This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






In re the Marriage of:

Steven Gary Stimmler,






Dawn Richelle Stimmler,



Filed October 3, 2006

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
Klaphake, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. F0-03-28


Carol Grant, Kurzman Grant Law Office, 219 S.E. Main Street, Suite 403, Minneapolis, MN  55414 (for respondent)


John M. Jerabek, Jade K. Johnson, Niemi, Barr & Jerabek, 510 Marquette Avenue, Suite 200, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Minge, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            On appeal after remand in this dissolution action, appellant Dawn Richelle Stimmler argues that the district court erred by (1) denying her request for spousal maintenance; (2) characterizing certain credit card debt as marital; and (3) ordering the sale of the homestead upon either party’s failure to pay those marital debts.  Respondent Steven Gary Stimmler asserts that the district court properly made additional findings on the issues of maintenance and property division, as directed by this court in Stimmler v. Stimmler, 2005 WL 949150 (Minn. App. Apr. 26, 2005) (Stimmler I).

            Because the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s request for maintenance, we affirm on that issue.  But because the district court failed to consider the effect that appellant’s bankruptcy might have on the property division, we reverse and remand on this issue.



            Decisions regarding spousal maintenance are reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard.  Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 202 (Minn. 1997).  An abuse of discretion occurs when the district court’s resolution of the maintenance issue is “against logic and the facts on record.”  Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).  Findings of fact are upheld unless clearly erroneous, and this court must defer to the district court’s determinations regarding witness credibility.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.

            A district court may award maintenance if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs or is unable to provide adequate self-support through appropriate employment.  Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 1 (2004).  The burden of proof is on the spouse seeking maintenance to demonstrate need.  Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d at 202.

            In Stimmler I, 2005 WL 949150, at *4, this court remanded for more adequate findings on the issue of spousal maintenance because we were “unable to determine how the [district] court arrived at the conclusion that appellant failed to show that she is not capable of meeting her reasonable monthly needs without maintenance.”  On remand, the district court made additional findings on appellant’s reasonable monthly expenses, her prior work experience and education, her current employment situation, and her physical and emotional condition.

            In particular, the court noted that appellant is only 38 years old, has a high school education, and “generally has not been absent from employment,” but rather has “pursued what opportunities she desired during the marriage.”  The court further found that appellant “has no physical condition which prevents her from working to capacity,” that there is “nothing about [her] age, physical or emotional condition which supports an award of spousal maintenance,” and that there is “no reason that [appellant] cannot work full-time consistent with her parenting responsibilities and situation during the marriage.”  Contrary to appellant’s assertions, these findings, which are reasonably supported by the record and are not clearly erroneous, adequately support the district court’s determination that appellant has the ability to work full time.

            The district court thereafter estimated appellant’s current net monthly income at $3,063.58, based on her operation of the hockey school for three months during the summer and on her work as a waitress during the nine-month school year.  Appellant asserts that the district court erred in imputing income to her absent a finding that she was voluntarily underemployed in bad faith.  See 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 (Minn. 2001).  However, the district court did not impute income to appellant, but merely estimated her current income based on her testimony regarding her employment as a waitress and at the hockey school.  Again, while appellant may dispute the district court’s estimate of her net monthly income, those findings are not clearly erroneous and adequately support the conclusion that appellant has the ability to support herself.

            Finally, the district court determined that respondent lacks the ability to pay maintenance because his net monthly income fails to meet his reasonable monthly expenses.  Appellant does not specifically challenge the district court’s findings regarding respondent’s income and expenses, nor does she challenge the court’s corresponding conclusion that respondent lacks the ability to pay spousal maintenance.  We therefore conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in also denying maintenance based on respondent’s inability to pay.  See Prahl v. Prahl, 627 N.W.2d 698, 702 (Minn. App. 2001) (issue in maintenance determination involves “balancing of the recipient’s need against the obligor’s ability to pay”).


            A district court’s division of marital property need only be “just and equitable.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1 (2004).  The division of property will be affirmed if it has an acceptable basis in fact and principle even though this court might have resolved the matter differently.  Rohling v. Rohling, 379 N.W.2d 519, 522 (Minn. 1986).  Nevertheless, the district court’s decisions regarding division of marital property must be supported by findings setting out the court’s rationale.  See Dick v. Dick, 438 N.W.2d 435, 437 (Minn. App. 1989).  Debt apportionment is considered part of the property division.  Berenberg v. Berenberg, 474 N.W.2d 843, 848 (Minn. App. 1991), review denied (Minn. Nov. 13, 1991).

            On remand, the district court modified the provision in the original judgment and decree regarding the parties’ debts as follows:

The parties shall share equally the joint Discover card debt and any Providian debt which had accumulated before the separation, as well as the Northland Group/Fleet Bank debt.  [Appellant] shall be responsible for the remainder of the debt incurred during the marriage, which is her personal debt, namely Kohl’s charge card debt, [appellant’s] post-separation Providian charge card debt, her Capitol One card, the Abbott bill, the Showcase bill, and any post-separation Discover card debt.


The court further clarified that “[i]n the event that the homestead is sold [because the parties are unable to pay the marital debts], [respondent’s] equity [lien of $49,500] shall be reduced by 50% of the closing costs and his half of the marital debts[.]”

            Appellant asserts that the district court erred by finding that she is responsible for most of the parties’ marital debts.  Appellant further argues that the district court also erred in ordering the homestead sold if either party failed to pay their share of the marital debts.  She insists that this “works [an] injustice by allowing [r]espondent’s failure to pay his portion of the marital debt [to] force [a]ppellant and the children from the home.”  In her affidavit on remand, appellant alleges that the Discover card represents the only remaining marital debt and that respondent owes only about $9,000 on that debt; she claims that such a minor amount should not force a sale of the homestead at this point.

            Respondent counters that the district court’s division of the parties’ property and debt was equitable, “especially considering that appellant filed for bankruptcy just before the bankruptcy law changed and caused her creditors on any joint debt to pursue respondent,” thus effectively shifting some of the previously apportioned marital debt to respondent.  The district court’s findings on remand fail to mention appellant’s bankruptcy, which was only briefly mentioned in both parties’ affidavits on remand.

            Because the district court did not consider the effect that appellant’s bankruptcy might have on the allocation of the parties’ joint debts and on the corresponding sale of the homestead should either party fail to pay marital debts, we reverse and remand for reconsideration of these issues.  On remand, the district court may reopen the record to consider the parties’ current situations and to determine whether requiring a sale of the
homestead upon either party’s failure to pay marital debts should continue to be an event that triggers sale of the homestead and payment of respondent’s lien.

            Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.