may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:
Michael W. DonCarlos, petitioner,
Diana Jo DonCarlos,
Filed January 14, 1997
Affirmed in part and remanded in part
Dakota County District Court
File No. FO-89-13089
Rebecca H. Frederick, 7301 Ohms Lane, Suite 550, Edina, MN 55439 (for Respondent)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
Appellant challenges the district court's order that modified spousal maintenance from a temporary to a permanent award. Appellant challenges the maintenance award because: (1) he disputes the failed rehabilitation basis for changing the maintenance to a permanent award; (2) he argues that respondent's worker's compensation benefits bar or reduce her maintenance award; and (3) he disputes the calculation of his expenses. We affirm in part and remand in part.
When they divorced in 1989, the district court's dissolution judgment and decree required appellant to pay respondent $650 per month in spousal maintenance for five years. Respondent completed a one-year legal secretary program in June 1992 and began full-time employment as a legal word processor, earning a gross yearly income of $24,800. However, within one year of employment, she suffered a work-related injury and was involuntarily terminated. Respondent's injury has been diagnosed as overuse syndrome-myofascial pain syndrome in her right arm, as well as possibly thoracic outlet syndrome. It is considered permanent and prevents her from returning to the same type of work. Respondent has received both weekly and lump-sum worker's compensation benefits.
Before the expiration of the five-year spousal maintenance, respondent moved to increase and extend spousal maintenance, arguing that her injury constituted a substantial change in circumstances that rendered the original scheme unfair. The district court issued an amended order, which ordered permanent spousal maintenance at $425 per month. This appeal followed.
I. Modification of Maintenance Award
In order to modify a maintenance award, the district court must determine that there has been a significant change in a party's circumstances that renders the current maintenance scheme unfair and unreasonable. Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2 (1994). Failure of a spouse to rehabilitate may be a significant change of circumstances under Minn. Stat. § 518.64. Katter v. Katter, 457 N.W.2d 750, 753 (Minn. App. 1990). Appellant argues that the district court's modification of maintenance based on respondent's failure to rehabilitate was an abuse of discretion because, he asserts, there was no failure to rehabilitate. Rather, he contends, respondent did in fact rehabilitate and then was injured. Appellant argues that a post-rehabilitation injury is not a significant change that permits a modification of a spousal maintenance award.
There is no dispute that respondent did fully rehabilitate after completing the legal secretary program and working at a law firm. However, before the term of the temporary maintenance was over, she was injured and was unable to work in any word processing capacity. She has since returned to school to study health care administration, but there is still great uncertainty regarding her ability to support herself.
The district court found that this injury, which precludes a large category of possible employment, in addition to the added years to respondent's age since the dissolution, constituted a significant change to respondent's circumstances which authorizes a modification of spousal maintenance. One of the statutory factors to consider in a maintenance determination is the age and physical condition of the spouse seeking maintenance. Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2(f) (1994).
Appellant also asserts that failure to rehabilitate must stem from the marriage itself and that because respondent's injury was not related to the marriage, it does not constitute a failure to rehabilitate. However, physical condition, listed as relevant in Minn. Stat. § 518.552, would frequently be unrelated to the marriage.
In Minnesota, there is a statutory favoring of permanent maintenance awards when there is uncertainty as to the necessity of a permanent award. Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 3 (1994). When there is uncertainty regarding the future ability of the spouse needing maintenance to be self-supporting, a permanent award is justified. Nardini v. Nardini, 414 N.W.2d 184, 198 (Minn. 1987).
We affirm the district court's decision to make maintenance permanent.
First, appellant argues that respondent's worker's compensation recovery bars recovery of spousal maintenance for the same injury. It is improper to consider spousal maintenance as a recovery for a specific injury; spousal maintenance addresses the broader issue of the inability to self-support. Respondent's permanent maintenance was not awarded to make her whole after her injury, but rather to resolve the issue of her failure to rehabilitate financially after her long marriage to appellant.
Next, appellant argues that respondent's lump-sum worker's compensation payment should be apportioned over only 225 weeks, which appellant claims is the standard period for worker's compensation payments. The district court apportioned the lump sum payment over 254 months, after which respondent will be eligible for social security benefits. Because the worker's compensation payment reflects the respondent's reduction in future earning capacity, apportioning the award over the rest of respondent's would-be working years is reasonable.
Appellant also argues that respondent's bi-weekly unemployment compensation and regular payments of economic loss worker's compensation benefits should be considered income for the purpose of determining spousal maintenance. Appellant offers little explanation for his argument. Because he gives no supporting authority, and error is not obvious on this point, it is not necessary to address this claim further. See Schoepke v. Alexander Smith & Sons Carpet Co., 290 Minn. 518, 519-20, 187 N.W.2d 133, 135 (1971).
We affirm the district court's decision on the worker's compensation issues.
Appellant reported a net monthly income of approximately $2,872 and monthly expenses of $3,835. In the district court's initial Findings of Fact, the district court noted:
Petitioner has received raises in the past seven years, and he has voluntarily assumed more responsibility by becoming a husband and a father, and by buying a house. Petitioner continues to maintain a middle class lifestyle, and with the assistance of his wife's income, he is able to meet approximately $3,800 in monthly expenses.
In addition, the district court concluded that appellant "could afford up to $425 in maintenance." At appellant's request, the court issued amended Findings of Fact, in which it indicated:
Although Petitioner submitted expenses for himself and his new family in the amount of $3,835, this Court can only consider expenses attributable to him. The following submitted expenses were removed or reduced by 60% to attribute them to Petitioner only: mortgage, food, childcare/daycare, utilities, vehicle loan, bank loans, vehicle gas, VISA payment, clothing, vehicle insurance, personal expenses, life insurance, uninsured medical and dental expenses, parking fees, vehicle license, vehicle maintenance, and professional memberships. After this adjustment, the expenses attributable to Petitioner are $1,629. Petitioner could therefore afford up to $425 per month in maintenance.
The district court offers no further explanation for the calculation. While it seems clear that the district court made these calculations in order to attribute some of appellant's claimed expenses to his wife, there is no explanation for the decision to reduce certain expenses by 60%, or to remove others, or even a clarification as to which expenses are reduced and which are removed.
The district court has broad discretion in the determination of maintenance awards. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d at 38. Because of the broad discretion of the district court in family law cases, "it is especially important that the basis for the court's decision be set forth with a high degree of particularity if appellate review is to be meaningful." Wallin v. Wallin, 290 Minn. 261, 267, 187 N.W.2d 627, 631 (1971). Particularized findings are necessary "to satisfy the parties that the trial court fairly resolved their case." Lewis v. Lewis, 414 N.W.2d 588, 560 (Minn. App. 1987).
The district court here appears to have failed to produce particularized findings regarding appellant's expenses.
We remand this case solely for a re-calculation of appellant's expenses, which will in turn determine if appellant can afford the previously ordered $425 per month maintenance. Other than this factual finding to determine appellant's ability to pay, we affirm the district court.
Affirmed in part and remanded in part.
[ ]1 The district court was following the reasoning used with lump-sum payments and child support payments, where the amount of the payment is spread over the years from the date of injury until the child reaches the age of majority. See Lenz v. Wergin, 408 N.W.2d 873, 877 (Minn. App. 1987).