This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






Itasca County Health and Human Services,



Diana K. Krueth,





Rodney J. Trunzo,



Filed July 31, 2001


Harten, Judge


Itasca County District Court

File No. F1-93-50019


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


Heidi M. Chandler, Assistant County Attorney, Itasca County Attorney’s Office, 123 Northeast Fourth Street, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 (for plaintiff)


Mark T. Groettum, 402 East Howard, Suite 7, Box 764, Hibbing, MN 55746 (for appellant)


Douglas G. Sauter, Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd., 400 Northtown Financial Plaza, 200 Coon Rapids Boulevard, Coon Rapids, MN 55433 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




Appellants, an obligee parent and Itasca County Human Services, challenge the amount of the child support to be paid by respondent obligor and the award to him of the dependency tax exemption.  Because we see no abuse of discretion and no error of law, we affirm.



When appellant Diana Krueth and respondent Rodney Trunzo had their child, T.S., respondent already had two children, R.T. and A.T.  They live with him, while T.S. lives with appellant.  The district court order set respondent’s monthly child support for T.S. at $246; later, a cost-of-living adjustment raised it to $261.

Appellants sought to increase child support to $669 per month.  The child support magistrate (CSM) held a hearing, then set support at $598.  Following respondent’s district court challenge, this obligation was reduced to $419 and respondent was awarded the dependency exemption for T.S. 

Appellants challenge the award, contending that the district court (1) violated Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 372.05, subd. 2, by making new findings without reviewing the transcript of the initial proceedings, (2) abused its discretion in using the “reduced ability approach” to determine respondent’s obligation, (3) made inadequate findings to support the obligation, and (4) abused its discretion in awarding respondent the dependency exemption.



1.         Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 372.05, subd. 2


Statutory construction is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.  Brookfield Trade Ctr., Inc. v. County of Ramsey, 584 N.W.2d 390, 393 (Minn. 1998).  Appellants argue that the district court erred by amending the CSM’s findings and reducing the award without reviewing a transcript of the hearing before the CSM.  But Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 372.05, subd. 5, provides that “[a] transcript of the hearing in dispute is not required, but may be ordered by a party.”  Here, neither party ordered a transcript.  See Blonigen v. Blonigen, 621 N.W.2d 276, 282 (Minn. App. 2001) (“Because neither party chose to submit a transcript, the district court did nothing improper when it reached its decision without reviewing a transcript.”), review denied (Minn. Mar. 13, 2001).

The district court did not violate Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 372.05, subd. 5, by amending the findings without a transcript.[1]

2.         The “Reduced Ability” Approach

            This court will reverse a district court’s order modifying child support only when it is convinced “that the [district] 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).

            Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) (2000), provides that, when calculating an obligor’s net income for the purpose of setting a child support obligation, a court shall deduct from total monthly income a "Child Support * * * Order that is Currently Being Paid.”  Mancuso v. Mancuso, 417 N.W.2d 668 (Minn. App. 1988), construes this provision to include support for previous children. 

The effect of blindly applying guidelines in cases which involve both public assistance and an obligor who has children from a previous marriage is tantamount to a declaration that a parent’s obligation to these prior children will be recognized only when these children reside elsewhere than with the obligor and the obligor is under a court order of child support.  We cannot accept that the legislature would have intended such an inequitable application of the statute.

Id. at 673.  See also Hayes v. Hayes, 473 N.W.2d 364, 366 (Minn. App. 1991) (reversing and remanding because first two children from a prior marriage were receiving less than third child and noting that “especially for a prior obligation involving only one or two children, deference to the prior obligation will produce a guideline calculation giving the older children at least as much as the later-born child.”); D’Heilly v. Gunderson, 428 N.W.2d 133, 135-36 (Minn. App. 1988) (reversing and remanding for a child support award that “does not exceed support awarded to the two prior children”); Wollschlager v. Wollschlager, 395 N.W.2d 134, 135 n.1 (Minn. App. 1986) (“Under a * * * ‘reduced ability’ approach, the trial court applies the guidelines for the number of children involved in the proceedings, but only after reducing the obligor’s net monthly income by the amount of the prior support order.”).

