This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Marriage of:
Michelle E. Li-Kuehne, petitioner,
Stephen E. Kuehne,
Filed September 11, 2007
Stearns County District Court
File No. F9-01-2106
James J. Vedder, Edward L. Winer, Moss & Barnett, P.A., 4800 Wells Fargo Center, 90 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-4129 (for respondent)
Russell R. Cherne, Pennington & Lies, P.A., 1111 First Street North, P.O. Box 1756, St. Cloud, MN 56302-1756 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Muehlberg, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant-husband argues that the district court abused its discretion in including a cost-of-living adjustment to a step reduction in his maintenance obligation and in requiring him to pay private school tuition for the parties’ child. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in including a cost-of-living adjustment to the maintenance obligation and the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering appellant to pay for the child’s private school tuition, we affirm.
The marriage between appellant-husband Stephen Kuehne and respondent-wife Michelle Li-Kuehne was dissolved by judgment and decree entered on June 11, 2003. The judgment and decree provides that respondent is to pay appellant spousal maintenance of $12,500 per month from March 1, 2003, through August 31, 2006, and $10,000 per month from September 1, 2006, to August 31, 2009. The decree also provides, “During the period of March 1, 2003 through August 31, 2009 the issue of spousal maintenance shall not be modifiable and the Court is without jurisdiction to modify spousal maintenance.”
In July 2005, respondent filed a motion in the district court requesting a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to her spousal maintenance. On October 18, 2005, the district court concluded that the spousal-maintenance provision was not subject to a COLA and denied respondent’s motion for a spousal-maintenance COLA. Respondent filed an appeal. In an unpublished opinion, this court reversed and remanded to the district court the determination that COLA did not apply to the spousal maintenance. Li-Kuehne v. Kuehne, No. A05-2398, 2006 WL 2677802, at *3 (Minn. App. Sept. 19, 2006).
Subsequently, appellant moved the court to order spousal support at $10,000 per month with no COLA and to order respondent to pay for their oldest child’s private school tuition. The district court found that the court of appeals did not limit the COLA to the first spousal-maintenance amount, and applied COLA to the $10,000. The COLA increased the spousal maintenance to $10,737 per month as of September 1, 2006. The district court also found that it was in the oldest child’s best interest for appellant to continue to pay his private school tuition. This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
1. Appellant argues that the district
court abused its discretion and erred as a matter of law when it applied a COLA
to the step-down amount of spousal maintenance.
A district court has broad discretion over issues of spousal
maintenance, and this court will not reverse a district court’s decision absent
an abuse of that discretion. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (
Appellant argues that the parties waived the cost-of-living adjustment as allowed by Minn. Stat. § 518.641, subd. 1(b) (2004), which states:
A court may waive the requirement of the cost-of-living clause if it expressly finds that the obligor’s occupation or income, or both, does not provide for cost-of-living adjustment or that the order for maintenance or child support has a provision such as a step increase that has the effect of a cost-of-living clause. The court may waive a cost-of-living adjustment in a maintenance order if the parties so agree in writing.
contends that the change in spousal maintenance acts as a step decrease that
reflects a change in the cost of living.
We reject that argument. This
court has already determined, “There is nothing in the record that would
support the district court’s denial of [respondent’s] COLA request under any of
the exceptions listed in section 518.641.”
Li-Kuehne v. Kuehne, No.
A05-2398, 2006 WL 2677802, at *3 (
Under the principle of res judicata, once a claim has been considered and adjudicated, the judgment precludes further action on the same claim. The preclusion extends to all matters that are included within the claim whether presented to the court or not, i.e., all issues that were or should have been litigated.
Id. § 2533. Although the application and availability of res judicata and collateral estoppel in family court matters is limited, “the underlying principle that an adjudication on the merits of an issue is conclusive, and should not be relitigated, clearly applies.” Loo v. Loo, 520 N.W.2d 740, 743-44 (Minn. 1994).
This court, determining in its earlier opinion that COLA applied to the spousal maintenance, considered the fact that the parties stipulated to a specific dollar amount. Li-Kuehne, 2006 WL 2677802, at *1-*3. It also rejected the argument that the court is without jurisdiction to modify the amount pursuant to Karon v. Karon, 435 N.W.2d 501, 503 (Minn. 1989). Li-Kuehne, 2006 WL 2677802, at *2-*3. There is no indication that the decision limited the application of the COLA to the first spousal-maintenance amount. Therefore, this court’s prior determination precludes appellant’s attempt to relitigate that issue.
2. Appellant argues that the district
court erred and abused its discretion in ordering him to pay private high
school tuition for their oldest child in violation of the judgment and decree. The district court has broad discretion in determining
support obligations; if the determination has an acceptable and reasonable
basis in fact, it should be affirmed. Mancuso v. Mancuso, 417 N.W.2d 668, 671
The judgment and decree states, “In the event the parties agree that the children will continue in private school after 8th grade, [appellant] shall be responsible for the tuition.” The judgment and decree is silent, however, as to what happens if the parties disagree. The district court determined that it is in the child’s best interest to continue in the same private school and also found that appellant has the financial ability to pay the additional tuition. These findings are supported by the record.
It is undisputed that the child has been successful in private school. He is excelling academically and in his extra-curricular activities. The district court also found that the guardian ad litem is opposed to removing the child from the school. On this record, we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion in ordering appellant to pay for the child’s private high school tuition.
* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 The 2004 version of Minn. Stat. § 518.641 governed modification of both child support and spousal maintenance. In the 2006 revision of the child-support statutes that became effective January 1, 2007, Minn. Stat. § 518.641, subd. 1(b) (2004), was amended and renumbered as Minn. Stat. § 518A.75, subd. 1(b) (2006). Because this appeal was filed before the changes to the statute were enacted and there were no substantive changes, for ease of reference we cite the 2004 version of the statute.
 Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(a) (2004), was amended and renumbered as Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, subd. 2(a) (2006). Because this appeal was filed before the changes to the statute were enacted and there were no substantive changes, for ease of reference we cite the 2004 version of the statute.