This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Redwood County Human Services,



Kimberly M. Thordson,

Lower Court Petitioner,




Gregory G. Prescott,



Filed June 13, 2000

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Willis, Judge


Redwood County District Court

File No. F89350268


Michelle A. Dietrich, Redwood County Attorney, P.O. Box 130, Redwood Falls, MN  56283 (for appellant)


Raymond O. Walz, Walz Law Office, 230 East Third Street, Redwood Falls, MN  56283 (for Thordson)


J. Brian O’Leary, O’Leary and Moritz Chartered, P.O. Box 76, Springfield, MN  56087 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Willis, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Redwood County Human Services appeals from the district court’s refusal to modify respondent Gregory G. Prescott’s child-support obligation retroactively to a date earlier than the date of service of its motion to modify, the denial of its motion for child-care costs, and the denial of its motion for reimbursement for the cost of medical- and dental-insurance coverage.  We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


Prescott and Kim Michelle Thordson[1] are the biological parents of C.T., who was born in April 1993.  In September 1993, in response to a motion filed by Redwood County on behalf of Thordson, Prescott was adjudicated the father of C.T. and was ordered to pay as child support 30% of the monthly income he received from the Lower Sioux Agency in the form of gross per capita or economic assistance payments. 

In September 1994, Prescott moved for a reduction of his child-support obligation.  The district court reduced Prescott’s child-support obligation regarding C.T. to $313 per month.  The court also ordered that Prescott provide Thordson and the county annually with copies of his income tax returns and provide Thordson and the county every three months with documentation of his “income and expenses of any employment or business,” or any other source.  

In September 1998, the county brought a motion for ongoing and retroactive modification of Prescott’s child-support obligation and subpoenaed his financial records because he had failed to provide the documents required by the 1994 order.  In May 1999, the district court found that Prescott’s average monthly income during the preceding five years was $6,883, substantially higher than he had disclosed in 1994.  The court raised Prescott’s child-support obligation to $1,484 a month, retroactive to the date the county served the motion to modify.  The court refused to modify the child-support obligation retroactively to a date earlier than the date of service of the motion, noting that the county “did a poor job of requiring the information” from Prescott and thus concluding that Prescott’s failure to provide the required financial documentation did not constitute a material misrepresentation.

The county moved to amend the order, requesting, in part, that the court require Prescott to pay a portion of the child’s day-care expenses and find that Prescott had materially misrepresented his income so as to justify modification of his child-support obligation to December 1994.  The court refused to award day-care expenses and iterated its previous finding that Prescott did not materially misrepresent his income.  The county appeals.


I.          Retroactive Modification of Child Support.

            The county argues that the district court erred by modifying Prescott’s child-support obligation retroactively only to the service date of the county’s motion to modify and not to December 1994.  We will reverse a district court’s refusal to modify an obligor’s child support retroactively to a date earlier than the date the motion for modification was served only where we are convinced that the district court abused its broad discretion by making a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on the record.  Gully v. Gully, 599 N.W.2d 814, 820 (Minn. 1999). 

In general, a district court may order retroactive modification of a child-support decree only to the date the motion for modification was served.  Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(d) (1998).  But a modification may be made retroactive to an earlier date if the district court makes express findings that

the party seeking modification was precluded from serving a motion by reason of a significant physical or mental disability, a material misrepresentation of another party, or fraud upon the court and that the party seeking modification, when no longer precluded, promptly served a motion.


Id., subd. 2(d), 2(d)(1). 

Here, the district court determined that Prescott’s failure to provide financial information was not a material misrepresentation and, therefore, concluded that the modification of Prescott’s child-support obligation could not be applied to a period earlier than the date of service of the county’s motion. 

In Gully, the supreme court discussed “material misrepresentation” within the meaning of section 518.64.  599 N.W.2d at 820-21.  The court concluded that, first, a party must have made a misrepresentation, which can be either “an affirmative statement that is itself false” or “concealing or not disclosing certain facts that render the facts that are disclosed misleading.”  Id. at 821 (quoting M.H. v. Caritas Family Servs., 488 N.W.2d 282, 289 (Minn. 1992)).  Second, the misrepresentation must be material, that is, “relat[ing] to a matter upon which a [party] could be expected to rely.”  Id. (citation omitted). 

In 1994, Prescott was ordered to provide annually copies of his income tax returns to both Thordson and the county.  Additionally, Prescott was required to provide documentation every three months disclosing his income from any source.  The record shows that Prescott did not provide the required financial information and that his income was substantially greater than he had previously disclosed.  The failure of a party to comply with a child-support order requiring future disclosure of financial information is a misrepresentation because the failure renders previously disclosed financial information incomplete and misleading.  Id.; see Johnson v. Johnson, 533 N.W.2d 859, 866 (Minn. App. 1995).  We conclude, therefore, that Prescott made a misrepresentation.

Prescott’s failure to comply with the 1994 order clearly is material.  Prescott’s misrepresentation defeated the purpose of the order, which was to monitor Prescott’s income continuously and give Thordson and the county the opportunity to seek modification of Prescott’s child-support obligation.   

