Hennepin County District Court File No. DW264437
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded
On appeal from an amended dissolution judgment, Rita Faiks-Youngs argues that the district court abused its discretion by converting permanent maintenance to temporary maintenance, by providing an inadequate maintenance amount, by imputing income, and by failing to make findings on the marital standard of living. Although the record supports the district court's determination on the amount of maintenance and refutes the claims of imputed income and inadequate findings on the marital standard of living, neither the evidence nor the law supports the court's decision to convert permanent maintenance to temporary maintenance, and we therefore affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to reinstate the order for permanent maintenance.
Rita Faiks-Youngs and Perry Youngs dissolved their twenty-four-year marriage in July 2002. Youngs and Faiks-Youngs divided most of their property by stipulation, leaving spousal maintenance as the primary issue for the contested hearing. Following the hearing, the district court issued a judgment providing Faiks-Youngs permanent maintenance of $1,500 a month.
Faiks-Youngs moved the district court for a new trial or an amended judgment, and Youngs also moved for posttrial relief. The district court issued an amended judgment in which it denied Faiks-Youngs's motion for a new trial and amended findings, except to set forth more specifically findings on Faiks-Youngs's reasonable monthly expenses. The court denied Youngs's posttrial motion except to convert Faiks-Youngs's maintenance award from permanent to temporary maintenance that will terminate in five years. The district court did not amend its findings on Faiks-Youngs's need for maintenance, but concluded that temporary rather than permanent maintenance was required in order to hold Faiks-Youngs to an obligation to rehabilitate. This appeal followed.
A district court has broad discretion in determining spousal maintenance, and we will uphold a maintenance decision absent an abuse of the court's discretion. Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 38 (Minn. 1982). This exercise of discretion must be viewed in light of the statutory criteria for spousal maintenance contained in Minn. Stat. §á518.552, subd. 1(b) (2002). See Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d at 38-39 (applying earlier version of statute). Before this court may determine there has been an abuse of discretion, it must find that there was a clearly erroneous conclusion against logic and the facts on the record. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).
A district court may provide for maintenance if it finds that a spouse is unable to support himself or herself adequately through appropriate employment in view of the standard of living established during the marriage. Minn. Stat. §á518.552, subd. 1(b). The statutory factors that the court is required to consider in determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance include (1) the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, (2) the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and the probability of that party becoming fully or partially self-supporting, (3) the standard of living established during the marriage, (4) the duration of the marriage, (5) the age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance, and (6) the obligor spouse's ability to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance. Minn. Stat. §á518.552, subd. 2(a)-(d), (f)-(g) (2002). In considering these factors, the recipient's needs should be balanced against the obligor's ability to pay. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d at 39-40.
In the dissolution judgment in this case, the district court made detailed findings on the relevant circumstances relating to spousal maintenance. The court found that although Faiks-Youngs does not have financial resources to meet her needs independently, she can reasonably be expected to increase her income substantially in the next three to five years, but this increase may still be short of her reasonable expenses. The court considered Faiks-Youngs's age, the length of marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, her medical condition, and Youngs's ability to meet his own needs while paying spousal maintenance. The district court also found that Faiks-Youngs's reasonable monthly expenses are $2,740 and that her net income is $1,464 a month. Based on all of these findings, the court provided that Faiks-Youngs should receive $1,500 a month in permanent spousal maintenance. Following posttrial motions the district court, on these same findings, determined that the permanent maintenance should be converted to temporary maintenance for five years with a reservation that Faiks-Youngs does not lose her right to seek modification.
In this appeal Faiks-Youngs raises eight issues on which she contends the district court abused its discretion in determining maintenance. We reject seven of those arguments.
First, we conclude that the district court acted within its discretion in determining that Faiks-Youngs's car payment is not a reasonable monthly expense. After dissolution proceedings began, Faiks-Youngs traded in her 1994 Honda Accord that was unencumbered and purchased a 2001 Honda Accord by obtaining a two-year loan with a monthly payment of $639. This payment constitutes two-thirds of Faiks-Youngs's net monthly income. Faiks-Youngs testified that she obtained a short-term loan because she was afraid of being in debt. But voluntarily obtaining a short-term loan with a significant monthly payment, ...