This opinion will be unpublished and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: LeAnn Marie Murra,
Wayne Arnold Murra,
Filed September 26, 2006
Affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part
Blue Earth County District Court
File No. FA-04-1765
James J. Vedder, Edward L. Winer, Moss & Barnett, 4800 Wells Fargo Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-4129 (for appellant)
Michael H. Kennedy, Kennedy & Kennedy, 99 Navaho Avenue, Suite 104, P.O. Box 3223, Mankato, MN 56002-3223 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Peterson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from an amended marital-dissolution judgment, appellant-wife challenges a permanent-spousal-maintenance award, arguing that the district court (1) erred by imputing employment income to her; (2) understated her reasonable monthly expenses by not considering the marital standard of living; and (3) overstated her investment income. We affirm the district court’s determinations regarding reasonable monthly expenses and investment income. But because we conclude that the district court abused its discretion by imputing employment income to appellant, we reverse the maintenance award and remand for reconsideration.
The parties’ 24-year marriage was dissolved by a judgment and decree on August 11, 2005. At the time of dissolution, appellant-wife LeAnn Marie Murra was 50 years old, and respondent-husband Wayne Arnold Murra was 51 years old. One of the parties’ three children was still a minor at the time of the dissolution. The judgment incorporated the parties’ agreements regarding child custody, child support, parenting time, and the division of property. The district court decided the remaining issue of spousal maintenance.
At the time of the dissolution, husband was a regional sales manager for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. His gross annual minimum income was $71,482.08, and he received additional compensation in the form of monthly commissions and annual bonuses, which fluctuated because they were based on mortgage production. Husband’s average gross annual income from 1999 through 2004 was $513,000, with a low of $180,500 and a high of $708,600. During the marriage, wife was a homemaker. She cared for the children and took care of the parties’ home, cabin, and rental property. The district court found that wife was capable of working full time as a receptionist and imputed income of $20,000 per year to her.
The family owned a lake cabin for 11 years. Approximately five years before the divorce, the parties purchased a new lake cabin for $325,000. At the time of the dissolution, the cabin was worth approximately $1.3 million. The parties also owned the marital homestead, another home that wife lived in at the time of the divorce, and a duplex that they rented to tenants. The district court ordered the sale of the lake cabin and the duplex, with the proceeds to be divided evenly between the parties. The marital homestead was awarded to husband, and the other home was awarded to wife, both subject to the existing encumbrances. The property awards were then equalized through awards of investment accounts and the cash values of life-insurance policies. Each party received approximately $1.1 million in real-estate equity, investment accounts, and cash. In addition, each party received approximately $750,000 in retirement accounts. The district court found that wife has the ability to generate up to $70,000 per year in investment income from her property distribution.
The district court concluded that wife’s $70,000 per year in investment income and employment income of $20,000 per year would give her a monthly net income of approximately $5,000. The district court found wife’s reasonable monthly expenses to be $7,880, and ordered husband to pay wife $4,300 per month in permanent spousal maintenance to meet her reasonable needs.  This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
The determination of spousal
maintenance is within the district court’s broad discretion. Stich
v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (
The district court may award
maintenance in a marital dissolution proceeding if it finds that the spouse
seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s
reasonable needs or is unable to provide adequate self-support through
appropriate employment. Minn. Stat. §
518.552, subd. 1 (2004). The court is to consider all relevant circumstances,
including the standard of living established during the marriage, in
determining whether a spouse is able to provide adequate self-support.
Wife argues that the district court
abused its discretion by imputing employment income to her. In order to impute employment income to a
party for the purpose of determining whether maintenance is needed, the court
must find that the party is voluntarily underemployed in bad faith. Maurer
v. Maurer, 607 N.W.2d 176, 180 (Minn. App. 2000) (citing Carrick v. Carrick, 560 N.W.2d 407, 410
(Minn. App. 1997)), rev’d on other
grounds, 623 N.W.2d 604 (
As a matter of law, however, a court may not find bad faith underemployment where . . . a homemaker has continued to work the same part-time hours at the time of dissolution as she did during the marriage, has been employed in the same type of position as she was during the marriage, and where there is no evidence of any intent to reduce income for the purposes of obtaining maintenance.
Carrick, 560 N.W.2d at 410.
