This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




James F. Plourde,



RuthAnne Plourde,


Filed February 16, 1999

Reversed and remanded; motion denied

Huspeni, Judge[*]

Dakota County District Court

File No. F19414654

Thomas R. Lehmann, Barbara Saunders Lutter, Lehmann & Lutter, P.A., Suite 214, 1380 Corporate Center Curve, Eagan, MN 55121 (for appellant)

Jori L. Whitehead, Suite 100, 2500 West County Road 42, Burnsville, MN 55337 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.



Appellant James Plourde challenges the trial court's denial of his post-decree motion to reduce his spousal maintenance obligation. Because the trial court has made a finding of income based on erroneous data and has failed to make a finding on the parties' needs, we reverse and remand.


In May 1995, the parties dissolved their 31-year marriage. The parties' two children are both emancipated adults. Pursuant to a stipulated decree, appellant was required to pay $1,250 per month in spousal maintenance until respondent's death or remarriage, until further order of the court, or until appellant's retirement. At the time of the marriage dissolution, respondent's net income was $10,000 per year; appellant's income was $60,764.

The parties are presently each 56 years old. Since the dissolution, respondent has increased her paid employment, although her income remains volatile. She currently holds several part-time jobs.

In April 1998, appellant moved to reduce his maintenance obligation based on respondent's increased income. In July 1998, the trial court denied appellant's motion, determining that respondent's then-current annual employment income was $26,548 and that appellant's annual income from all sources was $70,289 and that these figures did not represent "a change of circumstances making the terms of the decree unfair."


This court reviews a trial court's determination of modification of spousal maintenance for an abuse of discretion. Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989). A trial court's findings with regard to maintenance are upheld unless "clearly erroneous." Gessner v. Gessner, 487 N.W.2d 921, 923 (Minn. App. 1992).

A trial court must consider two things before modifying a maintenance award: (1) whether there has been a significant change in the parties' circumstances, and (2) whether this change has rendered the terms of the original decree unreasonable and unfair. Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2 (1998); Videen v. Peters, 438 N.W.2d 721, 724 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. June 21, 1989). A substantial change in circumstances may be shown by: (1) a substantial increase or decrease in the earnings of a party, (2) a substantial increase or decrease in the need of a party, (3) a receipt of assistance, or (4) a change in the cost of living of either party. Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(a) (1998).

A court should only reluctantly alter the terms of a stipulation governing maintenance because it presumably "represents the parties' voluntary acquiescence in an equitable settlement." Prange v. Prange, 437 N.W.2d 69, 70 (Minn. App. 1989) (quoting Claybaugh v. Claybaugh, 312 N.W.2d 447, 449 (Minn. 1981)), review denied (Minn. May 12, 1989).


Appellant contends that the trial court improperly failed to consider all of the financial resources available to respondent. See Rask v. Rask, 445 N.W.2d 849, 853 (Minn. App. 1989) (income from all sources must be considered in determining financial resources). We agree. In its findings, the trial court determined respondent's income by including only that from employment, not income from investments.[1] In contrast, the trial court used a gross income figure from all sources to calculate appellant's income.[2] In effect, the trial court used one standard to determine respondent's income and a different standard to determine appellant's.

Because the trial court's calculation of the parties' income significantly underrepresented respondent's total available income, we must remand for appropriate findings and conclusions. While we recognize that the trial court may well have understood the amount and sources of income available to the parties, we cannot speculate in the absence of adequate findings. See Moylan v. Moylan, 384 N.W.2d 859, 865 (Minn. 1986) (trial court must make express findings on the factors listed in Minn. Stat. § 518.64 (1998)).


Appellant also argues that the trial court abused its discretion in not making adequate findings concerning the parties' reasonable current monthly expenses. The lack of trial court findings on a party's needs can be grounds for a remand. Rapacke v. Rapacke, 442 N.W.2d 340, 343 (Minn. App. 1989). Here, the trial court made no findings on either party's current expenses.

Because a modification pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 518.64 can be based on a change in need as well as on a change in earnings, the trial court, on remand, shall assure that appropriate findings are made on the question of each parties' reasonable monthly expenses. See Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2; Rapacke, 442 N.W.2d at 343.

Respondent's motion for attorney fees on appeal is denied.

Reversed and remanded; motion denied.

[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.

[1] The trial court stated that "[respondent's] 1997 employment income equals $26,548 ([line 7] 1997 Tax Return)."

[2] The trial court stated that "[appellant's] annual income in 1997 equals $70,289 (line 22, Federal Tax Return)."