This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In Re the Marriage of: Shelby Jean Mattson,




Warner LeRoy Mattson,


Filed December 29, 1998

Affirmed in part, reversed

in part and remanded

Mulally, Judge[*]

St. Louis County County District Court

File No. F996101982

Terrence M. Aronson, Colosimo, Patchin, Aronson, & Kearney, Ltd., 301 Chestnut, Virginia, MN 55792 (for respondent)

Warner LeRoy Mattson, 3572 Ely Lake Road, Eveleth, MN 55732 (Pro se appellant)

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Anderson, Judge, and, Mulally, Judge.



Appellant-husband appeals from a marriage dissolution judgment awarding respondent-wife permanent spousal maintenance and attorney fees and classifying as non-marital a debt appellant incurred unilaterally after he separated from respondent. We affirm the maintenance award and trial court's conclusion that the debt appellant incurred was non-marital. We reverse and remand for findings as to the trial court's award of attorney fees.


Respondent Shelby Mattson petitioned for dissolution of her 34-year marriage to appellant Warren Mattson in October 1996. Respondent is 59 years old and has a 12th grade education. She devoted the majority of her time during the marriage to being a wife and mother and to helping appellant establish his business. She now works 15 hours per week transporting handicapped children and earns $335 per month. Her reasonable expenses are $1000 per month. Because of her inability to handle wheelchairs, respondent is unable to work more than 15 hours per week. She is not a candidate for retraining.

Appellant is 68 years old. He is self-employed and earns at least $1500 per month. He has health and life insurance as well as a pension plan that pays him $560 per month. His reasonable monthly expenses are $1000. His net worth is $322,200. Appellant has recently experienced heart problems.

During their marriage, the parties enjoyed a lifestyle that included hunting, fishing, and vacations. They also owned a home valued at $108,200, machinery and an airplane. Their marital debt is $151,589.04. They have no minor children.

In January 1997, the trial court issued a temporary order requiring appellant to pay temporary spousal maintenance and the mortgage on the parties' home and forbidding him from selling or transferring any property during the course of the dissolution proceeding. Appellant violated the court's temporary order by, among other things, failing to pay respondent spousal maintenance after April 1997. As a result, respondent incurred legal expenses.

The trial court dissolved the parties' marriage in February 1998. The court awarded respondent $500 per month in permanent spousal maintenance and $5000 in attorney fees. It also concluded that appellant was solely liable for a $14,600 debt to Northern State Bank, which he incurred unilaterally in December 1996, after he had separated from respondent. This appeal followed the trial court's denial of appellant's motion to amend or vacate the trial court's dissolution judgment.



Appellant does not challenge the trial court's decision to award respondent attorney fees. He argues, however, that the record does not support the amount of attorney fees the trial court awarded respondent.

A court may award attorney fees if it finds:

(1) that the fees are necessary for the good-faith assertion of the party's rights in the proceeding and will not contribute unnecessarily to the length and expense of the proceeding;

(2) that the party from whom fees * * * are sought has the

means to pay them; and

(3) that the party to whom fees * * * are awarded does not

have the means to pay them.

Minn. Stat. § 518.14, subd. 1 (1996). An award of attorney fees in dissolution cases rests within the broad discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed absent a clear abuse of discretion. Lappi v. Lappi, 294 N.W.2d 312, 316 (Minn. 1980).

The trial court awarded respondent $5000 in attorney fees. The court based its award on findings that (1) respondent lacked the means to pay her attorney fees, (2) appellant had the means to pay them, and (3) appellant contributed to respondent's legal expenses by failing to comply with the trial court's temporary order. The record supports the trial court's findings and we concur with its conclusion that attorney fees are warranted in this case. We find no basis in the record, however, for the amount of attorney fees the trial court awarded. The record contains no evidence, and the trial court made no findings, as to the amount of attorney fees respondent actually incurred. The record shows only a $1632 check to respondent's attorney dated December 24, 1996. Because the amount of attorney fees the trial court awarded respondent is not supported by findings in the record, we reverse and remand for submission of evidence and for findings on this issue.


Appellant next claims that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding respondent $500 per month for permanent spousal maintenance. He argues that permanent spousal maintenance is not warranted because (1) respondent has marketable skills and is capable of working more than three hours per day, and (2) given his health, he cannot generate enough income to support respondent. Appellant's claim has no merit.

In determining a maintenance award, the trial court must consider the factors set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.552 (1996). No single factor is dispositive. Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 39 (Minn. 1982). Essentially, the court must balance the financial needs of the spouse seeking maintenance against the financial condition of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought. Jensen v. Jensen, 409 N.W.2d 60, 61 (Minn. App. 1987). The trial court has broad discretion in determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. Reinke v. Reinke, 464 N.W.2d 513, 514 (Minn. App. 1990). The reviewing court will not disturb a maintenance award if it has a "reasonable and acceptable basis in fact and principle." DuBois v. DuBois, 335 N.W.2d 503, 507 (Minn. 1983) (citing Bollenbach v. Bollenbach, 285 Minn. 418, 426-27, 175 N.W.2d 148, 154 (1970)). Nor will it disturb a trial court's fact findings unless they are clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (1996).

The trial court's maintenance award in this case has a reasonable basis in fact and principle. The court premised its award on findings that (1) respondent lacked sufficient property to provide for her reasonable needs considering the standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage, (2) respondent was unable to support herself through appropriate employment, and (3) appellant had the ability to contribute $500 per month to respondent's support. The court's findings have a reasonable basis in fact and are not, therefore, clearly erroneous. Moreover, considering the duration of the parties' marriage, respondent's education and age, the length of time she has been away from employment, and the standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage, the trial court's award also has a reasonable basis in principle. We therefore affirm.


Appellant last argues that the trial court abused its discretion in classifying a $14,600 debt to Northern State Bank as non-marital. He claims the debt is marital because he incurred it to protect and preserve marital assets. We disagree. A stipulated order for replevin shows appellant borrowed the money from Northern State Bank unilaterally in December 1996, after he had separated from respondent. Given these facts, it cannot be said that the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that the $14,600 debt was a non-marital debt for which appellant was solely responsible. We therefore affirm.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.