This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
COURT OF APPEALS
Katie E. Michon,
Jeffrey Matthew Bloomquist,
Filed April 24, 2001
Reversed and remanded.
St. Louis County District Court
File No. F1-93-650217
Jeffrey Matthew Bloomquist, 4417-16th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55407 (pro se appellant)
None (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Willis, Judge.
Pro se appellant-father seeks review of the district court’s child-support order alleging that the district court, in calculating father’s income, should have allowed him deductions for repayment of his student loans and a contribution to his retirement plan, and failed to adequately explain its findings. We reverse and remand.
In 1992, Katie E. Michon and Jeffrey M. Bloomquist had a child together. A child support order was entered on January 11, 1994, under which Bloomquist paid $105 per month. At the time, Bloomquist was in college in Duluth, living with his parents who paid his daily living expenses. On June 17, 1997, the child support order was modified when Bloomquist left his parents' home to attend graduate school in Winona. Under the modified order, Bloomquist paid $133.50 per month for the child's support and insurance. Bloomquist graduated with a master’s degree in May 1999 and began working full-time as a long-range planner for Rice County in June 1999.
Based on a substantial change in circumstances, the St. Louis County Attorney filed a motion to modify child support on April 5, 2000. A hearing was held before a child support magistrate who raised Bloomquist’s child support obligation to $478 per month, then reduced to $447 to account for Michon’s share of the child’s private medical insurance. The magistrate also ordered Bloomquist to obtain and maintain private medical insurance at $80 per month for the child and reimburse 61% of the child’s unreimbursed medical expenses.
In determining the support obligation, the magistrate found Bloomquist’s net monthly income from wages to be $1,911 after allowable deductions from his gross income. The permitted deductions included $140 for voluntary retirement contributions to his employer’s qualified plan, $140 for mandatory Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) pension contributions, and $80 for medical insurance for the child. Although Bloomquist was contributing $280 per month to his voluntary retirement plan, the magistrate concluded that his deduction should be limited to $140 and, on appeal, Bloomquist accepts that determination. The magistrate denied Bloomquist’s request for a downward modification on account of his college and graduate school loan payments.
Bloomquist requested a review of the magistrate’s order under Minn. R. Pract. 372.01, .02. On review, the district court found Bloomquist’s net income to be $1,949.04 after taking certain deductions from his gross monthly income into account. The district court deviated from the magistrate’s findings and conclusions by allowing a greater deduction for income taxes, a lesser deduction for FICA taxes, no deduction for any contribution to the voluntary retirement plan, and an additional amount for the cost of the child’s medical insurance.
The district court affirmed the magistrate’s decision to disallow any departure from the guidelines for the cost of Bloomquist’s student loans. The court declined to accept Bloomquist’s argument that the student loans should be taken into account because they were incurred for the “generation of income” under Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. d(2) (1998). The district court reasoned that loans for the “generation of income” are for self-employed people who incur costs in meeting their private business obligations.
This appeal followed.
A trial court has broad discretion to provide for the support of the parties’ children. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). An appellate court will reverse a district court's order regarding the modification of child support "only if we are convinced that the court abused its broad discretion by making a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against the logic and the facts on [the] record." Gully v. Gully, 599 N.W.2d 814, 820 (Minn. 1999) (quotation omitted).
Bloomquist contends that the district court erred by not considering his monthly $402 educational loan payments when calculating the amount of child support.
When determining whether to deviate from the child support guidelines, the court may consider debts owed to private creditors, but only if the court determines that the debt was reasonably incurred for necessary support of the child or parent or for the necessary generation of income. Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(d). If a debt is incurred for the necessary generation of income, the court shall consider only the amount of debt that is essential to the continuing generation of income. Id. Interpretation of a statute is a question of law which we review de novo. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985).
