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In re Marriage of Frazier

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

September 23, 2013

In re the Marriage of: Debra Lynn Frazier, petitioner, Respondent,
v.
Richard Allan Frazier, Appellant

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Mille Lacs County District Court File No. 48-FA-11-2089.

James Robert Spangler, St. Cloud, Minnesota (for respondent).

Richard W. Curott, Curott & Associates, LLC, Milaca, Minnesota (for appellant).

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Bjorkman, Judge; and Smith, Judge.

BJORKMAN, JUDGE

In this marriage-dissolution appeal, appellant-husband challenges the district court's award of permanent spousal maintenance to respondent-wife, arguing that the district court abused its discretion by failing to make a specific finding of appellant's net income and awarding maintenance that exceeds respondent's reasonable needs in amount and duration. We affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Richard Frazier and respondent Debra Frazier (n/k/a Debra Dalbec) married in 1996. During the marriage, the parties owned and operated a 100-acre dairy farm. Until their separation in August 2011, wife did the bookkeeping and other work on the farm.

On September 26, 2011, wife filed for dissolution. The district court issued a temporary order directing husband to pay spousal maintenance in the amount of $1, 000 per month.[1] On May 14, 2012, the parties appeared for trial on the issues of spousal maintenance and the division of marital property and debt.[2]

The district court issued its dissolution judgment on June 7. With respect to the division of marital property and debt, the district court found that the parties have $806, 595 in marital assets and $1, 014, 668 in marital debt. The district court awarded husband all but $25, 000 of the marital assets, including the dairy farm, and assigned him all but $31, 486 of the marital debt. Neither party challenges this division on appeal.

With respect to spousal maintenance, the district court found that wife's reasonable expenses are $2, 600 per month, plus the expense of paying her portion of the marital debt, and that she earns about $2, 000 per month as a waitress. The district court also found that wife is not voluntarily underemployed even though she worked as a bookkeeper before and during the marriage and intends to pursue a degree in criminal justice. With respect to expenses, the district court found that the parties enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle during their marriage that was, to some extent, funded by debt. Based on these findings, the district court determined that wife needs $1, 000 per month in spousal maintenance.

The district court found that husband's reasonable expenses are $2, 150 per month, but it did not make a specific finding as to his income. Instead, the court found that husband's income "varies significantly" and determined that he has the financial ability to pay $1, 000 per month based on his January 2012 affidavit, the parties' 2011 income tax return, and his receipt of the parties' only income-producing assets. Specifically, the district court stated:

Based upon [husband's] testimony relating to temporary maintenance in that amount, he confirmed his prior affidavit that he could meet this amount so long as the bank did not take the cows. Further, as shown on the Parties' 2011 taxes (Exhibit 7), there are significant amounts available for such payment. While [husband] utilizes the taxable net amount from line 34 of Schedule F to claim net farm income of $7, 254 for the year, this includes $54, 636 of depreciation, $28, 477 for "casual labor" on top of the $50, 879 in labor hired, credit for $44, 435 in interest (shown on Schedule F), and exclusion of $6, 133 in a gain from sale of cattle (Form 4797). This constitutes only a part of the adjustments to income allowed for tax purposes, but clearly not to be included as reductions in obligations for spousal maintenance. While the Court acknowledges that ...

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