This opinion will be unpublished and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

C7-01-2097

 

In re:

Lynn Williams, petitioner,

Appellant,

 

vs.

 

Gerald S. Buchanan,

Respondent.

 

Filed August 20, 2002

Affirmed
Klaphake, Judge

 

St. Louis County District Court

File No. F08961160

 

Peter James Nickitas, Nickitas Law Office, 28 Orme Court, St. Paul, MN  55116 (for appellant)

 

Gerald J. Brown, Aaron R. Bransky, Brown, Andrew & Signorelli, P.A., 300 Alworth Building, Duluth, MN  55811 (for respondent)

 

            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Hanson, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

KLAPHAKE, Judge

            In this paternity action, appellant Lynn Williams challenges a district court order denying her request for lying-in expenses, attorney fees, and child support arrearages.  Appellant also challenges the court’s reservation of the issues of insurance and child support for a later hearing.  Because the lying-in expenses, child support arrearages, and attorney fees issues have been previously litigated, the district court’s prior decisions on those issues are res judicata.  Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in reserving the issues of child support and insurance, we affirm.

D E C I S I O N

            1.         Lying-in Expenses

            Appellant argues that the district court erred in not ordering respondent Gerald Buchanan to pay her lying-in expenses.  The district court found appellant’s claim for maternity expenses barred by res judicata because her original motion for these expenses was previously considered and denied.  We agree.

            Once there is an adjudication on the merits of an issue, it is conclusive and should not be relitigated.  Loo v. Loo, 520 N.W.2d 740, 744 (Minn. 1994).  Res judicata requires (1) a final judgment on the merits;  (2) identical parties or parties in privity; and (3) a second suit involving the same cause of action.  Myers v. Price, 463 N.W.2d 773, 776 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. Feb. 4, 1991).  This court reviews de novo whether res judicata applies to a given set of facts.  G.A.W., III v. D.M.W., 596 N.W.2d 284, 287 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. Sept. 28, 1999). 

            Because the claim for lying-in expenses arises from the same cause of action between the same parties, the only question in the res judicata analysis is if there was a final judgment on the merits.  The record reveals that appellant moved for lying-in expenses in March 1994 and again in January 1995; both motions were denied.  In March 1995, this court dismissed an appeal from the January 1995 order because it was interlocutory and premature.  Appellant brought another motion in June 1999, in which she did not raise the issue of lying-in expenses.  In its November 1999 order, the district court noted that appellant’s motion did not address lying-in expenses until later submissions and its consideration was narrowed to the relief originally requested.  Appellant sought review of the November 1999 order, and this court concluded that the appeal was premature because of an outstanding issue of visitation.  After resolution of the visitation issue in November 2000, an appealable final judgment was entered from which no appeal was taken. 

            In June 2001, appellant brought another motion requesting her lying-in expenses.  In the October 10, 2001 order on appeal here, the district court concluded that appellant’s motion for lying-in expenses was barred by res judicata.  Even if either the 1994 or 1995 order was not a final judgment on the merits, the November 1999 order became final after the visitation issue was resolved and a final judgment was entered.  While the November 1999 order specifically stated that appellant did not raise the lying-in expense issue, res judicata operates as an absolute bar to a subsequent suit on the same cause of action, both as to claims actually litigated and as to claims or defenses that might have been litigated.  Howe v. Nelson, 271 Minn. 296, 301, 135 N.W.2d 687, 691 (1965).  Because appellant could have challenged the court’s refusal to consider her request for lying-in expenses in an appeal from the judgment entered on the November 1999 order, we affirm the district court’s determination that res judicata applies here. 

            2.         Attorney Fees

            Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion in an earlier award of attorney fees.  The district court concluded that appellant’s claim for attorney fees also was barred by res judicata because her original motion for fees was addressed in the November 1999 order.  Again, because appellant did not challenge the final judgment on that order, the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to now consider her motion for attorney fees.

            3.         Child Support Arrearages

            Appellant also argues that the district court abused its discretion in an earlier award of child support arrearages.  Appellant originally requested increased retroactive child support in December 1994.  In January 1995, appellant challenged the order denying the request for increased child support, and this court dismissed the appeal as premature.  In June 1999, appellant filed another motion for retroactive child support.  The November 1999 order directed respondent to pay $21,500 to appellant in retroactive child support, based on its calculation of arrearages of “$500.00 per month ($1,000.00 ordered less $500.00 paid) for 43 months (May 1996 -- November 1999 inclusive).  43 months x $500.00 = $21,500.00.” 

            Again, because appellant did not challenge the judgment entered on the November 1999 order, she is now barred from raising this issue.  The district court therefore did not abuse its discretion in refusing to consider appellant’s motion for child support arrearages.

            4.         Child Support

            Appellant contends that the district court abused its discretion in setting child support unreasonably low.  The district court has considerable discretion in determining child support obligations.  Broas v. Broas, 472 N.W.2d 671, 673 (Minn. App. 1991).  Whether to modify a child support obligation lies in the district court’s broad discretion and will not be reversed unless the court reached a result that is against logic and the facts on the record.  Moylan v. Moylan, 384 N.W.2d 859, 864 (Minn. 1986). 

            The district court order reserved all motions for child support, including respondent’s motion for a downward departure, pending receipt of supplemental affidavits and further hearing.  A hearing date was set for February 2002.  Because this appeal was pending, the parties agreed to cancel the hearing.  The court has the authority to reserve jurisdiction over child support if the record supports its determination that there is insufficient information on which the court must make its findings.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 3 (2000) (providing that “the court shall make such further order as it deems just and proper concerning * * * their support”); Fernandez v. Fernandez, 373 N.W.2d 636, 639 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding district court did not abuse its discretion by reserving child support).

            The district court has ordered sworn affidavits setting forth respondent’s gross receipts from 2002 to the present, an itemized statement of all claimed expenses with supporting documentation, and identification of any other income received in that time period.  Without this information and documentation from the parties, the district court determined that it could not make a decision regarding child support.  In light of the court’s broad discretion, we conclude that there was no abuse of discretion.

            5.         Medical and Dental Insurance

            Finally, appellant contends that the district court erred in not ordering respondent to pay the child’s past medical expenses and to pay for continuing medical and dental insurance.  The district court reserved the issues of medical and dental insurance coverage pending receipt of supplemental affidavits and further hearing.  The court ordered the parties to serve and file affidavits identifying the name of any insurers available to the parties through employment, the benefits provided by the policies, the co-pay or deductibles associated with the policies, and the cost to the insured.

            Again, the district court determined that it needed this information in order to make a just and proper decision.  We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in reserving these issues pending receipt of the information set forth in the ordered affidavits.

            The district court’s decision is affirmed.

            Affirmed.