This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).






In Re the Matter of:

Dianne Shields, petitioner,





John Frankenfield,



Filed March 28, 2000

Affirmed in part and reversed in part
Klaphake, Judge


St. Louis County District Court

File No. F0-97-101816


Diane Shields, 5369 Highway 100, Aurora, MN  55705-8703 (appellant pro se)


Terrence M. Aronson, Carla J. Lindell, Colosimo, Patchin, Aronson & Kearney, Ltd., 301 Chestnut St., Virginia, MN  55792 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


In December 1997, appellant Dianne Shields brought this action seeking ongoing and back child support and medical expense support from respondent John Frankenfield.  Following a hearing, the district court issued an order in March 1998 setting Frankenfield’s child support obligation at $350 per month as of January 1, 1998, and awarding Shields back child support of $200 per month for the 24 months prior to January 1998.

Shields appealed, arguing that she had not been heard on all issues.  This court agreed and issued an order opinion reversing and remanding the matter for further proceedings.  See Shields v. Frankenfield, CX-98-1840 (Minn. App. Apr. 20, 1999) (reversing district court’s March 1998 order to reopen record, address additional issues raised by mother, make necessary findings, and set father’s support obligations).

Following a hearing on remand, the district court issued an order in September 1999 setting Frankenfield’s ongoing child support obligation at $532 per month, effective January 1998, and his back child support obligation at $200 per month for the two years preceding January 1998.  The court further ordered Frankenfield to cover the child under his medical insurance and to be responsible for half of any uncovered, future medical expenses.  The court declined to require Frankenfield to pay any uncovered past medical expenses.

Shields again appeals, this time pro se.  Because the district court erred in failing to award reimbursement for past medical expenses, we reverse as to that issue.  Because the district court did not abuse its discretion as to the remaining issues, we affirm on those issues.



            A child’s medical needs, including insurance coverage, “are in the nature of child support.”  Korf v. Korf, 553 N.W.2d 706, 708 (Minn. App. 1996) (citations omitted).  A district court’s decision regarding medical expense support is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard.  Casper v. Casper, 593 N.W.2d 709, 714 (Minn. App. 1999).

            Shields challenges the district court’s refusal to reimburse her $50 per month for health insurance coverage.  The district court on remand found that the cost of medical insurance for the child through Shields’s insurance was $53.13 per month, but that Shields had made no request to Frankenfield to cover the child on his plan.  The court ordered Frankenfield to cover the child under his medical insurance as of September 1999.

            In her original petition, Shields indicated that she “has medical insurance available to her through her * * * employer for the benefit of the parties’ minor child.”  In her first motion, she requested that Frankenfield “provide medical insurance for the minor child, or pay an additional $50.00 per month child support or 100% of the child’s uncovered medical and dental costs.”

            Although Shields has requested an additional $50 per month since the beginning of this action, the statutory section she cites as support for such an award requires a finding that health insurance coverage is not available to either parent on a group basis.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.171, subd. 1(b) (1998) (“If the court finds that dependent health or dental insurance is not available to the obligor or obligee on a group basis or through an employer * * *, the court may require the obligor * * * to pay no less than $50 per month to be applied to the medical and dental expenses of the children or to the cost of health insurance dependent coverage.”).  As noted, in her original petition, Shields acknowledged that the child was currently covered under Shields’ insurance through her employer.

            It was not until the hearing on remand that Shields testified that she pays an additional $53.13 per month for family coverage that she would not need if Frankenfield added the child to his health insurance, which already provides coverage for dependents.  At that point, it became clear that Frankenfield had the “better” dependent coverage because he could add the child to his policy at no extra cost.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.171, subd. 1(a)(2) (1998) (requiring court, when issuing child support order, to “order the party with the better group dependent health and dental insurance coverage * * * to name the minor child as beneficiary”).  The district court therefore did not abuse its discretion by ordering Frankenfield to add the child to his insurance coverage effective September 1999 and in refusing to reimburse Shields $50 per month for 18 months since March 1998.

            Shields also argues that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to order Frankenfield to pay for one-half of the child’s uncovered medical expenses that Shields has incurred since March 1998.  The court denied Shields’s request, finding that she had “submitted medical bills without adequate documentation as to payment or rationale.”

            During the July 1999 hearing on remand, however, Shields submitted documents, including invoices and statements, and testified that she had incurred the following uncovered medical expenses since March 1998:

            1.  $709.75 for chiropractic treatments from March 1998 to May 1999;

            2.  $181.67 for contact lenses purchased on May 13, 1999; and

            3.  $270.46 for dental work between May 29, 1998 to March 30, 1999.


