This opinion will be unpublished and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:
Audrey P. James, petitioner,
Charles D. James,
Filed February 28, 2006
Dodge County District Court
File No. F6-99-88
Mary Alice Richardson, Richardson Law Office, 18 Third Street SW, Suite 302, P. O. Box 656, Rochester, MN 55903; and
Sharon L. Buffington, Buffington Law Office, 18 Third Street SW, Suite 302, P. O. Box 656, Rochester, MN 55903 (for appellant)
Jill I. Frieders, O’Brien & Wolf, L.L.P., 206 South Broadway, Suite 611, P. O. Box 968, Rochester, MN 55903 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Dietzen, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant-wife argues that the district court abused its discretion by terminating her award of permanent maintenance when the parties had stipulated to the award and respondent-husband failed to demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances making the original award unfair and unreasonable. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
court’s decision on a motion to modify maintenance is discretionary and will
not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.
Dobrin v. Dobrin,569
N.W.2d 199, 202 (
Here, at the time of dissolution, respondent Charles D. James was earning approximately $106,000 per year, and appellant Audrey P. James was earning approximately $21,840 per year. Respondent was ordered to pay appellant $1,625 monthly in “permanent” maintenance through December 31, 2011. In 2004, respondent moved the district court to terminate or decrease his spousal-maintenance obligation. The district court concluded that a substantial change in circumstances rendered the current spousal-maintenance award unreasonable and unfair and terminated respondent’s obligation.
argues that the district court abused its discretion by terminating
respondent’s spousal-maintenance obligation because the original award was
permanent. Appellant contends that the
district court clearly erred in its findings because the parties stipulated in
their Marital Termination Agreement (MTA) that she would receive maintenance
through 2011. But the MTA also stated that maintenance was terminable upon appellant’s
remarriage and subject to future modification upon proof of a change in circumstances. Further, a stipulation does not constitute a
complete bar to a motion for subsequent modification of maintenance. Cisek
v. Cisek, 409 N.W.2d 233, 237 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Sept. 18, 1987). If a party makes a showing of the necessary
factors, relief is appropriate despite a stipulation incorporated into the
next argues that the district court erroneously overstated appellant’s income
and assets, considered her fiancé’s financial contribution to household
expenses, and found her budget excessive.
“The basis for modification of an award of maintenance is a change
of circumstances which makes the terms of the award unreasonable or
unfair—substantially increased or decreased earnings or need of a party,
receipt of public assistance, or a change in the cost-of-living.” Nardini
v. Nardini, 414 N.W.2d 184, 198 (
Appellant contends that the district court erroneously terminated her award of spousal maintenance based on her increased income and savings. While a recipient of maintenance is not automatically penalized by the termination of maintenance if employed at the time of dissolution and his or her earnings subsequently increase, Borchert v. Borchert, 391 N.W.2d 74, 76 (Minn. App. 1986), no single factor for determining maintenance is dispositive. See Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2. The district court examined appellant’s current need for support and balanced it against respondent’s current financial situation. See Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d at 39-40. The district court found that appellant’s income had increased to $37,225 per year, and that she had managed to save $95,000 since the dissolution. The district court’s findings are supported by the record and are not clearly erroneous.
The district court also found that appellant’s
needs decreased because she and
her fiancé reside together and her fiancé contributes to household
concedes that the district court was to consider her cohabiting relationship to
the extent that it might improve her economic well-being. See Sieber v. Sieber, 258 N.W.2d 754, 758 (
Appellant also argues that the district court erred in finding her 2004 monthly budget to be excessive. The district court found that appellant claimed that her 2002 monthly budget of $5,478.39 had increased to $6,568 in 2004, but that her claimed 2004 monthly budget was not credible. The district court determined that, in order for appellant’s 2004 budget to be accurate, she would have to net $78,816 annually and that even with her current spousal-maintenance award and the assistance from her fiancé, she was netting nowhere near that amount. The district court specifically found that appellant’s monthly daycare expense of $500 was excessive for teenagers because respondent was willing and able to care for the children. The district court also found that while appellant’s debts and household expenses significantly decreased since 2002, appellant doubled her vacation reserve fund, haircut expenses, auto loan/replacement expense, savings, and attorney fees. The district court readjusted appellant’s proposed budget to closely align with her 2002 budget. The district court found respondent’s budget to be reasonable. The district court then compared the parties’ respective cash flows without the award of spousal maintenance and determined that with respondent paying $2,003 per month in child support, the parties would be nearly equal. In reviewing the record, the district court’s findings are not clearly erroneous.
Finally, appellant argues that respondent is attempting to punish appellant for requesting child support. But the district court awarded appellant $2,003 per month in child support, and the record contains no indication that respondent failed to pay appellant child support. Further, the changed circumstances that the district court relied on in terminating respondent’s spousal-maintenance obligation relate to appellant’s increased income and savings, and contributions from her fiancé. Because the findings are supported by the record, the district court did not abuse its discretion in terminating respondent’s spousal-maintenance obligation.