Filed December 23, 1997.
Appeal from the District Court, Stearns County, File No. F096745.
John R. Koch, (for respondent)
Ronald R. Frauenshuh, Sr., (for appellant)
This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
Appellant Robert M. Zwack and respondent Mary K. Zwack challenge the district court's award of permanent spousal maintenance. Appellant argues the district court erred in awarding permanent spousal maintenance. Respondent contends the district court abused its discretion in awarding her only $1,250 per month for maintenance and in deleting the medical and dental insurance provision in the amended decree. We affirm the district court's award of permanent spousal maintenance because the award is reasonable and within the district court's discretion. But we reverse and remand the district court's decision in deleting the medical and dental insurance provision because it violates Minn. Stat. § 518.171 (1996).
The district court has broad discretion in awarding spousal maintenance and its decision will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion. O'Brien v. O'Brien , 343 N.W.2d 850, 852 (Minn. 1984). The underlying findings of fact must be affirmed if not clearly erroneous. Minn.R.Civ.P. 52.01.
A court may award maintenance if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:
lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to the spouse, to provide for reasonable needs of the spouse, considering the standard of living established during the marriage, especially, but not limited to, a period of training or education, or
is unable to provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances, through appropriate employment, or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.
Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 1 (1996). The maintenance order shall be in amounts and for periods of time as the district court deems just after considering all the relevant factors. Minn. Stat. § 518.552, subd. 2 (1996). Although there are eight statutory factors, "the issue is basically the financial needs of [respondent] and her ability to meet those needs balanced against the financial condition of [appellant]." Bourassa v. Bourassa , 481 N.W.2d 113, 115 (Minn.App. 1992) (quoting Erlandson v. Erlandson , 318 N.W.2d 36, 39-40 (Minn. 1982)).
Appellant argues the district court erred in concluding respondent will not be able to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage without permanent spousal maintenance. Appellant claims respondent has the ability to support herself with $350,000 in investment assets, $1,972.25 per month child support, and $1,536 per month earned income by January 1998. We disagree.
The record indicates respondent does not have $350,0000 in investment assets. Among the assets apportioned to respondent, only the $14,000 IRA, the $79,000 contract for deed, and the $55,000 cash payment are investment assets. The district court found the 80 acres of undeveloped real property (valued at $120,000) has been used by the parties for recreational purposes during their marriage; and that there is no evidence the land is ready for development. Consequently, respondent should not have considered the 80 acres of land as an investment asset. See Fink v. Fink , 366 N.W.2d 340, 342 (Minn.App. 1985) (holding spouses are normally not expected to invade the principal of their investments to satisfy their monthly financial needs). Additionally, the child support payment is for the support of the parties' minor children, not respondent. Therefore, appellant is incorrect in including the monthly child support payment as part of respondent's income.
Next, appellant argues that respondent is entitled to rehabilitative maintenance until she finishes her education, not permanent maintenance. Gales v. Gales , 553 N.W.2d 416, 421 (Minn. 1996). Appellant asserts that respondent has enough income, with investment income, child support payment, and future earned income, to support herself. As indicated, child support is for the children and respondent can't use the money to meet her own needs. The district court found respondent has a demonstrated need of $3,470 per month through December 1997, and $2,141 per month beginning in January 1998. Based on respondent's needs and appellant's ability to pay, the district court did not err in awarding respondent permanent spousal maintenance.
Respondent argues the district court abused its discretion in establishing the amount of the maintenance. Respondent contends the district court erred in allowing appellant to deduct $2,600 property settlement payment in determining his net monthly income. This argument is without merit. The March 20, 1997, decree requires appellant to pay respondent $2,600 per month as property settlement for five years. Given the district court's broad discretion on maintenance matters, we conclude the district court acted within its discretion when it deducted the property settlement payment in determining appellant's net monthly income.
Respondent's reliance on Larson v. Larson , No. C5-96-1398 (Minn.App. May 30, 1997) is misplaced. In Larson , the district court did not allow deductions for land rent and property settlement payment in calculating the income of a farmer for child support purposes. On appeal, this court held it was proper to include the land rent deduction in determining the farmer's net income, but "the same may not be said for the expenses he incurs when buying out appellant's interest in the farm assets." Id. Larson is a child support case, thus distinguishable from the present case. In setting child support, the court shall consider all earnings, income, and resources of the parents, including real and personal property. Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. (5)(b)(1) (1996). On the other hand, in making a maintenance award, the court is only required to consider the future income or earnings of the obligor. Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 3 (1996). Because of the different requirements for maintenance, the district court did not err when it deducted the property settlement payment in calculating appellant's net monthly income.
Next, respondent argues the district court abused its discretion in awarding her one-half of appellant's monthly surplus ($2,500) for her maintenance while her demonstrated needs are $3,470.50 per month prior to January 1998 and $2,141.50 per month thereafter. In making its award, the district court examined the needs of respondent and the financial condition of appellant. Because of our belief that the award is reasonable, we conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion in its decision.
In his motion to amend the findings, appellant moved to strike the requirement that he share uninsured medical and dental expenses. Without an explanation, the district court deleted the whole provision on medical and dental insurance provision for the minor children. In so doing, the district court left the minor children without medical and dental insurance in violation of Minn. Stat. § 518,171(1996). Section 518.171 requires every child support order to expressly assign or reserve the responsibility for maintaining medical insurance for the minor children and the division of uninsured medical and dental costs. Minn. Stat. § 518.171 subd. 1(a)(1). We therefore reverse the district court's decision in deleting the medical and dental insurance provision and remand this issue to the district court for further consideration.