This opinion will be unpublished and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
Lorri Lynn Schreader, petitioner,
Mark Lee Schreader,
Reversed and remanded
Goodhue County District Court
File No. F6893390
David W. VanDerHeyden, VanDerHeyden & Ruffalo, P.A., Suite 218, Market Place Center, 1915 Highway 52 North, PO Box 6535 Rochester, MN 55903-6535 (for respondent)
David T. Redburn, Suite 207, 8525 Edinbrook Crossing, Brooklyn Park, MN 55443 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Mullaly, Judge.[*]
The district court granted Lorri Schreader's motion for entry of judgment on Mark Schreader's child-support arrears, including arrears computed for extended periods during which the children lived with Mark Schreader. Because Minnesota law permits a court to conclude that a child-support obligation is satisfied when an obligor provides a home, care, and support for a child with the obligee's consent, we reverse and remand.
F A C T S
The 1989 judgment dissolving Mark and Lorri Schreader's marriage provided that Lorri Schreader would have sole physical custody of the Schreader's two minor children and that Mark Schreader would pay monthly support at the guideline's amount of $565. Although the legal provision for physical custody and child support was unchanged from 1989 until December 1995, the actual physical custody of the children was in flux from December 1990 until May 1997 when the younger child reached age 18.
The older child moved in with Mark Schreader in December 1990. In January 1991, Lorri and Mark Schreader signed an agreement addressed to the "child support office" that stated Mark Schreader would pay Lorri Schreader $200 monthly as child support for the younger child. The younger child moved in with Lorri Schreader's parents in October 1993 and Mark Schreader agreed to make the $200 monthly payment to the grandparents. In December 1993, the older child reached age 18. The younger child moved back to his mother's house in October 1994. In December 1995, the district court transferred physical custody of the younger child to Mark Schreader, suspended his child-support obligation, and reserved a determination on Lorri Schreader's support obligation until August 1996. The younger child reached age 18 in May 1997.
In December 2000, Lorri Schreader moved to find Mark Schreader in contempt for failure to pay child-support arrears amounting to $30,790, plus interest and attorneys' fees. Mark Schreader opposed the motion, contending that the Schreaders had agreed to suspend support when each had a child living with them and that he should not be required to pay arrears for the periods the children lived with him.
In a February 2001 order, the district court rejected the motion to hold Mark Schreader in contempt, but ordered that he pay Lorri Schreader $27,418.78 in support arrears and $4,348.78 interest on the arrears. The court denied Lorri Schreader's request for attorneys' fees and costs and disbursements. Mark Schreader appeals from the judgment.
D E C I S I O N
Generally, a modification of child support may be made retroactive only for the period during which the modification motion is pending. Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(d) (2000). This provision must be read, however, in tandem with Minn. Stat.§ 518.57, subd. 3 (2000), which permits a court to conclude that an obligor has satisfied a child-support obligation by providing a home, care, and support for the child when the child has been integrated into the obligor's family with the consent of the obligee. Id.
At the hearing on the motion to enter judgment on the arrears, Lorri Schreader's attorney maintained that it would be an impermissible retroactive modification of child support for the court to conclude that Mark Schreader had satisfied his child-support obligation by providing support and care for the children while they were living in his home. Mark Schreader's attorney, not the same attorney representing him in this appeal, provided no contrary authority. Apparently, both attorneys were unaware that Minn. Stat. § 518.57, subd. 3 permits in-home care and support to satisfy a child-support obligation under specified circumstances.
Notwithstanding the provisions of Minn. Stat § 518.57, subd. 3 allowing in-home care and support to satisfy a child-support obligation, Lorri Schreader contends that Mark Schreader is entitled to no relief for two reasons. First, because he failed to make post-trial motions and second, because he did not raise the "issue" of Minn. Stat. § 518.57 subd. 3 in the district court and now raises it for the first time on appeal.
We reject both arguments. First, the postdissolution motion on arrears involved argument by counsel and no oral testimony from witnesses. Thus, it was not a trial that would provide a basis for post-trial motions. Erickson v. Erickson, 430 N.W.2d 499, 500 n.1 (Minn. App. 1988). Second, the issue addressed by Minn. Stat. § 518.57, subd. 3 is not a new issue raised on appeal, but precisely the issue that was raised and decided in the district court. We are obligated to decide cases based on the most complete review of all applicable authority. See State v. McCuiston, 514 N.W.2d 802, 806 n.1 (Minn. App. 1994) (appellate court obliged to decide cases based on the most complete review of all applicable authority), review denied (Minn. Jun 15, 1994). An appellate court's responsibility to decide cases in accordance with the law is not diluted by counsels' oversights, lack of research, or failure to cite relevant authorities. State v. Hannuksela, 452 N.W.2d 668, 673 n. 7 (Minn. 1990).
A district court's decision on support-related matters is discretionary, and, on appeal, we review the decision for abuse of discretion. Rogers v. Rogers, 622 N.W.2d 813, 822 (Minn. 2001) (modification of support); Tell v. Tell, 383 N.W.2d 678, 681 (Minn. 1986) (relating to payment of arrearages). But whether a child is integrated into a parent's home with the consent of the other parent is a question of fact. See Greenlaw v. Greenlaw, 396 N.W.2d 68, 71 (Minn. App. 1986) (stating that existence of integration reviewed on clearly erroneous standard applicable to factual determinations). Similarly, the determination of the amount that an obligor has provided for a child living with the obligor is a question of fact that must be determined by the district court, not an appellate court. Kucera v. Kucera, 275 Minn. 252, 254, 146 N.W.2d 181, 183 (1966) (stating that it is not within the province of appellate courts to determine fact issues on appeal).
The district court apparently accepted counsels' positions that the applicable law did not permit Mark Schreader to satisfy his child-support obligation by providing support to his children when they resided with him and, therefore, did not make findings on whether, or for what periods, the children were integrated into Mark Schreader's family with the consent of Lorri Schreader. Therefore, we reverse and remand to permit the court to make additional findings, and, if necessary, to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether Mark Schreader satisfied part of his child-support obligation through in-home support and care.
Reversed and remanded.
[*] Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.