In re the Marriage of: Christine J. Curtis, Appellant,
Gregory M. Curtis, Respondent.
of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
M. Tatge, Matthew C. Berger, Gislason & Hunter LLP, New
Ulm, Minnesota, for appellant.
H. Hippert, Nierengarten & Hippert, Ltd., New Ulm,
Minnesota, for respondent.
L. Olson, Edina, Minnesota; Michael D. Dittberner, Linder,
Dittberner & Bryant, Ltd., Edina, Minnesota; and Mary
Catherine Lauhead, Law Offices of Mary Catherine Lauhead,
Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amici curiae Committee of the
Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial
Lawyers and Committee of the Family Law Section, Minnesota
State Bar Association.
J. Took no part, Chutich, McKeig, JJ.
determining whether a spouse needs maintenance in a
marital-dissolution action, a district court has discretion
to consider the income-earning potential of converting liquid
assets, including investments, into a different form.
spouses in a marital-dissolution action stipulate to an
equitable division of property, and the district court
considers the income-earning potential of converting liquid
assets into a different form in deciding whether to award
maintenance, the district court must take into account any
tax consequences from the conversion.
appeal from a marital-dissolution action requires us to
determine when, and under what circumstances, a district
court may consider the income-earning potential of investment
assets equitably distributed to a spouse in deciding whether
to award maintenance. The district court declined to award
maintenance to Christine Curtis, who sought maintenance from
Gregory Curtis, reasoning that she could reallocate the
investment assets equitably distributed to her in the
property settlement to produce sufficient income to meet her
reasonable monthly needs. A divided panel of the court of
appeals affirmed. We reverse the decision of the court of
appeals and remand to the district court for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
and Gregory Curtis married in 1990. During their marriage,
Gregory worked as a dentist, and he continues to operate his
own dental practice today. Once the parties' first child
was born, 5 years into the marriage, Christine stopping
working outside the home. The parties have two children, now
17 and 21 years of age.
October 2012, after approximately 22 years married to
Gregory, Christine filed a petition to dissolve the marriage.
In the course of the dissolution proceedings, Christine and
Gregory stipulated to a custody arrangement for the children
and to an equitable division of the marital property. Under
the stipulation, Christine received the marital home in
Sleepy Eye, an Ameritrade investment account worth roughly
$2, 038, 000, a certificate of deposit with an approximate
value of $171, 000, and various other assets. The stipulation
awarded Gregory, among other assets, a second home in Sleepy
Eye, a lake home, a vacation property in South Carolina, and
a commercial building. Based on the estimates of the parties,
the district court found that Christine received roughly 57
percent of the value of the marital property available for
distribution, worth a total of about $2, 800, 000, and
Gregory received approximately 43 percent, valued at around
$2, 170, 000. The court approved the stipulation and entered
partial final judgment dissolving the marriage.
parties' stipulation did not address Christine's
request for spousal maintenance, which remained unresolved
after the district court entered partial final judgment. The
court conducted a trial on the spousal-maintenance issue to
determine whether Christine's income was sufficient to
cover her reasonable monthly needs. At trial, Gregory
stipulated that he could pay spousal maintenance in any
amount ordered by the court and Christine presented evidence
regarding her monthly income and expenses. Based on the
evidence, the court determined that Christine's
reasonable monthly expenses were $7, 761.81. Nevertheless,
the court did not award spousal maintenance to Christine,
reasoning that she could exchange her assets in the
Ameritrade account and the funds in the certificate of