal maintenance. Respondent challenges the district court’s order allowing appellant to make a portion of his maintenance payments directly to the bank until respondent secured refinancing of the homestead mortgages. Because the district court’s failure to determine appellant’s net income is fatal to its order regarding spousal maintenance, it is not necessary that we reach these additional issues. But based on our review of the record, we conclude that the district court properly decided these issues.
Appellant argues the district court erred in its marital-property award because it failed to make proper findings and it did not equally divide the marital property. District courts have broad discretion over the division of marital property, and appellate courts will not alter a district court’s property division absent a clear abuse of discretion or an erroneous application of the law. Chamberlain v. Chamberlain, 615 N.W.2d 405, 412 (Minn. App. 2000). A district court abuses discretion regarding a property division if its conclusion is “against logic and the facts on [the] record.” Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d, 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).
When distributing marital property, the district court is required to “make a just and equitable division.” Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1 (2004). An equal division of marital property is presumptively equitable upon dissolution of a long-term marriage. Miller v. Miller, 352 N.W.2d 738, 742 (Minn. 1984). Because the parties here were married 13 years when they separated, their marriage can be deemed “long-term.” See Gales v. Gales, 553 N.W.2d 416, 421 (Minn. 1996) (stating, in an appeal of maintenance dispute, that the supreme court would not “quibble” with the district court’s finding of fact that an 11-year marriage was “long-term”).
Appellant argues the district court erred in not equitably distributing the parties’ equity in the homestead. The district court awarded respondent the parties’ homestead, which was estimated to have equity of approximately $74,549. But the district court also determined that selling the home was “impractical” because the net proceeds after taking into account sale-related expenses, such as realtor fees and closing costs, would result in little equity, which would make it difficult for respondent to secure a new homestead for herself and the children. We agree. Based on our review of the record, the district court’s findings regarding the value of the parties’ homestead and the sale-related costs of selling the home are not clearly erroneous. And given the relative amounts of equity in the property and the sale-related costs of liquidating the property, the district court did not abuse its discretion by not ordering the sale of the property. Cf. Johnson v. Johnson, 277 N.W.2d 208, 211 (Minn. 1979) (“Exactitude is not required of the trial court in the valuation of assets in a dissolution proceeding; it is only necessary that the value arrived at lies within a reasonable range of figures.”).
Appellant also argues that the district court abused its discretion by unequally dividing the parties’ debts and by double-counting appellant’s 2003 bonus. On the issue of the parties’ debts, the district court ordered appellant to use his 401(k) account and his 2003 bonus to pay the parties’ marital debt, which totaled approximately $73,408. In doing so, the district court effectively divided the marital debt and marital funds equally between the parties. See Korf v. Korf, 553 N.W.2d 706, 712 (Minn. App. 1996) (stating debt apportionment in dissolution proceeding is treated as part of property division, and district court’s broad discretion in division of debt will not be overturned absent a clear abuse of that discretion).
Based on our review of the record, the district court did not double-count appellant’s 2003 bonus. The district court concluded that the bonus was income received by appellant in 2003 that could be used to project appellant’s income in 2004. Since appellant received the income in 2003, it was part of the marital estate subject to a fair and equitable property division under the statute. Because appellant’s 2003 bonus had been received at the time of trial, the district court appropriately applied appellant’s net 2003 bonus of $33,284 to the parties’ marital debts. Cf. In re Marriage of Steffan, 423 N.W.2d 729, 733 (Minn. App. 1988) (“Nevertheless, we believe that the bonus is a marital asset which should have been divided by the trial court.”). The district court thus treated the 2003 bonus as an asset similar to appellant’s 401(k) plan and stock options, ordering all but the stock options to be used for paying down the parties’ marital debts. The district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering that appellant’s 401(k) and the 2003 bonus be used to pay marital debts.
Appellant also argues the district court improperly apportioned the value of appellant’s stock options. Respondent was awarded 60% of the 13,000 stock options received on or before January 31, 2001, and 40% of those stock options received in January 2002 and May 2003. It is unclear why the district court chose such a division over an equal split, but the court concluded that the distribution of the options was equitable. The district court has broad discretion in dividing the stock options. See Chamberlain, 615 N.W.2d at 412 (stating district court’s broad discretion will not be overturned absent a clear abuse of discretion); see also Bliss v. Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583, 587 (Minn. App. 1992), (stating this court will affirm a district court’s decision “if it is has an acceptable basis in fact and principle, even though this court may have taken a different approach”), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1993). Because we conclude the district court’s findings were not against logic and the facts on the record, the district court did not abuse discretion in its division of the stock options.
Finally, appellant argues the district court abused its discretion in ordering him to pay the costs associated with the repossession and sale of the parties’ Chevrolet Suburban. In September 2003, the district court ordered appellant to make lease payments on the vehicle, but appellant failed to do so. The vehicle was subsequently repossessed. Appellant was then afforded the opportunity to reclaim the vehicle by paying the lessor $2,700, but again, he failed to do so. The district court concluded that “[i]t is appropriate that the costs associated with the repossession and sale of the Suburban, as well as any amount remaining to be paid after sale, be borne by [appellant].” The district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering appellant to pay costs associated with his deficient actions. Cf. Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1a (2004) (requiring district court to compensate party’s spouse if party’s conduct encumbers or disposes of marital assets).
Appellant claims the district court abused its discretion in ordering appellant to pay respondent’s attorney fees. But respondent argues that the award of attorney fees is moot based on appellant’s filing for bankruptcy. Appellant conceded this fact in his reply brief. Based on this concession, we need not address this issue.
We reverse the district court regarding its determination of spousal maintenance, remand the issue for further findings, and affirm the district court’s division of the marital property. On remand, the district court shall have the discretion regarding whether to reopen the record.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded