This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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





In Re the Marriage of:

Peter D. Ekstrand,



Kathryn J. Ekstrand,


Filed July 20, 1999

Reversed and remanded

Harten, Judge

Winona County District Court

File No. F2-97-659

James C. Nordstrom, Nordstrom Law Office, 222 Main Street West, P.O. Box 125, Wabasha, MN 55981 (for appellant)

Mary H. Dunlap, Dunlap & Seeger, P.A., 206 South Broadway, Suite 505, P.O. Box 549, Rochester, MN 55903 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant, the obligor spouse, challenges the spousal maintenance provisions of a marriage dissolution judgment. We reverse both the award of maintenance and the requirement that it be secured because the insurance findings regarding the parties' expenses and respondent's resources are insufficient and because the scheduled reduction in maintenance is without foundation in law or fact. We remand for reconsideration of the entire maintenance issue, including insurance.


Appellant Peter D. Eckstrand and respondent Kathryn J. Eckstrand were married in 1969. They were both 50 at the time of the dissolution trial in 1998. Appellant has a law degree; respondent has two bachelor's degrees and a teaching certificate.

Appellant practiced law in Wabasha. Respondent did not work outside the home until 1986, when she taught school and worked for a newspaper. Thereafter, respondent became the full time Restorative Justice Coordinator for Wabasha County, although her continued employment was contingent upon renewal of funding.[1]

The district court divided the parties' property equally, awarding each $385,622.49. The court also awarded respondent $3,000 per month in maintenance for 60 months, and thereafter $2,000 per month until appellant reaches age 65, when maintenance will terminate. The maintenance award is secured by $100,000 life insurance for ten years.

Both parties appealed; the appeals were consolidated. Appellant challenges the amount of maintenance; respondent challenges the scheduled maintenance reduction, the termination of maintenance, and the amount of the life insurance policy required to secure maintenance.


1. Maintenance

(a) Standard of Review

The standard of review of a maintenance award is whether the district court abused its broad discretion. Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 38 (Minn. 1982). An abuse of discretion results when there is a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts, Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). Unless the findings of fact are clearly erroneous, they must be upheld. Gessner v. Gessner, 487 N.W.2d 921, 923 (Minn. App. 1992).

Maintenance awards are governed by Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 1 (1998), which allows a court to grant maintenance if a spouse (a) lacks sufficient property to provide for "reasonable needs * * * considering the standard of living established during the marriage," or (b) cannot provide self-support. If there is uncertainty as whether an award should be permanent or temporary, the court is to make the award permanent, subject to subsequent modification. Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 3, (1998).

(b) Permanent Maintenance[2]

Appellant argues that the maintenance award is erroneous because respondent cannot meet the threshold requirements of section 518.552, subd. 1(a), requiring maintenance where a spouse lacks sufficient funds to meet reasonable needs "considering the standard of living established during the marriage."

Appellant argues that respondent is independent and well-educated; she has considerable work experience and a full-time job; she is in good health, and she can meet her own reasonable needs. In support of his position, appellant cites Gales v. Gales, 553 N.W.2d 416, 417 (Minn. 1996) (court abused discretion in awarding permanent maintenance to 32-year-old employed spouse after 11-year, childless marriage). Respondent counters by citing Carrick v. Carrick, 560 N.W.2d 407 (Minn. App. 1997) (maintenance appropriate where parties were married for 21 years, recipient was 49, had been unemployed for ten years, and had been a full-time homemaker and caretaker of four small children).

It appears to us that Carrick more closely resembles the instant case than does Gales. Appellant and respondent were married for 29 years; respondent did not work for 16 years while she was a homemaker and caretaker of the parties' children. Section 518.552, subd. 1(a), requires that reasonable needs be formulated given the standard of living the parties established during the marriage, and appellant does not contend that respondent can maintain the same standard of living at her present salary. Section 518.552, subd. 3, provides that "[w]here there is some uncertainty * * * the court shall order a permanent award * * *." In light of the legislative preference for permanent maintenance, Carrick, section 518.552, subd. 1(a) and subd. 3, and the standard of living the parties established during their marriage, we conclude that the district court should reconsider on remand the entire maintenance issue, including entitlement, based on specific findings as to the financial circumstances of both parties.

(c) Respondent's Future Employment

Appellant argues that the district court's findings of fact are clearly erroneous because it found that respondent's future income was uncertain and that she would suffer reduced earnings and elevated expenses during a job search. There is evidence showing that respondent's future income and job were conditioned on the renewal of a two-year grant, which ended on January 1, 1999. Based on its findings, the district court did not clearly err in finding that respondent's future income was uncertain.

Nevertheless, in view of our remand of the maintenance issue, the district court has discretion to reconsider its findings based on contemporary developments.

(d) Financial Resources

Appellant argues that the district court did not take into consideration respondent's cabin rentals, her independent financial resources, or the income she would earn if she invested some of the property she was awarded. See Lyon v. Lyon, 439 N.W.2d 18, 22 (Minn. 1989) ("A spouse's ability to pay maintenance does not * * * obviate the statutory mandate that the other spouse's own independent financial resources must be considered too."). The district court should at least consider the recipient spouse's investment income. Id.; see Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2(a) (district court must consider "the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to the party, and the party's ability to meet needs independently * * *"). In reconsidering maintenance on remand, the district court should consider and make findings on respondent's probable cabin rental and investment income.

(e) Findings on the Parties' Expenses

Appellant argues that the district court's failure to make findings concerning the actual living expenses of either party is reversible error. The district court found that

[respondent] has submitted to the Court a budget of $3,863. [Appellant] presented a budget of $2,201. Both budgets are subject to question. Neither party has any unusual expenses or needs and accordingly a reasonable budget would likely be nearly the same for each.

A finding that budgets "would likely be nearly the same for each" does not satisfy the requirements of section 518.552. We have no way to know what the district court meant by this. Our meaningful review of the parties' budgets becomes problematic because we lack specific dollar amounts. See section 518.552, subd. 2(a), (the district court must consider "financial resources * * * and the party's ability to meet needs independently" and the "financial resources" of the recipient); see also Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989) ("Effective appellate review * * * is possible only when the trial court has issued sufficiently detailed findings of fact to demonstrate its consideration of all factors relevant to an award of permanent spousal maintenance.")

Bliss v. Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1993), remanded for further findings because

the trial court erred in failing to determine appellant's reasonable monthly needs and expenses. * * * [It] * * * neither accepted [the obligee's budget] as reasonable nor performed the analyses and modifications necessary to reach a figure that it deemed reasonable. The trial court is required to balance the obligor's ability to provide maintenance with the obligee's needs and ability to meet her needs. That balance can only be struck when the obligee's needs are, in fact, determined.

Id. at 587 (citations omitted). See also Dick v. Dick, 438 N.W.2d 435, 436 (Minn. App. 1989) (reversing maintenance award because the district court made no findings regarding the reasonableness of the obligee's expenses). Because the parties' reasonable expenses are integral to an award of maintenance, we remand for findings concerning the parties' budgets.

(f) Scheduled Reduction of Maintenance

Respondent argues that the district court erred both in reducing maintenance after five years and in terminating maintenance when appellant reaches age 65.[3] When a court awards permanent maintenance, a scheduled reduction in that award is an abuse of discretion. See Reinke v. Reinke, 464 N.W.2d 513, 516 (Minn. App. 1990) (reversing scheduled reduction of permanent maintenance award); see also Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 3 (there is "little room for the exercise of discretion where the need for permanent maintenance is in question."). The district court apparently intended to order permanent maintenance; it was therefore error to build in a scheduled reduction.

2. Security

The district court required appellant to secure the maintenance award for ten years with a $100,000 life insurance policy. Respondent argues that this is an abuse of discretion because the district court did not relate the $100,000 amount to the term or amount of maintenance, and the amount is inadequate.

Because there are no findings supporting the requirement to secure maintenance with a $100,000 life insurance policy, we cannot determine whether the requirement was an abuse of discretion. On remand, the district court shall reconsider, in a manner not inconsistent with this opinion, the maintenance and insurance security issues. The district court has discretion to solicit new evidence on the issues of maintenance and insurance security.

Reversed and remanded.

[1] At oral argument, respondent's counsel did not agree to disclose her current employment status.

[2] The district court and both parties have characterized the maintenance award as "permanent," but the award is payable only until appellant attains age 65. Accordingly, the maintenance is actually temporary (15 years). Permanent maintenance is defined as "a term of art which places the burden on the spouse obligor to demonstrate that a maintenance award should be lessened or terminated due to changed circumstances." Poehls v. Poehls, 502 N.W.2d 217, 218 (Minn. App. 1993). Absent changed circumstances, permanent maintenance may be terminated only upon "the death of either party or the remarriage of the party receiving maintenance."" Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 3 (1998).

[3] There is no finding that appellant intends to retire at age 65 or as to the amount of his post-retirement income.