Prescott alleges that because neither the county nor Thordson requested that he comply with the 1994 order requiring financial disclosure, he did not “actively misrepresent” his income.  Therefore, he argues, retroactive modification to a date earlier than the date of service of the county’s motion would be “unfair” because he “did not do anything willfully wrong in this case.” 

In making this argument, Prescott misconstrues the policy underlying modification of child-support obligations.  The purpose of child support is to serve the best interests of the child.  See Tammen v. Tammen, 289 Minn. 28, 30, 182 N.W.2d 840, 842 (1970).  Allowing a party to seek modification of a child-support obligation is a recognition that material changes in circumstances may occur over time.  See Angelos v. Angelos, 367 N.W.2d 518, 519 (Minn. 1985).  Whether an obligor has “actively” misrepresented his income is irrelevant to whether retroactive modification serves the best interests of the child.  And to preclude modification retroactive to a date earlier than service of the motion for modification merely because an obligor failed to provide court-ordered financial disclosures would unfairly shift from the obligor to the obligee the burden of ensuring compliance with the order.  Cf. Johnson, 533 N.W.2d at 866 (stating that requiring obligee to make requests for financial disclosures required by order undermines effectiveness of order and unfairly places burden and expense on obligee of preserving child’s right to support). 

Because Prescott’s failure to comply with the 1994 order was a misrepresentation, and the misrepresentation of his income was material to the amount of his child-support obligation, we conclude that the district court abused its discretion when it found that Prescott had not made a material misrepresentation within the meaning of section 518.64.  We therefore reverse and remand the issue of retroactive modification for the district court to determine, in light of Prescott’s material misrepresentation, whether applying the modification of Prescott’s child-support obligation retroactively to a date earlier than the date of service of the county’s motion is appropriate under section 518.64.  The court may, in its sole discretion, reopen the record for the purpose of resolving this issue.

II.        Child-Care Costs.

            The county also claims that because the testimony provided by the county’s witness regarding child-care costs was “uncontroverted,” the district court erred by refusing to modify the child-support decree to require that Prescott pay a portion of Thordson’s child-care expenses.  Whether to grant or deny a motion for modification “is within the sound discretion of the [district] court and will not be reversed in the absence of  ‘an abuse of discretion in the sense that the order is arbitrary or unreasonable.’”  Meier v. Connelly, 378 N.W.2d 812, 818 (Minn. App. 1985) (quoting Bledsoe v. Bledsoe, 344 N.W.2d 892, 895 (Minn. App. 1984)).  

Before modifying a child-support order to include child-care costs, a district court “shall require * * * documentation of child care expenses.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) (1998); see id., subd. 1(a) (providing that section 518.551 is applicable to all proceedings involving a support order).  A party seeking to modify a decree bears the burden of proof.  Meier, 378 N.W.2d at 818.  And it is well settled that judging witness credibility is within the exclusive province of the fact-finder.  See, e.g., State v. Johnson, 568 N.W.2d 426, 435 (Minn. 1997); General v. General, 409 N.W.2d 511, 513 (Minn. App. 1987).  Thus, a fact-finder is not required to accept as true the testimony of a witness “merely because [her] testimony is uncontradicted.”  Costello v. Johnson, 265 Minn. 204, 211, 121 N.W.2d 70, 76 (1963).  Here, a county child-support officer testified that, on the basis of vouchers submitted to the county by Thordson’s day-care providers, the officer estimated Thordson’s annual child-care costs to be $3,900.  The county did not submit the vouchers or any other evidence of past expenditures, except for a worksheet prepared by the child-support officer presenting her conclusion that Thordson’s total annual child-care costs were $3,900.     

Because the county presented no evidence other than the testimony and summary report of the child-support officer and judging the credibility of the officer’s testimony is within the exclusive province of the district court, we conclude that the district court’s denial of the county’s motion was not arbitrary or unreasonable and that the court did not abuse its broad discretion by denying the motion to require that Prescott’s child-support obligation include the requested child-care costs.

III.       Medical and Dental Reimbursement.

The county alleges that the district court erred by not requiring Prescott to reimburse Thordson for the cost of medical- and dental-insurance coverage for the parties’ child.  But because the county cites no legal authority and offers no legal analysis in support of its claim of error, we decline to address this issue.  See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 128.02, subd. 1(d) (providing that appellant’s argument in a formal brief must be accompanied by citations to relevant authority); State, Dep’t of Labor and Indus. v. Wintz Parcel Drivers, Inc., 558 N.W.2d 480, 480 (Minn. 1997) (declining to address issue not adequately briefed); Whalen ex rel. Whalen v. Whalen, 594 N.W.2d 277, 282 (Minn. App. 1999) (declining to address issue unsupported by legal analysis or citation to relevant law).

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.


[1] We note that while the case before us is captioned “Kimberly M. Thordson,” the record contains an affidavit from Ms. Thordson stating that her legal name is Kim Michelle Thordson.