This opinion will be unpublished and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


Nealie S. Wedell,


Timothy Cliff,

Filed February 29, 2000
Harten, Judge

Waseca County District Court
File No. F3-95-50138

Nealie S. Wedell, 9321 Saratoga Lane North, Maple Grove, MN 55369-4132 (pro se respondent)

John H. McLoone, IV, Law Offices of McLoone & Kraus, 111 North State Street, P.O. Box 508, Waseca, MN 56093 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant, a self-employed obligor parent, seeks review of an order modifying his child-support obligation and directing him to pay a portion of child-care expenses. Specifically, he challenges the finding of his monthly income. Because the evidence supports this finding, we affirm.


Appellant Timothy Cliff and respondent Nealie Wedell are the parents of five-year-old L.J. After appellant was adjudicated the father, an administrative law judge (ALJ) ordered that child support would be reserved because appellant, with a business partner, was just beginning a new car repair business.

Respondent eventually moved for child support. At a hearing, appellant submitted his tax returns as evidence, showing an annual income of $3,441 for 1997 and a similar income for 1998. Respondent testified that she believed appellant’s lifestyle was well in excess of what this income would allow.

The ALJ found (1) that appellant’s expenses at the time of the prior order were unknown; (2) that appellant had written checks totaling $4,865 in January 1999, $7,824 in February 1999, $6,682 in March 1999, and $2,590 in April 1999; (3) that appellant is paid in cash for a significant portion of his work; and (4) that appellant’s checking account records were more reliable than his income tax returns. The ALJ took the April total, ($2,590), deducted $46.20 for dependent medical and dental insurance, and set child support on the remainder ($2,543.80) at the guideline amount ($636 per month).

The ALJ also found that respondent (1) has work-related child-care costs of $243.75 per month; (2) was laid off from work; (3) receives $666 monthly in reemployment benefits; (4) is looking for work; and (5) needs child care while she does so. The ALJ ordered appellant to pay $122 per month as his share of child-care costs.

Appellant challenges the monthly income finding on which both his child-support obligation and his child-care obligation are based.


An appellate court will not reverse a district court’s determination of net income used to calculate child support if it has a reasonable basis in fact. Hicks v. Hicks, 533 N.W.2d 885, 886 (Minn. App. 1995). Here, there is a reasonable basis in fact for the ALJ’s determination that appellant’s monthly income is at least $2,544.

Appellant does not contest the finding that his actual income was greater than that reported on his tax returns. But he relies on County of Morrison v. Watland, 448 N.W.2d 71 (Minn. App. 1989), for the proposition that although tax returns may be inadequate and it may not be easy to estimate an obligor’s income accurately, "the trial court must make more than a guess." Id. at 74. Here, the ALJ did "make more than a guess"; she took the lowest of the four check expenditure figures reflected by appellant’s checking account for January-April 1999. The figures were $4,865, $7,824, $6,682, and $2,590. Appellant cannot credibly object, for the ALJ could have taken the average of the amounts, $5,490, but chose the lowest.

Finally, appellant challenges the ALJ’s failure to deduct FICA and state and federal taxes from his monthly income. See Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) (1998) (defining net income for child-support purposes as gross income less deductions for taxes, pensions, union dues, and health insurance). But there is no evidence that appellant pays any tax on an annual income of approximately $3,000. Moreover, the ALJ assumed the amount in appellant’s personal checking account was his net monthly income, not his gross monthly income. Appellant offers no evidence to prove otherwise.[1]

The order setting appellant’s child support at the guideline amount and requiring him to contribute to respondent’s child-care costs is affirmed.


[1] Appellant also argues that the ALJ failed both to make the requisite findings for voluntary underemployment and to do the requisite calculations for imputing income. But the ALJ neither found voluntary underemployment nor imputed income; no further findings or calculations were needed.