These amounts were not challenged by Frankenfield as false or unnecessary.

            It is within the discretion of a district court to refuse to award retroactive relief on uninsured or uncovered medical expenses, particularly where the record shows a factual dispute on the nature of the expenses incurred.  Bock v. Bock, 506 N.W.2d 321, 326 (Minn. App. 1993).  Here, however, no factual dispute exists and the district court did not find the expenses to be unreasonable.  Under these circumstances, the district court improperly rejected Shields’s request for reimbursement for half of these uncovered expenses.  We agree with Shields that Frankenfield should be responsible for one-half of $1,161.88, or $580.94.


            Shields challenges the district court’s determination that “a fair and just allocation as and for back child support for the two years preceding commencement of the action [is] $200 per month.”  A district court’s determination of past support in a paternity case is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard.  Nash v. Allen, 392 N.W.2d 244, 249 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. Oct. 22, 1986).  A parent’s liability for past support is limited “to the proportion of the expenses that the court deems just, which were incurred in the two years preceding the commencement of the action.”  Minn. Stat. § 257.66, subd. 4[1] (1998).

In this case, Shields did not seek any support from Frankenfield until the parties’ child was 15 years old.  Frankenfield has seen the child only once, when the child was about 15 months old.  Shields explained that she did not seek support from Frankenfield earlier because Frankenfield was struggling financially and because she and the child were fine.  Frankenfield is now married with two daughters, who are 10 and 7 years old.

            The district court made the following findings to support its decision regarding back support:

            15.  The allocation of $200 was based on the fact of the income of [Frankenfield], the expenses of the children, the lack of information as it exists at the present time with respect to the expenses of the minor child * * * for the years 1996 and 1997, the ongoing child support award and the affect that would have on both [Shields and the child] as well as [Frankenfield] and his subsequent family, resulting in an amount that the Court felt [Frankenfield] could pay as and for ongoing support and as and against an arrearage award, resulting in an order of $200.

            16.  That [Frankenfield] has no ability, absent a loan creating another monthly payment (which he did subsequent to the previous order) to pay more than [$200 per month in back support] without affecting his ability to support his current household and adversely affecting the subsequent children.

            17.  That the deviation from the Child Support Guidelines for 1996 and 1997 as stated above is based upon the needs of the subsequent children, the total needs of all three of the children, including home schooling of [his two subsequent children], the funds available to [Frankenfield], and lack of documentation as to [the child’s] retroactive needs.


Despite Shields’s assertions to the contrary, the evidence reasonably supports these findings.  These findings reflect that the court was concerned with Frankenfield’s ability to pay back child support and with the lack of evidence on the child’s needs for the two years prior to Shields’s motion, 1997 and 1996.

            Although the court did not make any express findings on Frankenfield’s net income during 1996 and 1997, Frankenfield testified that his income and expenses have not changed in the last few years and the court made findings on his current monthly income ($2,780) and expenses ($2,200).  Cf. McNeal v. Swain, 477 N.W.2d 531, 534 (Minn. App. 1991) (court required to make findings as to party’s net income for period during which support sought and particularized findings on child’s needs during that period or as to why amount of past support was just in light of party’s current income).  Under these circumstances, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by determining Frankenfield’s liability for back support should be limited to $200 per month.

            Finally, we note that the district court miscalculated the amount of arrears owed for ongoing child support for the 20 months between January 1998 and September 1999.  The difference between the previous award ($350), which Frankenfield has been paying, and the award on remand ($532) is $182; that difference multiplied by 20 months equals $3,640, not $3,040 as calculated by the district court.  We therefore modify the amount of arrears from $3,040 to $3,640.


            Shields finally argues that a number of the district court’s findings were unsupported by the evidence and demonstrate bias.  We disagree.  Each finding has a basis in the record and shows no prejudice on the part of the court toward Shields.  The court’s findings and decision fail to show any bias or abuse of power on the part of the district court.  See Peterson v. Knutson, 305 Minn. 53, 60, 233 N.W.2d 716, 720 (1975); Minn. R. Civ. P. 63.02 (interest or bias necessary to disqualify judge).

            Affirmed in part and reversed in part.


[1] Since 1995, Minn. Stat. § 257.66, subd. 4 also allows deviation from the child support guidelines if certain circumstances are met, which are not present here.  See 1995 Minn. Laws ch. 257, art. I, § 18.  We do not believe that this new statutory language precludes a court from continuing to exercise its discretion and limit a parent’s liability for back support to an amount the court deems just.