This opinion will be unpublished and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
In re the Marriage of:
Judy L. Bydzovsky, petitioner,
William V. Bydzovsky,
Filed August 8, 2006
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Ramsey County District Court
File No. FX-03-2241
Judy L. Bydzovsky, 620 North Main Street, # 315, Stillwater, MN 55082 (pro se respondent)
Kay Nord Hunt, Marc A. Johannsen, Lommen, Nelson, Cole & Stageberg, P.A., 2000 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Parker, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this dissolution appeal following the denial of motions for amended findings or a new trial, appellant-husband argues that the district court (1) erred in declining to enforce the terms of an unsigned draft marital-termination agreement; (2) abused its discretion in the amount of maintenance allocated to respondent-wife by understating her net monthly income and overstating both her monthly expenses and appellant’s ability to provide maintenance; (3) abused its discretion by allocating to respondent a disproportionate share of marital property; and (4) abused its discretion in ordering appellant to pay part of respondent’s attorney fees. Because we conclude that the district court did not err in refusing to enforce the proposed marital-termination agreement, we affirm on that issue. But because the district court made inadequate findings on respondent’s income and expenses and her spending of the proceeds from the parties’ refinancing of the homestead, we reverse and remand for the district court to reexamine issues of maintenance and property division. Finally, we conclude that on this record, the district court abused its discretion in ordering appellant to pay a need-based part of respondent’s attorney fees.
D E C I S I O N
William Bydzovsky challenges the district court’s refusal to enforce a
proposed, unsigned marital termination agreement that was drafted by respondent
Judy Bydzovksy’s counsel when appellant was acting pro se. Stipulations form a judicially favored means
of simplifying and expediting litigation and are treated as binding
contracts. Shirk v. Shirk, 561 N.W.2d 519, 521 (
district court properly found that the record contains insufficient evidence of
the parties’ unequivocal assent to the terms of the proposed agreement. See
Angier v. Angier, 415 N.W.2d 53, 56 (
Appellant also argues that respondent should be estopped from challenging the proposed agreement because he relied on its terms in refinancing the homestead on terms unfavorable to him and favorable to respondent. Respondent’s share of the refinancing proceeds ($52,000) exceeded appellant’s share ($25,417) by approximately $26,000. But to the extent that respondent may have spent part of the refinancing funds on personal expenses not related to necessities, the proper remedy is, as discussed below, a remand to the district court to reevaluate the equitable allocation of marital property between the parties as it may have been affected by this expenditure of marital funds. See Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1a (2004) (providing that court, on a showing that party has transferred or disposed of marital assets “except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life,” may impute value of asset and a fair return to party who transferred or disposed of asset).
the district court’s allocation of $1,400 monthly permanent maintenance to
respondent. A district court may order
maintenance in a dissolution proceeding when the evidence shows that the spouse
seeking maintenance “lacks sufficient property, including marital property
apportioned to the spouse, to provide for reasonable needs of the spouse
considering the standard of living established during the marriage.”
The court must
consider all relevant factors, including the financial resources of the party
seeking maintenance and that party’s ability to meet needs independently, the
standard of living during the marriage; the duration of the marriage; the age,
physical and emotional condition of the party seeking maintenance; and the
ability of the party from whom maintenance is sought to meet needs while also
meeting the needs of the party seeking maintenance.
Appellant asserts that the district court abused its discretion by calculating a permanent maintenance award based on (1) the inclusion in his income of overtime work and income from appliance-selling out of his garage; and (2) a clearly erroneous determination of respondent’s income and expenses.
The district court
found that in 2003, appellant’s gross income from Unisys was $56,463, including
overtime pay of $8,645. Because the
record showed that appellant had a consistent previous history of receiving
overtime pay, the district court did not abuse its discretion by including his
overtime pay in its income calculation. See Lynch
v. Lynch, 411 N.W.2d 263, 266
But we conclude that the district court made insufficient findings concerning respondent’s need for maintenance because it failed to address the factual disputes regarding her reasonable and necessary personal and business expenses. Specifically, respondent’s asserted monthly personal expenses of $3,450, which were adopted by the district court without comment, include $130 per month for personal care items, $250 per month for clothing and dry cleaning, and $201 per month for marina, health club, and home cleaning expenses. Appellant challenged the reasonableness of these expenses, which exceeded his asserted monthly expenses by over $400, in light of the parties’ modest marital standard of living. The district court did not address this issue. In addition, the district court adopted without comment respondent’s asserted monthly expenses for her real estate business, including $245 for telephone and internet service, $22 for car washes, $150 for meals and entertainment, and $100 for office supplies. Because the district court based its determination of respondent’s need for maintenance without addressing issues regarding the reasonableness of these expenses, we reverse and remand the issue of maintenance for further findings. At its discretion, the district court may reopen the record to receive further evidence on these issues.
district court in a dissolution must order “a just and equitable division of
the marital property.”
Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion in dividing the marital property by failing to credit respondent with the $52,000 of funds she received from the refinancing of the parties’ homestead during the parties’ separation. The district court found that only $10,259 remained of respondent’s share of the refinancing money, and the court did not add back into the marital estate the rest of the funds ($41,741) that she spent during the year-long period after the refinancing and before trial.
The proceeds of
the homestead refinancing fall within the statutory definition of marital
contends the district court abused its discretion in awarding need-based
attorney fees to respondent. We
agree. A district court in a dissolution
action is authorized to grant attorney fees when necessary for the good-faith
assertion of a party’s rights on findings that the party seeking fees lacks the
ability to pay and the party from whom fees are sought is capable of paying the
Here, the district court ordered appellant to pay $10,000 of respondent’s attorney fees, based on respondent’s inability to pay the fees and appellant’s ability to pay this amount. But the record shows that, after paying maintenance as ordered by the district court, appellant retains only $49 per month in income above his monthly expenses. This amount is insufficient to support the district court’s finding that appellant has the capability of contributing to respondent’s attorney fees. Thus, on this record, we conclude the district court abused its discretion in awarding need-based attorney fees.
Finally, based on our record, we reject appellant’s argument that respondent improperly submitted a brief pro se that was drafted by an attorney. Although appellant suggests that respondent’s trial counsel drafted respondent’s brief, this court received express notification that trial counsel was not representing respondent in this appeal and pro se correspondence from respondent.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.