This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).

STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
C2-98-1234

Sharilyn Brandsey,
Respondent,

vs.

Philip L. Brandsey,
Appellant.

Filed April 6, 1999
Affirmed; motion granted
Willis, Judge

Scott County District Court
File No. F9413711

Joel A. Theisen, Ames Business Center, 2500 West County Road 42, Suite 190, Burnsville, MN 55337 (for respondent)

Michael G. Blee, Blee & Reep, P.A., 101 Seventh Avenue South, Suite 110, St. Cloud, MN 56301 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Willis, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

WILLIS, Judge

Appellant Philip L. Brandsey challenges the district court's denial of his motion to modify his obligations to provide child support and spousal maintenance. We affirm.

FACTS

On May 9, 1995, the marriage of appellant and respondent Sharilyn Brandsey was terminated pursuant to the terms of a marital termination agreement. The parties entered into a stipulation on June 14, 1996, amending the terms of their original agreement.

Following the stipulation, appellant made two unsuccessful attempts to modify the terms of his child-support obligation on the ground that an alleged decrease in his earnings constituted a substantial change in circumstances. On May 6, 1998, appellant moved for a modification of both his child-support and maintenance obligations. The district court denied appellant's motion and awarded respondent $2,500 in attorney fees. This appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

I. Modification of Child Support

Modification of child support is within the district court's broad discretion, and we will not reverse absent an abuse of that discretion. Moylan v. Moylan, 384 N.W.2d 859, 864 (Minn. 1986). Such an abuse occurs when the district court reaches "a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on record." Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).

The terms of a child-support order may be modified upon a showing of "substantially increased or decreased earnings of a party." Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(a)(1) (1998). A substantial change in circumstances is presumed if

application of the child support guidelines * * * to the current circumstances of the parties results in a calculated court order that is at least 20 percent and at least $50 per month higher or lower than the current support order.

Id., subd. 2(b)(1) (1998).

Appellant argues that because his earnings have substantially decreased and because some of the parties' children have emancipated, he has demonstrated presumptively that there has been a substantial change in his circumstances. The parties' agreement obligates appellant to pay $1,408.44 per month in child support. Appellant claims that his current net monthly income is $2,349 and that his child-support obligation under the guidelines should be $670.66. See Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) (1998) (providing child-support guidelines). Thus, application of the guidelines results in an amount that is both more than 20% and $50 per month lower than appellant's current child-support obligation.

But respondent argues that "[a] question of changed circumstances, once litigated, may not be retried," citing Phillips v. Phillips, 472 N.W.2d 677, 680 (Minn. App. 1991) (citation omitted). In Phillips, this court stated that where a party seeks modification following a denied motion for modification, the threshold question is

whether the change since the denied motion has been significant enough that it might, because of its incremental effect, require the trial court to examine the cumulative changes since the order setting the support level.

Id.

On March 28, 1997, an administrative law judge (ALJ) denied appellant's motion to modify his child-support obligation. Appellant submitted evidence to the ALJ that he earned $3,500 per month, and the ALJ found that appellant paid $1,597.91 per month in child support for his two minor children.[1] The ALJ concluded that since the original decree on May 9, 1995, there had not been a substantial change in appellant's circumstances that rendered the existing order unreasonable and unfair. On November 13, 1997, the ALJ denied appellant's motion for amended findings or, alternatively, for a new trial. Appellant did not appeal either order.

On June 15, 1998, the district court denied appellant's May 6, 1998, motion to modify his child-support obligation. At the time of the hearing, appellant's gross income remained $3,500 per month, and, as a result of the emancipation of another child, his obligation to pay child support had decreased to $1,408.44 per month. Because the parties' agreement contemplated this event, emancipation is not a substantial change in circumstances. See Meyer v. Meyer, 359 N.W.2d 74, 77 (Minn. App. 1984) (stating that emancipation not substantial change because it was clearly contemplated at dissolution and judgment provided for decrease in support payments).

Under Phillips, when there is no change in circumstances since the most recent denial, there is no need to examine the cumulative changes since the order setting child support. 472 N.W.2d at 680. It is unclear whether the district court applied Phillips in denying appellant's May 6, 1998, motion. But, in any event, this court will not reverse a correct decision simply because it is based on improper reasoning. Katz v. Katz, 408 N.W.2d 835, 839 (Minn. 1987).