            The district court here used this approach.  Respondent’s monthly income was determined to be $2,393.  The guideline support (30%) for two children based on that amount rounds off to $718, and respondent’s monthly income reduced by that amount is $1,675.  Guideline support for one child based on the reduced income is 25%, and rounds off to $419.[2] 

            Appellants’ claim that T.S. is entitled to $598, or 25% of respondent’s monthly income, ignores the existence and needs of respondent’s other children and violates Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b).  There was no abuse of discretion in setting respondent’s child support for T.S. at $419.

3.         Adequacy of the Findings

            Appellants cite Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 372.05, subd. 2, and Gully v. Gully, 371 N.W.2d 63 (Minn. App. 1985), to argue that the district court erred by not making specific findings.   Neither source supports appellants’ point.

            Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 372.05, subd. 2, provides that a district court judge “need only make specific findings or conclusions with respect to the provisions [of the magistrate’s decision] that are modified.”  Here, the district court judge found that respondent has two older children and that those children were not taken into consideration when respondent’s obligation for T.S. was calculated.  No other finding was necessary to support the modification.

Contrary to appellants’ argument, Gully, 371 N.W.2d at 65, holds that a determination of income must be supported by some findings and cannot be a “mere conclusion.”  The district court’s determination here is supported by findings and calculations; it is not a “mere conclusion” and the findings are sufficient to support it.

 4.        The Dependency Exemption

The district court awarded the tax exemption for T.S. to respondent because appellant Krueth “is unemployed and would not benefit from claiming [T.S.] as a dependent for tax purposes * * * .”  Appellant does not argue that she would benefit, but claims first that the district court had no jurisdiction over the matter because the magistrate did not rule on it and second that, as T.S.’s custodial parent, federal law entitles her to the exemption. 

Respondent used a form provided by the district court to file his motion for review of the magistrate’s decision.  The form presented statements to be completed.  One statement was “I request that the * * * Judge issue an amended Order.  In addition, I would like the Order to say * * * .”  Respondent completed this statement with the phrase, “Who can claim [T.S.] for tax purposes.”  Appellant was served with respondent’s motion and made no objection to it.  The district court properly reviewed the issue that respondent requested. 

Appellant’s argument that federal law entitles her to the tax exemption for T.S. is also without merit.

The Internal Revenue Code states that upon dissolution of a marriage the parent with primary custody of a minor child is entitled to claim the child as a dependent.  26 U.S.C. § 152(e)(1) (2000).  The code does not preclude state district courts from allocating tax dependency exemptions to a noncustodial parent incident to the determination of child support and physical custody.


Rogers v. Rogers, 622 N.W.2d 813, 823 (Minn. 2001).  Particularly in light of the fact that appellant would not benefit from the exemption, the district court did not err in awarding the exemption to respondent.

            There was no abuse of discretion in setting the amount of respondent’s child support obligation and no error in awarding the tax exemption to respondent.


[1] Appellants also raise two other arguments.  First, they claim that Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 372.05, subd. 2, is an unconstitutional deprivation of due process, but they did not present this argument to the district court, and constitutional arguments not presented to the district court will not be considered for the first time on appeal.  St. Paul Citizens for Human Rights v. City Council, 289 N.W.2d 402, 407 (Minn. 1979).  Therefore, we do not address this argument.  Second, appellants argue that the evidence respondent submitted to the district court was not admissible.  They rely on Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 372.05, subd. 4, providing that a party seeking review of a CSM’s order must not submit additional evidence “unless the * * * district court judge, upon written or oral notice to all parties, requests additional evidence.”  The Motion for Review form that respondent submitted required him to disclose any new information he would like to present and was unable to submit at the time of the hearing.  Respondent completed this form and served a copy on appellants.  Thus, the additional evidence was requested and notice was provided to the opposing parties.  Appellants’ argument is without merit.


[2] We note that the district court’s order gives T.S. $419 while respondent’s two older children each have only $359 and that respondent’s total child support is $1,137, or 48% of his income, while guideline support for three children at his income level is only 35%.