This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).

STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
C4-99-774

State of Minnesota Regarding the Parties:

Linda M. Rasinski,
Respondent,

vs.

James J. Schoepke,
Appellant.

Filed January 11, 2000
Affirmed
Halbrooks, Judge

Hennepin County District Court
File No. SP 240685

Linda M. Rasinski, 11120 - 133rd Avenue North, Dayton, MN 55327 (pro se respondent)

Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Thomas L. Aarestad, Assistant County Attorney, 300 South 6th Street, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)

John G. Westrick, Brian J. Clausen, Westrick & McDowall-Nix, P.L.L.P., 400 Minnesota Building, 46 East 4th Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)

 

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

HALBROOKS, Judge

Appellant James Schoepke appeals from the order establishing his child-support obligation. Schoepke contends that the use of a salary survey rather than financial information he provided was an abuse of discretion, and that the reviewing ALJ’s order requiring Schoepke to pay $50 to the state as reimbursement for medical assistance was improper. We affirm.

FACTS

A.A.G. was born to respondent Linda Rasinski on January 11, 1996. Schoepke signed a recognition-of-parentage form on April 9, 1996, and paternity is not an issue in this case. Schoepke, however, did not contribute to the support of A.A.G. during the first two years of her life.

On January 6, 1998, Hennepin County initiated an administrative child-support proceeding and a contested hearing was subsequently held on July 27, 1998. Following the hearing, the ALJ gave Schoepke additional time to produce financial information. Schoepke did not produce the information requested within the time provided. On September 29, 1998, the ALJ issued the child-support order.

Schoepke owns a service station in Osseo, Minnesota, and is self-employed as an automobile mechanic. His true personal financial situation is unclear from the record. Schoepke provided the county and ALJ with only limited financial documentation. Based on the records that were provided and the testimony at the child-support hearing, the ALJ found that Schoepke’s monthly expenses were $2,286.

Schoepke claimed that his total income for 1997 was equal to his service station’s net profit. He submitted a 1996 balance sheet that showed a net profit for that year of $7,019.40. He did not provide any financial documents for 1997 until after the record was closed and the initial order was entered. No tax returns were ever provided.

In contrast, Rasinski testified at the hearing that Schoepke took cash from the service station’s cash register on a daily basis and that he owns several cars, trucks, and snowmobiles. Because the ALJ concluded that Schoepke was understating his income, he imputed income of $14 per hour to Schoepke, a figure suggested by the county. According to the 1994 Minnesota salary survey, $14 per hour was the mean salary at that time for mechanics working in the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area.

The September 29, 1998 order required Schoepke to pay $298 per month for child support and $50 per month for ongoing medical support. The order also established reimbursement amounts due to Rasinski and the state and ordered judgments against Schoepke for those amounts. The ALJ, however, stayed entry of the judgments as long as Schoepke remained current with the support obligations established by the order.

On November 9, 1998, Schoepke filed a motion for amended findings. The reviewing ALJ granted that motion in part on March 5, 1999. The new findings and order reduced Schoepke’s child-support obligation to $250 per month, plus $50 per month for ongoing medical support. Schoepke was also ordered to pay an additional $50 per month to the state for reimbursement of medical assistance. Schoepke appeals from the March 5, 1999 amended order.

D E C I S I O N

Orders establishing child-support obligations issued by administrative law judges, now known as child-support magistrates, are appealable by right and this court reviews those orders under an abuse-of-discretion standard. Lee v. Lee, 459 N.W.2d 365, 368-69 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. Oct. 18, 1990); see Minn. Stat. § 518.5511, subd. 4(j) (1998) (decision of ALJ "is appealable to court of appeals in the same manner as a decision of the district court"). An abuse of discretion will not be found unless the ALJ’s conclusions are "clearly erroneous" and "against logic and the facts on record." Murphy v. Murphy, 574 N.W.2d 77, 79-80 (Minn. App. 1998) (quoting Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984)).[1]

1. Use of the salary survey

Hennepin County urged the ALJ to base the child-support award in this case on a 1994 Minnesota salary survey. The county argued that Schoepke was understating his income and, therefore, income should be imputed to Schoepke.

The ALJ made numerous findings regarding Schoepke’s financial situation. Some of these findings were based on information provided by Schoepke, but others were based on testimony received at the hearing. The ALJ gave Schoepke an opportunity to present additional financial information following the hearing and prior to the issuance of the order. Although Schoepke agreed to provide that information pursuant to the ALJ’s request, he failed to do so.

