This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Marriage of:
Filed December 6, 2005
Rice County District Court
File No. F8-03-362
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Wright, Judge.
Because, based on the undisputed evidence, there is significant uncertainty as to whether appellant will ever be self-supporting, we reverse the district court’s award of temporary maintenance and order the court to enter an award of permanent maintenance. Because the district court clearly erred in its findings on the parties’ incomes and expenses and failed to adequately address the requisite statutory factors when determining maintenance, we reverse and remand for further proceedings on the appropriate amount of maintenance. On remand, the district court is also directed to reconsider its award of the family farm to respondent and its charge against appellant’s marital share of one-half of the expenses incurred by her during the pendency of these proceedings.
regarding spousal maintenance and property divisions are within the district
court’s broad discretion. Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 202 (
argues that the district court’s denial of her request for permanent spousal
maintenance was based on clearly erroneous findings and represents an abuse of
judicial discretion. We agree.
Here, the district court not only failed to consider an award of permanent maintenance, but also found that appellant “seeks spousal maintenance on a temporary basis,” despite appellant’s clear request for permanent maintenance. The district court made no findings to show that it considered the parties’ long-term marriage of 27 years or any of the other factors, including appellant’s age (51), deteriorating health, lack of higher education, years out of the labor market, and status as a traditional homemaker. The district court appeared to assume that because the parties’ standard of living was “simple” or “minimal,” appellant would be able to continue to maintain that standard of living, despite losing possession of the farm and despite the kidney disease that seriously affects her health and employability. Finally, the district court assumed that appellant would become a clockmaker in 24 months and immediately increase her earning capacity to $50 per hour, even though appellant testified that the program took three years to complete and that she would make little or no money until she gained experience and built up a clientele.
Given these undisputed facts, we reverse the district court’s award of temporary maintenance and hold that appellant is entitled to an award of permanent maintenance. See, e.g., Zamora v. Zamora, 435 N.W.2d 609, 612 (Minn. App. 1989) (holding that wife entitled to permanent maintenance where she had no vocational skills, raised children and was homemaker during parties’ 25-year marriage, had health problems associated with diabetes, was forced to quit accounting classes due to illness, and was unable to become self-supporting during period of temporary maintenance); Reif v. Reif, 426 N.W.2d 227, 230-31 (Minn. App. 1988) (remanding for determination as to why award should not be permanent, where uncertain whether 46-year-old wife would be able to reenter labor force after 23-year hiatus and meet her own needs); Laumann v. Laumann, 400 N.W.2d 355, 358-59 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that failure to award wife permanent maintenance was abuse of discretion when court’s findings as to wife’s income and expenses were clearly erroneous), review denied (Minn. Nov. 24, 1987).
appellate review is possible only if the district court makes detailed findings
of fact that demonstrate a consideration of all factors relevant to an award of
maintenance. Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (
For instance, the district court’s finding regarding appellant’s income assumes she will continue to earn $600 per month from her “baking, the Farmers’ Market, selling chickens, eggs, produce, hay and weaving,” even though she no longer has possession of the farm. The court found appellant’s expenses are $1,334 per month, but this figure is based on her current $300 monthly mortgage payment for the farm and inclusion as a dependent on respondent’s health insurance. Appellant testified that she could obtain health insurance for approximately $382 per month, but she did not believe she could find any housing for less than $1,200 per month. Finally, despite uncontroverted evidence that appellant would experience renal failure in three to five years, which would require her to be on dialysis until she receives a kidney transplant, and despite appellant’s testimony about the uncertainty of her earnings from making clocks, the district court’s findings assume that appellant will complete her clockmaker classes in 24 months and be capable of earning $50 per hour.
Because the district court’s findings are either clearly erroneous or fail to adequately address the requisite statutory factors set out in Minn. Stat. § 518.552 (2004), we reverse and remand for further proceedings on the appropriate amount of maintenance. See, e.g., Koenen v. Koenen, 413 N.W.2d 280, 283 (Minn. App. 1987) (remanding for additional findings on issue of maintenance where court failed to make particularized findings showing that it considered all relevant factors). On remand, the district court is directed to take additional evidence and to make accurate and realistic findings on both parties’ incomes and expenses.
A district court’s division of property must be “just and
equitable,” but need not be mathematically equal, even upon dissolution of a
long-term marriage. See Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1 (2004) (setting out factors
to consider when making division of marital property); Miller v. Miller, 352 N.W.2d 738, 742 (
Appellant challenges the district court’s decision to award the farm to respondent when her income and chosen vocations are inextricably tied to the farm. As she notes, the district court erroneously stated that the parties “agreed that whoever was granted custody of the minor child should be entitled to possession of the homestead,” even though appellant continued to request that she receive possession of the farm.
The district court awarded the farm to respondent because it found “credible [r]espondent’s testimony that he is financially able to refinance the homestead, as he is presently employed, and pay [appellant] her share of the equity.” The court further rejected appellant’s claim that she could refinance the property and buy out respondent’s share because she had “no plan to pay off the marital debt nor was there any testimony from an independent source that [appellant] could in fact obtain a sufficient mortgage on the property based upon her present income.” This finding was made despite appellant’s testimony and evidence regarding her business plan and her plan to refinance the mortgage.
As appellant emphasizes, the district court’s decision forces her to give up her chosen vocation. The court’s decision also fails to properly consider the parties’ balancing claims to the homestead: to appellant, the farm represents financial security and continuation of her chosen vocation as a small-scale farmer, while respondent requested the farm because he liked it and because he wanted the parties’ 15-year-old daughter to be able to live there for the next three years, until she graduates from high school. While we cannot necessarily conclude that the district court abused its discretion in awarding the farm to respondent, we are nevertheless concerned about the court’s failure to fully address this issue, particularly since the findings that were made by the court are unsupported by the evidence. On remand, the district court is directed to also reconsider this issue.
Appellant challenges the district court’s charge to her of $12,574, which represents one-half of the expenses that respondent claimed he incurred during the pendency of the divorce proceedings. This charge was based on the May 8, 2003 temporary order, which also found that appellant had no income at that time. In December 2003, respondent sought a specific order that appellant be held responsible for one-half of the monthly credit card payments and living expenses; his requests were denied in a second temporary order, except that appellant was ordered to pay $300, which represented approximately one-half of the mortgage payment on the farm.
Because the district court failed to consider whether equal division of this debt was appropriate given the disparity of the parties’ incomes, we reverse and direct the court on remand to reconsider this issue.
Reversed and remanded.