In Re the Marriage of: Rowan F. McDonnell, petitioner, Respondent, vs. Virginia L. McDonnell, Appellant.

Annotate this Case
This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat.§ 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C5-96-1224

In Re the Marriage of:

Rowan F. McDonnell, petitioner,

Respondent,

vs.

Virginia L. McDonnell,

Appellant.

Filed February 4, 1997

Affirmed as Modified and Remanded

Kalitowski, Judge

St. Louis County District Court

File No. F594600354

Larry M. Nord, Orman & Nord Law Office, 1301 Miller Trunk Highway, Suite 400, Duluth, MN 55811 (for Respondent)

Theo. Wangensteen, Jr., 2225 Holly Lane, Plymouth, MN 55447 (for Appellant)

Robert J. Levy, 1201 Yale Place #1002, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (for Appellant)

Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Foley, Judge.[*]

U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N

KALITOWSKI, Judge

Appellant Virginia McDonnell challenges the district court's decisions denying spousal maintenance and not reserving jurisdiction over maintenance, and the court's distribution of the parties' assets and debts. We affirm as modified and remand.

D E C I S I O N

I.

District courts have broad discretion in establishing maintenance and their determinations will not be set aside in the absence of an abuse of discretion. Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 38 (Minn. 1982). There is no abuse of discretion in determining spousal maintenance if the district court's decision has a reasonable and acceptable basis in fact. Pettit v. Pettit, 472 N.W.2d 668, 671 (Minn. App. 1991).

Appellant requested continued spousal maintenance from July 1, 1995, until she received respondent's retirement benefits in August 1996. The district court denied appellant's request, finding appellant to be fully self-supporting. Appellant argues the district court abused its discretion in denying her request. We disagree.

A court may grant maintenance if it finds that either spouse

(a) 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

(b) is unable to provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstances, through appropriate employment * * *.

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. Id., subd. 2 (1996).

The district court found appellant has an annual salary of $56,250. The court further determined that appellant's claimed monthly expenses of $3,209 were "artificially inflated" and that her separate income was more than adequate to meet her expenses. We conclude these findings have a reasonable basis in fact and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's request for spousal maintenance.

Appellant also argues the district court abused its discretion in not retaining jurisdiction over spousal maintenance. At trial, appellant testified that, in addition to her disabilities, she suffered from back and leg pain as a result of statis postlaminectomies and that it was uncertain whether she would be able to continue working in the future. If the court denies maintenance without reserving jurisdiction to order maintenance at some future time, it loses jurisdiction to do so. Tomscak v. Tomscak, 352 N.W.2d 464, 466 (Minn. App. 1984). In light of the uncontradicted evidence concerning appellant's health, we conclude the district court erred in not reserving jurisdiction over maintenance. SeeWopata v. Wopata, 498 N.W.2d 478, 485 (Minn. App. 1993) (reservation of maintenance appropriate where both parties were financially self-sufficient but respondent's health was uncertain); Tomscak, 352 N.W.2d at 466 (because wife's breast cancer may recur making maintenance necessary, the district court must reserve jurisdiction). We therefore remand this matter to the district court to modify the judgment to include a reservation of spousal maintenance.

II.

District courts have broad discretion over distribution of property and will not be overturned on appeal absent a clear abuse of discretion. Kriesel v. Gustafson, 513 N.W.2d 9, 12 (Minn. App. 1994). While this court need not defer to a district court's legal conclusion about the marital or nonmarital nature of property, it must affirm the findings of fact supporting that conclusion unless they are clearly erroneous. Freking v. Freking, 479 N.W.2d 736, 739 (Minn. App. 1992).

Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1a (1996), provides that each party is prohibited from transferring, encumbering, concealing, or disposing of marital assets without the other's consent, in contemplation of commencing or during the pendency of a dissolution, except in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life. The burden of proof is on the party making a claim under this section. Id.

Respondent withdrew $16,465.27 in dividends on State Farm life insurance policies owned by the parties without appellant's consent. He also surrendered a State Farm life insurance policy and received $10,711.96. The district court found respondent used the withdrawn dividends to pay existing marital debts and the proceeds of the life insurance policy to pay business and marital debts, including damages to the cabin caused by appellant. The court therefore did not credit respondent's share of marital assets with the policy dividends and proceeds and appellant argues this was error. We disagree.

The record supports the finding that respondent used the policy proceeds and dividends to pay phone bills, attorney fees, furniture, cabin repairs, utilities, insurance, medical bills, and business expenses. There is no evidence that these expenses were not incurred in the usual course of business or for the necessities of life. Thus, appellant did not meet her burden of establishing that respondent dissipated or misused marital assets. SeeMarch v. March, 435 N.W.2d 569, 572 (Minn. App. 1989) (a party's use of marital funds for roof replacement, uninsured medical bills and spousal maintenance does not constitute dissipation or misuse of marital assets). We conclude the district court acted within its discretion in not crediting respondent's share of marital assets with the policy poceeds and dividends.

Appellant also alleges the cash value of the parties' life insurance policies was significantly reduced during the dissolution proceedings. Although appellant alleges the district court did not address this issue, by denying appellant's motion for amended findings the district court ruled against appellant. SeeNelson v. Dorr, 239 Minn. 423, 432, 58 N.W.2d 876, 881 (1953) (a denial of a motion for amended findings is equivalent to an adverse finding on the issue presented thereby). Further, we conclude the district court acted within its discretion because appellant again failed to meet her burden of establishing that respondent concealed or dissipated marital assets.

III.

District courts have broad discretion in the division of debts. Dahlberg v. Dahlberg, 358 N.W.2d 76, 80 (Minn. App. 1984). The district court in its temporary order directed respondent to pay "all bills and indebtedness of the parties incurred prior to August 1, 1994." Appellant argues she paid $6,700 of the parties' debts incurred prior to August 1, 1994, and was entitled to reimbursement from respondent by reason of the temporary order.

The district court, in denying appellant's request for reimbursement, appeared to have construed its temporary order to mean that respondent was responsible for all existing debts incurred prior to August 1, 1994. Because the $6,700 debts had already been paid by appellant, they were no longer existing debts for which respondent was responsible. A district court's construction of its own decree has great weight on appeal. Mikoda v. Mikoda, 413 N.W.2d 238, 241 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Dec. 22, 1987). We conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's request for reimbursement of the $6,700 debt payment.

Appellant also argues she incurred $9,415 in preparing for the sale of the parties' homestead and should be reimbursed for half of the costs. The district court found the costs appellant incurred are "repair costs normal to homestead occupancy (ordinary maintenance and repair) or * * * expenses unnecessary to sale preparations." Based on this finding, the court concluded appellant was not entitled to reimbursement. Because the record supports the district court's finding, we conclude the court did not abuse its discretion in finding appellant was not entitled to reimbursement. SeeJensen v. Jensen, 440 N.W.2d 152, 156 (Minn. App. 1989) (former wife not entitled to reimbursement for postdissolution capital improvements to former homestead made without former respondent's consent).

Affirmed as modified and remanded.

[ ]* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.