In re the Marriage of: Mary Patricia Myhre, petitioner, Respondent,
Steven Kenneth Myhre, Appellant.
Dakota County District Court File No. 19AV-FA-11-2029
Merlyn L. Meinerts, Meinerts Law Office, Burnsville, Minnesota; and John D. Hagen, Jr., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)
John T. Burns, Jr., Burns Law Office, Burnsville, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Bjorkman, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.
Appellant challenges the dissolution judgment, arguing that the district court (1) abused its discretion by rejecting the parties' stipulation as to respondent's income in awarding spousal maintenance, (2) erred in calculating child support, (3) erred in valuing appellant's business, and (4) abused its discretion by awarding respondent need-based attorney fees. We affirm the district court's valuation of appellant's business. But the district court abused its discretion by rejecting the parties' income stipulation after trial and making insufficient findings as to respondent's income on the record. We therefore reverse the awards of spousal maintenance, child support, and attorney fees, and remand for a new trial on those issues.
Appellant Steven Myhre (father) and respondent Mary Myhre (mother) were married in February 1998 and have three joint children, currently ages 10, 14, and 17. The district court dissolved the marriage pursuant to the parties' stipulation in February 2012, awarding the parties joint legal and physical custody of their children and reserving all financial issues for trial. The parties subsequently reached several additional agreements. They stipulated that father's gross annual income is $150, 000 and mother's potential gross annual income is $50, 000 for purposes of spousal maintenance and child support, but they disputed the amount of spousal maintenance and child support. And they stipulated that father would be awarded his telecommunications business, Nortec Communications, Inc., and mother would be awarded her real-estate business, but they did not agree upon the value of either business.
After a three-day trial, the district court awarded mother $2, 760 in permanent monthly spousal maintenance, $915 in monthly child support, and $6, 000 in need-based attorney fees. And the district court valued Nortec at $295, 000. Father moved for amended findings or a new trial, which the district court denied. This appeal follows.
I. The district court abused its discretion in awarding spousal maintenance without regard to the parties' income stipulation and without making specific findings as to mother's income.
We review a district court's spousal-maintenance award under an abuse-of-discretion standard. Lee v. Lee, 775 N.W.2d 631, 637 (Minn. 2009). A district court abuses its discretion if its findings of fact are unsupported by the record or if it improperly applies the law. Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 202 (Minn. 1997); Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). A district court also abuses its discretion if its factual findings are not sufficiently detailed. Stevens v. Stevens, 501 N.W.2d 634, 637 (Minn.App. 1993).
Father argues that the district court abused its discretion in determining spousal maintenance because it disregarded the parties' stipulation as to mother's income. Mother argues that the district court accepted the stipulation because it did not expressly reject it. We disagree with mother. The district court permitted mother to present evidence as to her actual earnings and stated in its order that the parties' stipulation "is a puzzler" and "does not override the Court's obligation to accurately address the statutory criteria in determining the maintenance award." It then found that mother "has not ever earned gross annual income of $50, 000.00" and was unlikely to earn that level of income in 2012. And the district court awarded mother monthly maintenance of $2, 760, which far exceeds the amount necessary to meet her reasonable monthly expenses of $5, 000 if she is credited ...