This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






Kim Teresa Pattinson, petitioner,





Daniel Keller Pattinson,



Filed ­­­June 7, 2005

Reversed and remanded; motion denied

Dietzen, Judge


Anoka County District Court

File No. F6-95-11276


Jennifer R. Wellner, Wellner & Isaacson, PLLP, Glen Oaks Center, 2E South Pine Drive, Circle Pines, MN 55014 (for appellant)


Thomas R. Hughes, Hughes & Costello, 1230 Landmark Towers, 345 St. Peter Street, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N



            In this post-dissolution proceeding, appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by reducing to $0 respondent’s maintenance obligation.  Because the district court failed to make adequate findings, we reverse and remand.  We also deny appellant’s motion to strike.


            Appellant Kim Theresa Pattinson and respondent Daniel Keller Pattinson were married in 1984, had two children, and dissolved the marriage in 1996.

            Respondent works as a carpet installer.  From 1993 through early 1997, he owned and operated Carpet Concepts, Inc., a company that sold and installed carpeting.  The company dissolved shortly after the dissolution proceeding at which time respondent returned to work full time for a carpet installation company.  Appellant does not have a high school diploma and worked at low-paying positions throughout the marriage.  She was a homemaker until 1991 and then started working part time selling pull-tabs.  In 1993, she became employed part time at Minnesota Plastics making $9 an hour for four hours a week.  At the time of the dissolution, she worked nearly full time at the rate of $9.25 an hour.  Her monthly income was $961.02 and her reasonable living expenses for herself and the children were $2,960.28.  Respondent’s net income was $2,570 and his living expenses were $1,363.

            In 1997, the district court dissolved the parties’ marriage, awarded appellant custody of the parties’ minor children, and determined the amount of respondent’s child support obligation.  Also, the court divided the property and awarded appellant $600 per month in permanent spousal maintenance.  This court affirmed the 1997 amended judgment.  Pattinson v. Pattinson, No. C0-97-458 (Minn. App. Oct. 14, 1997).  The judgment stated that either party could seek review of the spousal maintenance award in five years.

            In March 2002, respondent moved to terminate spousal maintenance, which had increased through cost-of-living adjustments to $720 per month.  Respondent based his motion on the improvement in appellant’s circumstances.  After a hearing on respondent’s motion, the district court terminated spousal maintenance.  The district court, in ruling that appellant’s circumstances had significantly and substantially improved, found that appellant: (1) earned a monthly net income of $1,731.36, an increase of 80%; (2) had monthly expenses for herself and the children of $3,678.44; and (3) enjoyed many benefits that she did not have at the time of the dissolution decree, including medical insurance, dental coverage, a 401(k) plan, long-term disability insurance and personal leave time.  The district court also found that the value of respondent’s carpeting business was inflated in the dissolution decree, resulting in a disproportionate distribution of assets and an inflated standard of living in favor of appellant.  This court reversed, concluding that the district court abused its discretion by making new findings regarding the value of respondent’s business.  We remanded to the district court to reconsider the merits of respondent’s motion and to render a decision based only upon those factors that are appropriately considered in deciding whether and to what extent maintenance should be modified.  Pattinson v. Pattinson, C0-03-155 (Minn. App. July 15, 2003).

            Following our remand, appellant moved the district court to require respondent to show cause why an order should not be entered denying respondent’s motion to terminate spousal maintenance.  Subsequently, respondent filed a motion to reduce his spousal maintenance obligation to $0.  Respondent also filed with the district court a letter dated April 22, 2004 and an affidavit dated April 21, 2004 setting forth his financial information in support of the motion.[1]

            On July 19, 2004, the district court filed its order amending spousal maintenance to $0 retroactive to May 2002.  The district court found that appellant’s net income between 1997 and 2002 increased from $961.02 to $1,731.36, or an increase of 80% and that, for the same time period, her expenses for herself and the children increased from $2,960.28 to $3,678.44.  Accordingly, the district court found that there was a substantial change in appellant’s financial circumstances rendering the spousal maintenance award unfair and unreasonable.  On August 25, 2004, appellant filed a motion to amend the district court’s July 2004 order.  Before the motion was heard, appellant filed this appeal.



            Appellant moves to strike from respondent’s appendix the cover letter and affidavit setting forth respondent’s financial information.  Appellant argues that the letter and affidavit were not properly before the district court because, while they were filed with the district court, appellant’s attorney did not receive them until she was served with the brief and appendix respondent filed with this court.  The district court’s finding of respondent’s average net monthly income and its finding of what respondent claimed were his expenses reflect the exhibits to respondent’s affidavit.  Thus, the letter and affidavit were both filed in, and considered by, the district court.  On appeal, the record includes the documents filed in the district court.  Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.01.  Therefore, we deny appellant’s motion to strike these documents. 

            The district court file, however, lacks an affidavit showing service of these documents.  See Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 7 (requiring proof of service for filed documents); Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 303.03(a)(1)-(3) (reciting service requirements for motions in family-law matters).  On appeal, respondent’s attorney submitted an affidavit by his legal assistant stating that the legal assistant typed the letter and mailed both the letter and “attachments” to the district court and appellant’s attorney on April 21, 2004.  But the affidavit fails to identify the attachments that were mailed to appellant’s attorney.  Because the record does not disclose what was mailed to appellant’s attorney, we conclude that the district court should review the issue on remand and determine what documents were mailed to appellant’s attorney and whether appellant’s attorney should be afforded an opportunity to respond to respondent’s financial documents.[2]


A party moving to modify maintenance must show both that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the dissolution or the last time maintenance was modified, and that the change renders the existing maintenance award unreasonable and unfair.  Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(a), (b) (2004); Hecker v. Hecker, 568 N.W.2d 705, 709 (Minn. 1997).  Generally, the existence of changed circumstances is evaluated by comparing circumstances at the time of the motion with those existing when
maintenance was set or last modified.  Wiese v. Wiese, 295 N.W.2d 371, 372 (Minn. 1980).  Whether to modify maintenance is discretionary with the district court, and its decision will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of that discretion, which 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). 

