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:
Dorothy Dee Lofstrom, petitioner,
Dennis Earl Lofstrom,
Filed March 18, 1997
Crow Wing County District Court
File No. F793710
Nancy Zalusky Berg, Gary A. Debele, William A. Winter, Walling & Berg, P.A., 121 South Eighth Street, Suite 1550, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Short, Judge.
This dispute arises out of a 1993 stipulated dissolution judgment. That judgment provided for the renegotiation of Dennis Earl Lofstrom's monthly $1,500 spousal maintenance obligation if Lofstrom terminated his practice of medicine. In June of 1995, Lofstrom terminated his practice and ceased all maintenance payments. In March of 1996, he moved the trial court to terminate his obligation and all arrearages. After a hearing and telephone conference on the motions, the trial court ordered a one-third reduction in maintenance and awarded Lofstrom's former spouse the full amount of arrearages ($18,000), based on the reduced maintenance obligation. On appeal, Lofstrom argues the trial court abused its discretion. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
Trial courts enjoy broad discretion to modify spousal maintenance obligations, and will not be reversed absent an abuse of that discretion. Wiese v. Wiese, 295 N.W.2d 371, 372 (Minn. 1980); Kaiser v. Kaiser, 290 Minn. 173, 179, 186 N.W.2d 678, 683 (1971); see Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2 (1996) (providing for modification of a maintenance order). We must affirm a trial court's factual findings unless clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.
Lofstrom argues the trial court abused its discretion by continuing his maintenance obligation, even though his income had decreased and his former spouse had received all the parties' assets in the dissolution. However, an obligor spouse's distribution in an original property settlement is immaterial in deciding a request for modification of maintenance. See Minn. Stat. §§ 518.64, subd. 2(b) (requiring consideration of section 518.552 factors on modification motion), 518.552, subd. 2 (1996) (examining obligor spouse's ability to meet own needs and needs of spouse, and requiring consideration of marital property awarded recipient spouse, but not that property awarded obligor spouse); see also Abuzzahab v. Abuzzahab, 359 N.W.2d 329, 332 (Minn. App. 1984) (recognizing a court deciding a motion to modify maintenance "should not pass on the fairness of the original decree"). In addition, courts hesitate to modify an obligation when the parties have expressed their intentions through stipulated terms. See Sieber v. Sieber, 258 N.W.2d 754, 757 (Minn. 1977) (advising courts to exercise discretion carefully and to alter terms of stipulation only reluctantly); Cisek v. Cisek, 409 N.W.2d 233, 237 (Minn. App. 1987) (recognizing that, by definition, negotiated stipulation is indicative of parties' intentions and expectations), review denied (Minn. Sept. 18, 1987).
The trial court found: (1) Lofstrom's gross monthly income of $10,000 was reduced to approximately $6,667 per month at the termination of his practice; (2) his former spouse's gross monthly income is $2,667, and her monthly living expenses are approximately $2,910; and (3) his former spouse built a modest home. These findings follow the statutory criteria and are supported by the record. See Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(b) (requiring consideration of factors in Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2, including parties' needs and financial resources).
The original dissolution judgment did not mandate the cessation of maintenance payments on Lofstrom's termination of employment with Central Minnesota Emergency Physicians. Rather, the stipulated dissolution agreement provided:
Upon termination of his employment with CMEP, the parties agree to renegotiate Respondent's monthly payments to Petitioner based upon Respondent's earned income as of that point in time.
Since Lofstrom terminated his employment, the parties have been unable to renegotiate Lofstrom's monthly payments. Given the parties' relative needs and financial resources, and considering Lofstrom's failure to produce current income tax returns, we cannot say the trial court abused its discretion in continuing Lofstrom's maintenance obligation at two-thirds of its original amount.
Lofstrom also argues the trial court abused its discretion in awarding arrearages to his former spouse. See Christenson v. Christenson, 490 N.W.2d 447, 449 (Minn. App. 1992) (noting forgiveness of arrearages constitutes retroactive modification of maintenance); Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(c) (1996) (permitting retroactive modification under defined circumstances). However, Lofstrom stipulated to the original maintenance agreement, anticipating his eventual retirement from full-time medical practice. He has failed to offer any evidence or legal arguments that justify his unilateral cessation of maintenance payments or his failure to promptly move for modification. Lofstrom's argument of newly discovered evidence or fraud concerning an IRA annuity is contrary to the evidence. See id. (limiting retroactive modification to circumstances in which party seeking modification was precluded from serving motion by disability, material misrepresentation of other party, or fraud upon court). Under these circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in reducing the arrearages to a judgment against Lofstrom in favor of his former spouse.