In denying a downward modification based on Bloomquist’s educational loan payments, the district court based its decision, in part, on the conclusion that loans for the generation of income are for self-employed people who incur costs in meeting their private business obligations. We conclude that the district court did not correctly interpret section 518.551, subd. 5. The statute contains no such restriction, nor has the supreme court interpreted that statute so narrowly. We conclude that the educational loan may fall into the category of private debts contemplated by the statute and may be considered when determining whether or not to deviate from the guidelines. Although it remains within the district court’s discretion to determine whether to modify the support obligation based on these debts, the court must consider the debts and explain its reasoning if it deviates from the guidelines based on those debts.
Therefore, to the extent that the district court relied on its conclusion that a downward modification for the amount of the educational loan payments was not warranted because Bloomquist was not entitled to such a modification as a matter of law, we reverse and remand for reconsideration.
Bloomquist also claims that the district court miscalculated his net income on which his support obligation is based. First, Bloomquist claims that the district court erred by not allowing a deduction from his gross income for the contributions he made toward his voluntary retirement plan. Second, he asserts that the district court made calculation errors when determining his net income.
The district court is to review a magistrate's decision on child support issues de novo. Blonigen v. Blonigen, 621 N.W.2d 276, 280 (Minn. App. 2001). The district court does not owe any deference to the child support magistrate. Id. However, when modifying a magistrate's finding or provision in a magistrate's order, the district court must make specific findings or conclusions with respect to the provisions that are modified. Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 372.05, subd. 2. Meaningful appellate review is possible only when the trial court makes sufficiently detailed findings showing consideration of all relevant factors. Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989); Merrick v. Merrick, 440 N.W.2d 142, 145 (Minn. App. 1989).
Bloomquist contends that the district court erred by disallowing a deduction from his gross income for his voluntary retirement plan contributions. The magistrate allowed a deduction of $140 for Bloomquist’s voluntary retirement plan contributions and $140 for his mandatory PERA contribution. Normally, an obligor is entitled to a deduction for reasonable pension deductions. Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b)(iv). Reasonable pension deductions, whether voluntary or mandatory, must be excluded when determining net income. State, County of St. Louis v. Tinker, 601 N.W.2d 468, 471 (Minn. App. 1999). However, when making its calculations on review to determine net income, the district court allowed a deduction for the PERA plan, but not for the contribution to the voluntary plan. It made no explanation for doing so.
Bloomquist also contends that the district court erred when determining his monthly gross income. The magistrate determined that Bloomquist’s monthly income was $2,954 and his net income at $1,911. The district court found Bloomquist’s net monthly income to be $1,949.04. When calculating net income, the district court’s findings differed significantly from the magistrate’s findings. The district court’s deduction for federal and state income taxes was significantly more than the amount the magistrate allowed and the FICA deduction was less. The district court allowed a $102 deduction for the cost of the child’s medical insurance provided by Bloomquist’s work, whereas the magistrate had required Bloomquist to take out private medical insurance, which cost $80, and allowed him a deduction for that amount. The district court also came to a different conclusion from the magistrate regarding the amount of Boomquist’s deduction for federal and state income taxes, yet did not explain the rationale for its conclusion and did not provide the method it used for arriving at the figures it did. Generally, when calculating a reduction for an obligor’s federal and state income tax, the "use of tax tables is recommended” and standard income tax deductions apply. Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b). However, in the absence of any support for the district court’s conclusions, we are unable to determine if the findings are appropriate.
The district court’s provisions for the child’s medical insurance and Bloomquist’s deductions also differed from the magistrate’s determinations. Again, the district court provided no explanation for its actions.
In order to adequately understand the district court’s determinations of these matters, we remand to the district court for further action consistent with this opinion.
Reversed and remanded.
Bloomquist erroneously characterizes debt payments as potential deductions from gross income. Private debts are not properly considered as deductions from gross income. Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) (2000) (listing available deductions). Rather, these debts are considered when deciding whether to deviate from the child support guidelines. Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(c).