This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:
Donna L. Streier,
Douglas A. Streier,
Winona County District Court
File No. F7-95-1592
Mary Anne Kircher, Laura J. Seaton, Bosshard & Associates, 505 King Street, Suite 334, LaCrosse, WI 54602 (for appellant)
James R. Forsythe, Streater & Murphy, 64 East Fourth Street, Winona, MN 55987 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
The district court denied appellant’s motion to modify visitation and support. We affirm.
Respondent Donna Streier and appellant Douglas Streier were married in 1977. On March 18, 1997, the district court dissolved the parties' marriage pursuant to their stipulated agreement. Respondent was granted sole physical custody of the parties’ daughter, appellant was granted sole physical custody of their son, and a visitation schedule was set. The decree contained a provision allowing the parties to mutually agree to alter the schedule.
In 1996, respondent earned annual wages of $18,787.13 and appellant, $42,302.99. Respondent was awarded monthly child support of $200, which was not to be modified unless either her “earned annual income” increased by $10,000 or appellant's “earned annual income” decreased by more than $10,000 over their 1996 incomes. Under the decree, both parties were required to provide income information to the other upon request. Each party was required to pay for the expenses of the child in his or her custody.
The parties’ marital home, which contained a rental unit, was awarded to respondent who received all rent from the rental unit after June 1, 1997. A year after the dissolution, respondent and the parties’ daughter moved to a rented home and rented out the entire former marital residence. In April 1999, respondent bought another rental property, from which she continues to receive rental income. Respondent and her current fiancé have refurbished the rental properties.
In 1999, respondent's earned income was $24,746.10, but even after mortgage payments, depreciation, and expenses her additional income from rents was $12,837. The parties’ daughter turned 18 on February 15, 2000 and is no longer eligible for child support. Their son spends most of his time at appellant’s house; the stipulated visitation schedule is no longer being followed. Appellant, on July 25, 2000, moved to restrict respondent’s visitation and obtain $810 per month in child support. The district court found that neither the parties’ nor their son’s needs have substantially increased or decreased and that respondent’s earned income had not increased by more than $10,000 over her 1996 income. The district court then denied both of appellant’s motions and this appeal followed.
Appellant first alleges that the district court erred by not amending the visitation schedule contained in the dissolution decree. The district court has extensive discretion in deciding visitation questions and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Olson v. Olson, 534 N.W.2d 547, 550 (Minn. 1995).
Appellant argues that because their son no longer visits respondent on alternate weekends as provided in the visitation schedule, the schedule should be modified to reflect actual visitation. Such insubstantial changes in visitation rights are governed by the best interest standard. Lutzi v. Lutzi,485 N.W.2d 311, 315 (Minn. App. 1992).
The stipulated dissolution decree contains a flexible visitation provision that allows the parties to voluntarily alter the schedule. Even if respondent is not taking full advantage of her visitation rights under that schedule, appellant has shown no reason why a reduction in the respondent’s permitted visitation is in the child’s best interest. Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the request to modify visitation.
Appellant next argues that the district court erred by denying his request to modify child support. He seeks child support payments from respondent arguing that there has been a substantial change in circumstances because (1) there has been a change in visitation, (2) respondent's yearly income has increased by more than $10,000, and (3) the needs of the child have increased.
We 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 resolving the matter in a manner “that is against the logic and the facts on the record.” Gully v. Gully, 599 N.W.2d 814, 820 (Minn. 1999) (quotation omitted).
Here, under the decree, respondent was not required to make payments for her son’s support. The decree provided, in relevant part, that the support obligations were not to be modified unless respondent's “earned annual income” increased by $10,000 over her 1996 income. It is undisputed that respondent’s yearly wages have not increased by more than $10,000 since 1996. However, respondent’s yearly annual income, including her rental income, has increased more than $10,000 since 1996. In denying appellant’s motion, the district court interpreted “earned annual income” to refer to income from wages only.
“On appeal, the district court's construction of its own decree has great weight.” Mikoda v. Mikoda, 413 N.W.2d 238, 242 (Minn. App. 1987) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Dec. 22, 1987). Here, the same judge that denied appellant’s motion also entered the original dissolution decree. The district court is therefore entitled to deference when interpreting the terms of the decree. The court’s construction is supported by the Internal Revenue Code which defines “earned income” as “wages, salaries, tips, and other employee compensation” plus earnings from self-employment. 26 U.S.C. § 32(c)(2)(A) (1996). Income from self-employment specifically excludes rental income from real estate. 26 U.S.C. § 1402(a)(1) (1996).
This analysis does not end the inquiry, however. The terms of a stipulated decree regarding child support obligations is only one factor in modification motions. Miller v. Miller,415 N.W.2d 920, 923 (Minn. App. 1987). Upon a motion to modify a child support award, the district court must first determine whether a change in circumstances exists that renders the original order unreasonable and unfair. Minn. Stat. § 518.64 subd. 2(a) (2000); Marx v. Marx, 409 N.W.2d 526, 527-28 (Minn. App. 1987). A presumption of such exists if
the application of the child support guidelines * * * to the current circumstances of the parties results in a calculated court order that is at least 20 percent and at least $50 per month higher or lower than the current support order.
Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(b)(1).
Here, appellant claims that because their daughter is emancipated and generates no support obligations, respondent, who currently has no support obligation, would now owe more than $50 per month in child support under the guidelines. Therefore, the presumption would apply and respondent should now be required to provide support payments for their son.
But even where, as here, a change in circumstances is presumed, the corresponding presumption of the current support order’s unreasonableness and unfairness may be rebutted. Minn. Stat. § 518.64, Subd. 2(b). To determine whether this statutory presumption has been rebutted, the district court must evaluate and make findings regarding the circumstances of the custodial parent, the obligor, and the child. Bock v. Bock, 506 N.W.2d 321, 324 (Minn. App. 1993). Here, the district court found no evidence that the parties’ or their son’s needs have substantially increased over the time since the decree was entered. Furthermore, appellant’s monthly net income exceeds his and his son’s living expenses by over $400. The district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the terms of the original order were not unreasonable or unfair, and that the child’s best interests are not compromised by honoring the parties’ agreement contained in the decree on child support.