Denial of Spousal Maintenance Not Abuse of Discretion In Considering Investment Income From Property Settlement Sufficient To Meet Monthly Needs

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In Curtis v. Curtis, A14-1841, (Minn. Ct. App. June 22, 2015) the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court decision to deny a wife’ request for spousal maintenance, based on imputed income from the reallocation of a property settlement from growth investments to income investments based on an  expert who testified wife could earn 7 percent on her investments if she allocated them from growth funds to income funds. The expert testimony was not rebutted at trial. The court determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion by considering the reallocated investment strategy  and that the investment income was sufficient to meet wife’s monthly needs. The court noted that the reallocation of investments in the property division was not an invasion of assets or improper in light of the expert testimony to support the determinations.

In Curtis the court was faced with a couple who was married in 1990 and separated in 2012 or 2013. Husband worked as a dentist and managed the parties investments. They had two children one was now an adult and a 16 year old son. Wife was awarded the house and investments totaling $2,209,399 or 57 % of the marital estate , while husband received 43% of the estate.  Based on expert testimony the trial court determined wife could reallocate growth funds to income producing funds and meet her reasonable monthly expenses. It was noted the spousal maintenance statute, Minn. Stat. 518.552, subd. 2(a) requires a court to consider financial resources, which include income generated by liquid assets citing to Fink v. Fink, 366 N. W. 2d 340, 342 (Minn. Ct. App. 1985).

The court stated the trial court’s decision did not invade her property award to meet her expenses and was not an abuse of discretion. A dissenting Judge noted the tax consequences of reallocating the assets would be significant and was not considered.The court, however, found the trial court was within its discretion not to consider the tax consequences citing to Maurer v. Maurer, 623 N. W. 2d 604, 608 (Minn. 2001), which found that whether to consider the tax consequences of a property division lies within the trial court’s discretion.

This case raises many potential issues to be carefully considered in spousal maintenance cases and makes it clear it is important to present expert testimony on potential investment income and its impact on cash flow or other important financial issues.