Maintenance requires a showing of need, and the setting of a maintenance award involves balancing the recipient’s need against the obligor’s ability to pay.  See Lyon v. Lyon, 439 N.W.2d 18, 22 (Minn. 1989) (requirement of need); Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 39-40 (Minn. 1982) (balancing test).  In setting the award, “a maintenance obligor has a duty, to the extent equitable under the circumstances, to support the maintenance recipient at the marital standard of living[,]” where “determining the financial extent of a maintenance obligor’s duty to assist a maintenance recipient in approximating the marital standard of living requires consideration of the maintenance recipient’s ability to provide self-support.”  Peterka v. Peterka, 675 N.W.2d 353, 358-59 & n.4 (Minn. App. 2004).  Thus, a betterment of a maintenance recipient’s financial circumstances, even if significant, does not necessarily render an existing maintenance award unreasonable and unfair if, after the betterment, the financial circumstances of the maintenance recipient still do not allow the recipient to achieve the marital standard of living. 

            Here, the district court found that appellant’s circumstances had “improved significantly” between the dissolution judgment and the 2002 hearing.  In doing so, it found both that appellant’s income had increased from the $961.02 found in the dissolution judgment, to $1,731.36 at the time of the 2002 hearing, and that appellant had employment-related benefits available to her in 2002 that were not available to her when the parties’ marriage was dissolved.  The district court also noted that while appellant’s reasonable monthly expenses for herself and the children at the time of the dissolution were $2,960.28, in 2002, appellant’s “stated monthly expenses” were $3,678.44, suggesting that appellant’s expenses increased less than her income.  Further, between the dissolution and respondent’s 2002 motion, appellant’s support and maintenance awards had increased.

            However, whether appellant’s circumstances actually improved substantially rendering the original spousal maintenance award unreasonable and unfair cannot be determined or reviewed on the existing record.  The district court’s findings of fact are incomplete.  The findings should address all of appellant’s income including child support and spousal maintenance as well as actual rather than “stated” expenses.  See Dean v. Pelton, 437 N.W.2d 762, 764 (Minn. App. 1989) (stating district court’s recitation of parties’ claims “is not making true findings” because findings “must be affirmatively stated as findings of the trial court”).  Also, the findings should consider the potential impact of the elimination or any reduction of spousal maintenance on appellant’s income and expenses.  Accordingly, we remand the issue of spousal maintenance to the district court to make findings of fact addressing the parties’ incomes, expenses, and abilities to meet expenses and pay maintenance, as well as the other relevant statutory maintenance factors, and to determine whether there was a substantial change in appellant’s circumstances rendering the spousal maintenance award unreasonable and unfair.  See Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989) (remanding maintenance modification where district court’s findings failed to address parties’ expenses and obligor’s ability to pay maintenance). 

            Because the district court’s findings of respondent’s average net monthly income for the period 2000 to 2003 and its finding of respondent’s “statement of living expenses” are based on respondent’s affidavit that appellant’s attorney claims she did not receive, we remand the questions of respondent’s net monthly income and his reasonable monthly expenses for further review by the district court.  Accordingly, we do not address appellant’s argument that the record and the district court’s findings are insufficient to support its maintenance ruling because neither the record nor the findings adequately addresses respondent’s financial circumstances.[3]


            On remand, the district court should make both findings of fact on the parties’ maintenance-related circumstances as of the dissolution and respondent’s 2002 motion to modify maintenance, as well as whether a substantial change in circumstances occurred rendering appellant’s existing maintenance award unreasonable and unfair.  In that regard, any betterment of a maintenance recipient’s circumstances is not necessarily sufficient, by itself, to allow reduction, reservation, or termination of a spousal maintenance award if after the betterment, the recipient still cannot reach the parties’ marital standard of living.  If the district court finds that, between the dissolution and respondent’s 2002 motion, a substantial change in circumstances occurred rendering appellant’s maintenance award unreasonable and unfair, the district court should set appellant’s maintenance award at a new amount that would have been appropriate in 2002 and make findings explaining that amount.

Because three years have passed since the original March 2002 motion to modify spousal maintenance, and there have been two appeals and subsequent decisions by this court, the district court shall also have the discretion to consider the parties’ current financial situation and determine whether spousal maintenance should be adjusted for any changes in the parties’ circumstances occurring between respondent’s 2002 motion and the proceedings on remand.  If the district court does so, it should make separate findings of fact explaining those adjustments.

            Reversed and remanded; motion denied.

[1] Appellant contends that the first time she saw the letter and affidavit was when she was served with the appendix to respondent’s brief in this appeal.

[2] We understand that the district court may not have been aware of this issue.

[3] We note, however, that a district court is not necessarily required to make explicit findings on all statutory maintenance factors if certain factors are not at issue or otherwise not before the district court for decision.  Justis v. Justis, 384 N.W.2d 885, 891 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. May 29, 1986); see Roberson v. Roberson, 296 Minn. 476, 478, 206 N.W.2d 347, 348 (1973) (stating findings not necessary if record is “reasonably clear” and facts “not seriously disputed”); Tuthill v. Tuthill, 399 N.W.2d 230, 232 (Minn. App. 1987) (finding of no substantial change in circumstances in maintenance-modification context renders findings on other maintenance factors unnecessary); cf. Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 201-02 (Minn. 1997) (treating maintenance factors as implicitly addressed).