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Kielley v. Kielley

February 17, 2004

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF: SANDRA JEAN KIELLEY, PETITIONER, RESPONDENT,
v.
DONALD R. KIELLEY, APPELLANT.



Hennepin County District Court File No. DC 178 317

Considered and decided by Toussaint , Chief Judge, Presiding; Lansing , Judge; and Wright , Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

An extra-judicial stipulation to modify spousal maintenance must be contractually sound and otherwise fair and reasonable.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wright, Judge

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Concurring in part, dissenting in part Lansing, Judge

OPINION

On appeal from the denial of his motion to suspend his maintenance obligation, appellant-husband argues that (1) the parties' extra-judicial stipulation to modify spousal maintenance was enforceable and (2) the district court abused its discretion in denying the motion without making particularized findings or permitting the record to be supplemented. By notice of review, respondent-wife argues that the district court abused its discretion in denying her motion for attorney fees, declining to hold appellant in contempt for failing to pay spousal maintenance, and declining to compel discovery. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

FACTS

Appellant Donald Kielley and respondent Sandra Kielley dissolved their marriage on April 28, 1992. They had three minor children at the time of the dissolution. The parties stipulated to the entry of a judgment and decree, which imposed a gradually increasing spousal maintenance obligation on appellant through December 31, 2009. Appellant's annual maintenance obligation comprised a lump-sum payment of $8,400 and 12 monthly payments. Appellant retained the right to move to modify maintenance, but agreed that changes in respondent's income could not be used as a basis for modification. The judgment also awarded respondent physical custody of the parties' minor children.

On the date of the dissolution, appellant was employed as the Chief Operating Officer of Wilson Learning Corporation, earning $8,004 per month, plus bonuses. In March 2000, appellant was demoted; he was later forced to resign, effective June 1, 2001. Between June 1, 2001 and May 30, 2002, appellant received, as severance pay, an amount equal to his annual gross salary, plus his minimum bonus payment.

On October 3, 2001, the parties entered a written stipulation purporting to modify the dissolution decree. The parties agreed to eliminate appellant's $8,400 annual maintenance payment, to permanently reduce his monthly maintenance payments from $1,861.55 to $1,361.55, and to set his parenting time with the remaining minor child at 62 days per year. The stipulation stated that the parties had made these changes because of the death of their oldest son, appellant's loss of employment, and respondent's decision to move with the remaining minor child to Arizona in October 2001.

On November 18, 2002, appellant moved the district court to temporarily suspend spousal maintenance until he gained employment. In support of his motion, appellant submitted affidavits describing his loss of employment and the financial aspects of his separation from his former employer. Respondent then moved to have appellant held in contempt for not paying maintenance as required by the judgment. In her supporting affidavit, she claimed that appellant had "talked [her] into signing the [stipulation]."

At the hearing on appellant's motion to suspend spousal maintenance, appellant's counsel argued that relief should be granted based solely on the precipitous drop in his income, but offered to provide additional evidence, if necessary. Finding that the parties' stipulation was void for lack of consideration, the district court denied appellant's motion, and ordered him to pay respondent $62,915.20—the difference between what he would have paid respondent under the judgment and what he actually paid her under the stipulation. By letter, appellant requested leave to file a motion for reconsideration, which the district court denied. This appeal followed.

ISSUES

I. Did the district court abuse its discretion in declining to enforce the parties' extra-judicial attempt ...


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