Appellant argues that he has presumptively demonstrated a substantial change in circumstances based on an alleged decrease in his earnings. But he failed to demonstrate a change in his earnings between the ALJ's denial of his motion for modification on March 28, 1997, and the district court's May 28, 1998, hearing. Because appellant did not appeal the ALJ's order of denial, he is bound by that decision as it relates to the issue of changed circumstances. See Phillips, 472 N.W.2d at 680 (obviating further analysis when there is no change in circumstances since most recent denial). The district court's conclusion is not clearly erroneous, and the court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's May 6, 1998, motion to modify his child-support obligation.

II. Modification of Spousal Maintenance

Appellant also claims that the district court erred in denying his motion to modify his maintenance obligation. Matters relating to spousal maintenance are subject to an abuse-of-discretion standard on review. Sand v. Sand, 379 N.W.2d 119, 120 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Jan. 31, 1986). A district court abuses its discretion if its "determination is based on a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on record." Id. (citation omitted).

Here, the June 14, 1996, stipulation modified the terms of the parties' original agreement. The amended judgment obligates appellant to provide spousal maintenance only if his income for a quarter reaches or exceeds an average of $8,000 per month. But the judgment also provides that appellant was to pay respondent $5,000 within two years after the date of the agreement, representing unpaid spousal maintenance for the period March 1996 to May 1996. It is this provision that appellant sought to modify by his May 6, 1998, motion.

When a stipulation fixes the rights and obligations of parties, district courts should be reluctant to alter its terms. Beck v. Kaplan, 566 N.W.2d 723, 726 (Minn. 1997) (stating that a "stipulation represents the parties' voluntary acquiescence in an equitable settlement"). But see Prange v. Prange, 437 N.W.2d 69, 70 (Minn. App. 1989) (noting that existence of stipulation "does not prohibit a modification of the maintenance provisions if the parties' circumstances have changed materially"), review denied (Minn. May 12, 1989).

Appellant asserts that forgiving the $5,000 in unpaid spousal maintenance because of his decreased earnings is consistent with the terms of the amended judgment. But appellant's argument is flawed because the lump-sum payment does not depend on appellant's current level of income; only future payments of spousal maintenance do. Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's motion to modify his maintenance obligation.

III. Award of Attorney Fees

Appellant argues that the district court erred in awarding respondent $2,500 in attorney fees. Whether to award attorney fees rests "almost entirely in the discretion of the [district] court." Courey v. Courey, 524 N.W.2d 469, 473 (Minn. App. 1994). We will rarely reverse a district court's attorney-fee decision. Reinke v. Reinke, 464 N.W.2d 513, 516 (Minn. App. 1990).

The district court shall 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) (1998). Here, the district court made no such findings. Appellant claims this failure is reversible error, citing Courey, 524 N.W.2d at 473 (reversing and remanding award of attorney fees for reconsideration).

But appellant did not move for amended findings, and he cannot, for the first time on appeal, raise the issue of the district court's failure to make adequate findings. See Nelson v. Nelson, 189 N.W.2d 413, 415 (1971) (stating that failure to make required findings of fact "should have been brought to the attention of the [district] court"). "[T]he burden is on the parties to alert the [district] court by a motion for amended finding[s] under Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.02." Frank v. Illinois Farmers Ins. Co., 336 N.W.2d 307, 311 (Minn. 1983) (citation omitted). Appellant did not meet this burden, and we therefore do not address the issue.

Appellant also claims that because respondent's request for attorney fees was procedurally flawed, the district court erred in granting her motion. A motion requesting attorney fees of $1,000 or more must be accompanied by an affidavit of an attorney of record that includes a description of the work performed and the rates of pay, a detailed itemization of all amounts sought for disbursements or expenses, and a statement confirming that the work was actually performed for the benefit of the client and was necessary for the representation. Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 119.02. The affidavit of respondent's attorney did not meet the rule's requirements.

But appellant did not challenge the sufficiency of the affidavit of respondent's attorney at the hearing before the district court, and the issue has not been addressed previously. We generally review "only those issues that the record shows were presented and considered by the trial court in deciding the matter before it." Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (citations omitted). Because the district court did not consider this issue, we do not address it.

IV. Motion for Attorney Fees

Respondent asks for attorney fees for this appeal. This court may award attorneys fees "in an amount necessary to enable a party to carry on or contest the proceeding," provided that we find:

(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.

Based on the record as a whole, we grant respondent's motion and award her attorney fees in the amount of $2,000.

Affirmed; motion granted.

[1] Effective May 1, 1997, a cost-of-living adjustment raised appellant's child-support obligation to $1,690 per month for his two minor children.