may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:
Christopher L. Charlsen, petitioner,
Barbara A. Charlsen, n/k/a
Barbara A. Vento-Charlsen,
Filed May 25, 1999
Washington County District Court
File No. F9942092
Stacey J. Manning, Manning Legal Services, LTD., 5659 Memorial Avenue North, Suite 100, Stillwater, MN 55082-2168 (for appellant)
Michael Ormond, 300 Sexton Building, 529 South Seventh Street, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
Appellant-husband Christopher Charlsen alleges the district court abused its discretion in extending respondent-wife Barbara Charlsen's temporary maintenance award because wife failed to show a substantial change in circumstances rendering the existing maintenance award unreasonable and unfair and because wife did not make a good-faith effort to rehabilitate. We affirm.
1. Husband's admission that a temporary maintenance recipient's failure to rehabilitate can justify a maintenance modification is consistent with case law. See Hecker, 568 N.W.2d at 709-10 & n.3 (maintenance recipient's unexpected failure to rehabilitate justified modification of maintenance).
2. Husband argues the record does not support a finding that his income increased or a finding that wife's income decreased, or that either of these events, if they did occur, rendered wife's existing maintenance award unreasonable and unfair. The district court, however, made no such findings.
3. Husband alleges Karg v. Karg, 418 N.W.2d 198 (Minn. App. 1988), on which the district court relied, is distinguishable because there, it was anticipated the maintenance recipient would not rehabilitate while here, it was anticipated wife would rehabilitate. Husband also argues wife's need for maintenance cannot be increased due to loss of temporary maintenance. Husband's arguments assume that temporary maintenance can be extended only if a temporary maintenance recipient's failure to rehabilitate is expected and that loss of a temporary maintenance award cannot be used to satisfy the increased-need prong of Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2. Both assumptions are incorrect. See Hecker, 568 N.W.2d at 709 (stating "[t]he substantial change was the frustration of the parties' expectations of self-sufficiency and the resultant substantial increase in [the recipient's] need for maintenance").
Citing findings in the dissolution judgment based on an expert's report, husband alleges wife did not make a good-faith effort to rehabilitate because she did not get short-term retraining and a job as the expert suggested. The district court, however, did not find that wife's conduct was in bad faith. Such a determination is essentially a credibility determination to which we defer. See Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988) (appellate courts defer to district court credibility determinations); see also Tonka Tours, Inc. v. Chadima, 372 N.W.2d 723, 728 (Minn. 1985) ("[i]t is for the fact finder to evaluate the credibility of a claim of `honesty in fact'") (citing McDonald v. Stonebraker, 255 N.W.2d 827, 831 (Minn. 1977)). Also, we note that the judge who refused to find that wife had acted in bad faith was the same judge who issued the dissolution judgment. The judge knew what the dissolution judgment required. See generally, Mikoda v. Mikoda, 413 N.W.2d 238, 242 (Minn. App. 1987) (stating district court's construction of its own decree given "great weight" on appeal), review denied (Minn. Dec. 22, 1987). Similarly, the expert's report states the recommendations therein, which husband uses as the basis for his assertion of wife's bad faith, were "only tentative suggestions" and that wife needed "some time" after the dissolution "to adjust to her new life, to work on vocational goals, [and] to do some further exploration." Also, while wife lacks a disability precluding her from work, she is custodian of two children, the younger of whom has been in the hospital for health problems and did not start kindergarten until fall 1998. The district court's refusal to find that wife acted in bad faith is not clearly erroneous.
A similar analysis addresses husband's allegations that wife acted in bad faith by not getting vocational training for a year and a half after the dissolution. Moreover, since the dissolution, wife's only income has been maintenance and child support in a total amount less than her reasonable monthly expenses as found in the judgment. And the order extending wife's maintenance award found her expenses had increased. Thus, wife has regularly had a financial deficit, making the financing of vocational training problematic.
4. Husband argues that, even if wife did show the substantial change in circumstances necessary to allow modification of maintenance, the district court did not impute income to wife as required by Hecker. In Hecker, the district court found that the maintenance recipient refused to rehabilitate, imputed to her the income she would have earned if she had rehabilitated, and set maintenance at the difference between her imputed monthly income and her reasonable monthly expenses. Hecker, 568 N.W.2d at 710 (citing Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2). Here, the district court (a) did not find wife refused to rehabilitate; (b) awarded wife $1,200 monthly maintenance which, when combined with her monthly child support, leaves her with a $426 monthly deficit given her current reasonable monthly expenses; and (c) as a result, functionally imputed to wife the income necessary to meet her financial deficit. To net $426 per month at a half-time job while in school, wife will have to be employed at a job paying about the same amount the expert testified wife should be able to make after some vocational training. This result is within the "considerable discretion" Hecker identified as being possessed by the district court on maintenance issues. 568 N.W.2d at 710.