In Carrick, this court explained:
There is no authority for finding bad faith underemployment at the time of an initial award of maintenance merely because a potential obligee has not yet rehabilitated when the record indicates the obligee has continued in the same employment and there is no evidence of an intent to reduce income for the purposes of obtaining maintenance.
Here, the district court did not find that wife was underemployed in bad faith; the court found that wife has “the ability to successfully engage in such education or training as would be needed to gain the experience necessary to become gainfully employed. And if so gainfully employed, she has the ability to generate up to $20,000 per year of income.” But without allowing any time for wife to engage in education or training that would enable her to become gainfully employed, the district court imputed to her $20,000 of earned income per year.
There is no evidence that wife intentionally reduced her income for the purpose of obtaining maintenance. Wife will no longer earn income by managing the parties’ duplex; but that is because the dissolution judgment orders that the duplex be sold. Under these circumstances, we conclude that the district court abused its discretion by imputing employment income to wife without allowing any time for her to become gainfully employed. Therefore, we reverse the maintenance award and remand for reconsideration. On remand, the district court may, at its discretion, open the record to receive additional evidence and argument.
Reasonable Monthly Expenses
Wife argues that the district court abused its discretion and erred as a matter of law when it did not include in her reasonable monthly expenses (a) the cost of acquiring and maintaining a lake cabin; (b) $700 per month as a replacement reserve for buying a car; and (c) a monthly amount for savings. Wife contends that in not treating these expenses as reasonable, the district court failed to consider the parties’ marital standard of living.
in its findings, the district court explicitly acknowledged that the parties “led
an upper middle class life style.” “The
purpose of a maintenance award is to allow the recipient and the obligor to
have a standard of living that approximates the marital standard of living, as
closely as is equitable under the circumstances.” Peterka
v. Peterka, 675 N.W.2d 353, 358 (
have not allocated any funds towards [wife’s] request for expenses to maintain
a cabin. It is true that [wife] has been
associated with a cabin on a lake for many years. Nonetheless, I explicitly deem it
unreasonable to designate funds for it.
It is not appropriate to assign money to what may be no more than a wish
list item. [Wife] wants a cabin on
The district court’s explanation indicates that wife did not request funds to maintain a cabin in order to meet her monthly needs; she wanted a cabin for the parties’ children. Under these circumstances, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its broad discretion when it did not include the cost of acquiring and maintaining a cabin in wife’s reasonable monthly expenses.
The district court included in wife’s
reasonable monthly expenses $283 for transportation. Wife also received as part of the property
distribution a 2005 Honda Pilot. The
district court deleted entirely the $700 per month that wife requested for a
replacement reserve to be used to purchase a car at some time in the future. Wife does not claim that she is currently
making any car payments. Under these
circumstances, the district court did not abuse its broad discretion by not
including in wife’s reasonable monthly expenses an amount for purchasing an
unidentified car at some time in the future. See Toughill
v. Toughill, 609 N.W.2d 634, 641 (
The district court also deleted from wife’s claimed reasonable monthly expenses an amount for savings and explained that it did so because “[wife] will receive a significant amount of cash out of the marital estate.” In the property distribution, wife received approximately $1.1 million in real-estate equity, investment accounts, and cash and approximately $750,000 in retirement accounts. Under these circumstances, the district court did not abuse its broad discretion by not including in wife’s reasonable monthly expenses an amount for additional saving.
wife argues that the district court erred when it imputed investment income to
her based on the assumption that wife will invest the proceeds from the sale of
the parties’ lake cabin. Wife contends
that if the maintenance award does not include an amount for the cost of
acquiring and maintaining a lake cabin, she will need to use part of her
property award to purchase a lake cabin, and, therefore, those funds will not
be available to earn investment income. Wife
is correct that if she uses her share of the proceeds from the sale of the
parties’ cabin to purchase another cabin, those funds will not be available to
invest, and her investment income will be less than the district court
found. But that is true of all of the
assets that wife received in the property award; if they are not invested, wife
will not receive investment income. When
determining the amount of maintenance, the district court was required to
consider “the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including
marital property apportioned to the party.”
Affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part.
 The shortfall between wife’s monthly net income and expenses was $2,880. The court ordered husband to pay $4,300 in monthly maintenance to cover the $2,880 shortfall because any maintenance that wife receives is subject to income tax.