This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






State of Minnesota Regarding

the Parties:

April Ann Erickson,





Jeffrey Lewis Strobel,

Appellant, and


Ramsey County,



Filed October 9, 2001


Harten, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. F6-92-50502


Lawrence D. Olson, Lawrence D. Olson & Associates, 2860 Snelling Avenue North, Roseville, MN 55113 (for appellant)


Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Kristi Swanson Wendorff, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 415, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for intervenor Ramsey County)


April Ann Erickson, 38544 Oakview Avenue, North Branch, MN 55056-5431 (respondent pro se)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




After Ramsey County sought to establish child support for his minor child, appellant father submitted for approval an unfiled child support stipulation drafted eight years earlier.  The child support magistrate declined to accept the stipulation and set ongoing monthly child support with limited retroactive application.  Appellant challenged the order, and the district court affirmed.  Appellant now argues that the district court erred in declining to accept the stipulation and in retroactively establishing child support.  Because the district court’s decision had a reasonable basis in fact and law, and we see no abuse of discretion, we affirm.  



            Respondent April Ann Erickson gave birth to A.E. in 1990.  In 1992, appellant Jeffrey Strobel was adjudicated to be A.E.’s father.  The district court ordered appellant to pay child support, but did not determine the amount.  In 1993, the parties signed a stipulation setting appellant’s child support at $70 per month. Respondent, who was not represented by counsel, also signed a waiver of attorney that accompanied the stipulation.  Neither party submitted the stipulation for court review or approval at that time. 

Appellant changed jobs in 1993.  His monthly income went from $1,113.72 net at the end of 1993 to $2,065.21 net by late 2000, when Ramsey County served both him and respondent with a summons, complaint, and proposed order to establish child support.  Appellant, however, then submitted the 1993 stipulation for court approval.  Ramsey County intervened in the underlying action.  

            The magistrate found that the stipulation could not be approved without evidence that both parties still agreed to it and ordered a hearing on that issue.  Following the hearing, a successor magistrate entered an order stating that the stipulation was not binding because it had never been submitted for court approval and no standing order for support was ever based on it.  The magistrate also set appellant’s monthly obligation at $572 ($516 in child support based on appellant’s current monthly net monthly income of $2,065.21 and $56 per month for child care expenses) and ordered appellant to pay $10,009 child support retroactively for the two years preceding Ramsey County’s intervention.

Appellant sought review of the support order from the district court, which affirmed.  Appellant now argues that the district court abused its discretion in refusing to accept the 1993 stipulation and in applying support retroactively.[1] 



A district court’s findings on net income for purposes of child support will be affirmed on appeal, if those findings have a reasonable basis in fact and are not clearly erroneous.  State ex. rel. Rimolde v. Tinker, 601 N.W.2d 468, 470 (Minn. App. 1999).  We review the district court’s order confirming a magistrate’s decision on child support under an abuse-of-discretion standard.  See Davis v. Davis, 631 N.W.2d 822, 825-26 (Minn. App. 2001).

1.         1993 Stipulation; Child Support Obligation

Appellant argues that the 1993 stipulation is a binding contract that cannot be repudiated without the consent of both parties and that the stipulated child support amount was reasonable in light of his former income. 

Under Minnesota law, child support agreements relate to “the nonbargainable interests of the children and [are] less subject to restraint by stipulation than other dissolution matters.”  Swanson v. Swanson, 372 N.W.2d 420, 423 (Minn. App. 1985); see also Loscheider v. Loscheider, 563 N.W.2d 331, 334 (Minn. App. 1997) (child support waiver against public policy and therefore unenforceable).  Regardless of any agreement between the parties, a court retains the discretionary power to set child support.  Swanson, 372 N.W.2d at 423.  In setting the amount, the court should be guided by the best interests of the child, even if the case involves a stipulation.  See Tammen v. Tammen, 289 Minn. 28, 30, 182 N.W.2d 840, 842 (1970);LeTendre v. LeTendre, 388 N.W.2d 412, 416 (Minn. App. 1986).

In this case, the district court considered the best interests of the child.[2]  After examining both parties’ net monthly income, the court found that the child has a need for support and that appellant has a duty and the ability to provide child support.   

The district court found, based on a paystub, that appellant’s net monthly income at the time of the stipulation was $1,113.72.  Appellant maintains that the court should have used his monthly net income for his then-previous job, which was only $296.13.   But the last paystub from that job was dated April 18, 1993, almost a month before the parties entered into the stipulation.  The district court did not abuse its discretion when it rejected the 1993 stipulation and declined to calculate child support using appellant’s earlier lower net monthly income.

The district court also made specific findings regarding appellant’s ability to pay child support from his current monthly income of $2,065.21.  Because the district court considered the best interests of the child and found that appellant was and is able to pay more than $70 a month, i.e., $572 per month, we see no abuse of discretion in its child support order.

2.            Application of Modification Statute

            A court may modify a previous order for child support upon the showing of “substantially increased or decreased earnings of a party” or a “substantially increased or decreased need of a * * * child * * * that [is] the subject of these proceedings.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2 (2000).  Appellant relies on this statute to argue that the district court should have modified the child support established in the parties’ stipulation.  Appellant’s reliance is misplaced.  This statute, by its own language, applies in cases where there is an existing child support order.  Here, no court ever set a child support amount.  Furthermore, appellant did not submit the stipulation for court approval until December 5, 2000, after Ramsey County had served him with a complaint to establish child support.  Consequently, the modification statute does not apply.  And, because no order on the stipulation was ever entered, the district court correctly treated this as an establishment of child support case. 

3.            Retroactive Application

Appellant argues that applying the support retroactively is unfair.  However, Minnesota law allows the court to apply retroactive child support for the two years “immediately preceding the commencement of the [child support] action.”  Minn. Stat. § 256.87, subd. 5 (2000).

We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion when setting child support at the guideline amount or in applying the amount retroactively for two years.


[1] Appellant does not contest the amount of ongoing monthly child support or the amount of past support set by the district court beyond his assertion that the court should have accepted the 1993 stipulation. 

[2] With only two minor exceptions, the district court adopted the magistrate’s factual findings and legal conclusions