This opinion will be unpublished and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 re the Marriage of:
Nancy Lynn Soderbeck,
f/k/a Nancy Lynn Olsen, petitioner,
Jeffrey W. Olsen,
Filed December 18, 2001
Dakota County District Court
File No. F79012866
Patrick T. Skelly, 1724 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for appellant)
Jeffrey W. Olsen, 15906 Island View Road, Prior Lake, MN 55372 (Pro se respondent)
Considered and decided by, Toussaint, Chief Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In post-dissolution proceedings, the district court awarded respondent-father Jeffrey Olsen 1998 and 2000 tax-dependency exemptions for the parties’ children. Appellant-mother Nancy Soderbeck challenges these awards alleging that, under the judgment, father’s support arrears and his failure to show that he had certain amounts of annual income required, the exemptions to be awarded to her. Because mother has not shown the district court’s findings to be clearly erroneous and because the district court’s award of the exemptions was consistent with the judgment, we affirm.
Citing the part of the 1990 judgment dissolving the parties’ marriage that entitles him to tax-dependency exemptions if, among other things, he was current on his support obligation and had specified amounts of annual income, father moved the court to have mother held in contempt for not executing the forms necessary for father to claim tax dependency exemptions for 1998 and 2000. In March 2001, the district court ruled father was “sufficiently current” in his support obligation to be entitled to the exemptions. After an April 2001 order denied mother’s motion for amended findings, mother appeals.
D E C I S I O N
Father alleges that mother’s appeal of the district court’s March order “is moot” and that the March order was not appealable because it was not final. The March order, among other things, directed mother to execute the documents necessary for father to claim the tax-dependency exemptions. Because this court can grant relief from that order by reversing it, an appeal of the March order is not moot. See In re Schmidt, 443 N.W.2d 824, 826 (Minn. 1989) (stating issue is moot if appellate court lacks ability to grant relief from district court’s ruling). A ruling is “final” when the matter is conclusively terminated as far as the court issuing the ruling is concerned. City of Chaska v. Chaska Township, 271 Minn. 139, 142, 135 N.W.2d 195, 197 (1965). The March order either granted or denied all of the requests for relief that were then pending before the district court. Therefore, it was final. Father also alleges that the April order denying mother’s motion for amended findings was not appealed and cannot be reviewed. While the April order denied mother’s motion for amended findings, it provided an explanation for the ruling in the March order. Therefore, the April order is reviewable under the portion of Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.04 stating that “[o]n appeal from or review of an order the appellate courts may review any order affecting the order from which the appeal is taken[.]”
Mother alleges that the district court erred in awarding father the 1998 and 2000 tax dependency exemptions because father did not prove that, during those years, he was current in his support obligations and had the requisite income. The evidence regarding arrears is unclear, and no affidavit or testimony from a county child-support officer was entered in evidence. Mother submitted an unsworn memorandum from a county employee apparently suggesting that father’s had arrears of $105.91 as of December 31, 2000. Attached to the memorandum is what appears to be a month-by-month table of father’s support obligation and his support payments with a running total of his alleged arrears. The allegation that father had $105.91 in arrears as of December 31, 2000, however, is inconsistent with the attached table which shows father’s arrears at the end of December 2000 were $177.67. Father’s affidavit states that the amount withheld from his December 27, 2000 check was $184.44; more than the amount the table suggests was unpaid at the end of December 2000. Support obligors are deemed to have paid the amounts withheld from their checks for support purposes “as of the date the obligor received the remainder of the income” (here, December 27, 2000). Minn. Stat. § 518.6111 (2000), subd. 5 (b) (2000). An obligor’s employer, however, has seven days from the date it withholds funds to convey them to the county (here, January 3, 2001). Id. Thus, even assuming that there were no delays in processing father’s support payment once it reached the county from his employer, the county’s statement that, as of December 31, 2000, father owed $177.67 does not necessarily mean that he had not paid that amount or more.
Moreover, at least some of the alleged arrears father was paying during 2000 were the result of a July 2000 order retroactively increasing his support obligation. Without more, unpaid support generated by a “retroactive child support award [is] not an ‘arrearage.’” County of Nicollet v. Haakenson, 497 N.W.2d 611, 616 (Minn. App. 1993). Further, the district court may have given limited weight to the county employee’s memorandum and table because, while it is dated January 25, 2001, it apparently indicates that father had arrears for January 2001 (which had yet to end) and for February 2001 (which yet to begin). Given this confused nature of the only evidence suggesting that father had any arrears, we decline to reverse the district court’s ruling that father was “sufficiently current” in his support obligation to satisfy the support prong of the judgment’s exemption provision. We decline to do so cognizant of the fact that the table suggests father’s arrears, as of the end of December 1998, were about twice his then-existing monthly child-support obligation.
Mother alleges that there was no evidence of father’s 2000 income before the district court. The April 2001 order noted the finding of father’s income in the July 2000 support order and functionally adopted that finding. Observing that the difference in the parties’ incomes could produce different tax results depending which party was awarded the dependency exemptions, mother alleges that the district court’s use of the prior finding of father’s income is defective because
[t]he trial court did not analyze the issue on the basis of tax payments but mistakenly equated income used in 1999 for a guidelines support calculation with income from 2000 for a tax exemption income tax purpose.
But the judgment makes the assignment of dependency exemptions contingent on father’s income and his being current in his support obligation, not the relative tax consequences of the possible assignments of the exemptions. Also, the finding of father’s income was earned in 2000, not 1999. Adopting mother’s argument would allow father to have one income for child-support purposes but a different income for purposes of tax-dependency exemptions. Given the close relationship between child support and dependency exemptions, we decline create such a situation. See Biscoe v. Biscoe, 443 N.W.2d 221, 224-25 (Minn. App. 1989) (stating “[d]ependency exemptions are aligned with child support and may be modified upon a showing of a substantial change of circumstances pursuant to section 518.64”). Although there is no explicit, sworn assertion by father in the current proceeding that his 1998 income was within the relevant range, that it was in that range is consistent with COLA notices in the record and is not seriously disputed by mother.
Mother argues that the district court could not have modified the award of the dependency exemptions because it did not follow the substantial-change-in-circumstances analysis for modifying support required by Minn. Stat. § 518.64 (2000). Here, however, the district court did not modify the judgment’s apportionment of the tax-dependency exemptions, rather, it interpreted and applied the provision apportioning those exemptions.
*Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.