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In re Marriage of Johnson

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

September 30, 2013

In re the Marriage of: Brian Arthur Johnson, petitioner, Appellant,
Brenda Colleen Johnson, Respondent.


Washington County District Court File No. 82-FA-11-3505

Christopher Donley Johnson, Johnson & Turner, P.A., Forest Lake, Minnesota (for appellant)

Carla C. Kjellberg, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

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


In this appeal from a spousal-maintenance award, appellant-husband argues that the district court erred by (1) including a percentage of husband's bonus income in the maintenance award and (2) not including a step reduction in the maintenance award. We affirm in part and reverse in part.


The parties' 29-year marriage was dissolved by a dissolution judgment and decree entered December 6, 2012. At the time of dissolution, appellant-husband Brian Arthur Johnson was age 55, and respondent-wife Brenda Colleen Johnson was 48. Husband was employed by Warren Rupp, Inc. and earned $102, 000 in 2008, $104, 964 in 2009, $145, 361 in 2010, and $141, 789 in 2011. Effective January 2, 2012, his base salary was increased to $115, 000, and he became "eligible for an annual bonus targeted at 25% of base salary." Previously, appellant had been paid a base salary plus commissions. Effective March 27, 2012, husband's base salary was increased to $117, 300, which equals $9, 775 per month. The district court found that husband's monthly living expenses were $2, 891, as agreed by the parties.

At the time of trial, wife was unemployed and, except for $1, 757 earned in 2004, had earned no income from employment since 1994. Wife earned $15, 264 in 1992 and $16, 136 in 1993. Before the emancipation of the parties' daughter, wife stayed at home caring for the child. The district court found that wife had "few currently marketable skills and in all likelihood would qualify for no more than an entry level position in the employment market." The court found that wife's submitted budget of $7, 363.05 was excessive and that her reasonable monthly expenses were $3, 200. The court noted that because both parties were using $100, 000 from the equity in their current home and proceeds from the liquidation of stock for down payments toward new housing, neither party was likely to have a mortgage payment.

Since about 2005, wife has suffered from a psychological problem that has been diagnosed as anxiety disorder with obsessive-compulsive features. Psychologist James Richardson testified that wife is "extremely anxious and preoccupied with her health symptoms" and that, when he talked to her about coming to his office for an appointment, attempting to give her directions to the office was a very confusing process that took about 15 minutes of him talking to her and another 20- to 25-minute conversation with an office manager and that, even after that, wife was very anxious about how she would locate the office building and get to her appointment on time. Richardson testified in a deposition that wife displayed

some real prominent symptoms of anxiety, indecisiveness, her sleep is disrupted, she's got some mood disruptions, some irritabilities, some depression so a real broad spectrum of symptoms . . . . In the course of our discussion it was kind of apparent that she had started to feel like her doctors had kind of done her a disservice and was kind of paranoid about maybe they were holding back information and then as this kind of moved forward it became clear that she felt really alienated by her husband and her daughter and felt that they had kind of turned against her over the same symptoms.

Richardson recommended an intensive outpatient treatment program and individual counseling to modify wife's behavior. Richardson testified that the treatment program would last four to six weeks and that the counseling would be a long-term process. Regarding the likelihood of success, Richardson testified:

[N]umber one, if you get a medication on board that'll increase the success. Number two, if [wife] will stick with a counseling program or an outpatient treatment program I think that she can substantially improve her coping skills that [will] allow her to tolerate the performance requirements in either an entry level training or an entry level job situation. Without doing these two things I think transition to steady, persistent, competitive full-time employment is small. If you participate with a full treatment program and everybody's moving in the same direction I think you're better than 50/50 in moving in a positive direction on that. I think that . . . once [wife] gets into a work environment if her symptoms get under control I think her confidence [will] build at that point, but [that will] take a while to get there. Rushing that and pushing too hard too fast, you get relapses and you get symptoms to embed and people ...

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