"A party has a duty to supply financial information in a proper fashion to the trial court. Failure to do so justifies adverse inferences." Spooner v. Spooner, 410 N.W.2d 412, 413 (Minn. App. 1987). Schoepke’s failure to provide the information requested in a timely manner permitted the ALJ to infer that the information would not support Schoepke’s position regarding his financial situation. See id.

The ALJ decided to impute income because Schoepke’s "living expenses and assets are not accurately reflected by the financial information [Schoepke] submitted."

In order to calculate child support, the trial court must first determine net income. When it is impracticable to determine actual income, a trial court may impute income. If a self-employed person supports himself, yet reports negligible income, a trial court may base net income on earning capacity.

Roatch v. Puera, 534 N.W.2d 560, 564-65 (Minn. App. 1995) (citations omitted). The ALJ determined that the salary survey was an appropriate way of determining Schoepke’s earning capacity.

Schoepke did provide some additional financial information on October 7, 1998, more than one week after entry of the initial order. The information submitted consisted solely of a 1997 business-income statement; neither business nor personal income-tax records were ever produced. Schoepke’s motion for amended findings was based in part on this additional information.

The reviewing ALJ did not modify the use of the $14 per hour figure based on the new information. In fact, she concurred with the original ALJ that Schoepke’s living expenses and assets were not accurately reflected in the financial information he provided. Additionally, she clarified the original finding imputing income to Schoepke by adding that he "has the ability to earn at [sic] $14.00 per hour and work full time."

This is a reasonable decision within the discretion of the ALJ. Schoepke is self-employed with relatively low reported income. He argues that his child-support obligation should be based on his 1997 net profit of $10,534.24. This figure, however, appears to understate his actual income. The ALJ found Schoepke’s monthly expenses to be $2,286. Although Schoepke testified at the hearing that he is struggling financially, there is no evidence that he is carrying significant debt or that he is otherwise unable to support himself. Because Schoepke’s monthly expenses appear to be far greater than his reported income, the ALJ did not err in basing the child-support order on his earning capacity. See id. at 565. Given the facts of this case, it was not an abuse of discretion to calculate Schoepke’s earning capacity using the salary survey.

2. Medical assistance reimbursement

Schoepke also challenges the reviewing ALJ’s order requiring him to pay the state $50 per month as reimbursement for medical assistance. The original order did not require Schoepke to make reimbursement payments to the state. Following the original order, Schoepke made a motion for amended findings. The reviewing ALJ did grant that motion in part by reducing the amount of Schoepke’s child-support payment from $298 to $250. Schoepke contends, however, that the reviewing ALJ’s finding and order regarding the reimbursement was improper.

Schoepke contends that the court lacked jurisdiction to order the reimbursement because he did not raise the issue of reimbursement in his motion for amended findings. The county did not seek review of the original order, which had reserved the issue of reimbursement. Although the issue was not raised by either of the parties, the ALJ did not err in ordering the reimbursement.

When a party brings a motion for amended findings, it may

choose to challenge only selected findings, but by making the motion the party is in essence asking the judge to reexamine all of the evidence in the case to see if his initial findings accurately reflect his view of that evidence. * * * [A] party moving for amended findings may not "pick and choose" among the findings in the hope of thereby limiting the trial court’s review of the record only to those parts supporting the motion. The trial judge must be free to examine all of the evidence before him, and then to enter amended findings as appear to him warranted by his review of the record as a whole.

McCauley v. Michael, 256 N.W.2d 491, 500 (Minn. 1977). Schoepke’s motion for amended findings, therefore, provided the reviewing ALJ an opportunity to reexamine the entire record.

In this case, the original ALJ reserved the issue of reimbursement in the initial order. The reviewing ALJ examined the entire record, found that Schoepke had the ability to pay during the first two years of A.A.G.’s life while she was receiving medical assistance, and decided that reimbursement was warranted. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Schoepke is unable to pay the ordered reimbursement. The ALJ’s reimbursement order was, therefore, not an abuse of discretion. See id. (indicating that amended finding should be upheld if not clearly erroneous).

Affirmed.

[1] We recognize this administrative process was ruled unconstitutional effective July 1, 1999. Holmberg v. Holmberg, 588 N.W.2d 720, 727 (Minn. 1999). But because the ALJ's order in this case was filed on March 5, 1999, it is appropriate to utilize the standard of review outlined above.