This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).

 

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C1-02-730

 

 

In re:† L. Sue Gooderum, petitioner,

Appellant,

 

vs.

 

John Lee Gooderum,

Respondent.

 

Filed December 10, 2002

Reversed and remanded

Robert H. Schumacher, Judge

 

Hennepin County District Court

File No. DC226859

 

 

 

Richard D. Goff, Mary E. Cincotta, Richard D. Goff & Associates, 3908 IDS Center, 80 South Eighth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)

 

Ann Morrice Allenson, Goldstein Law Office, P.A., 601 Carlson Parkway, Suite 1050, Minnetonka, MN 55305 (for respondent)

 

 

††††††††††† Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.

 

U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N

ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge

††††††††††† Appellant L. Sue Gooderum (wife) challenges the district courtís order reducing the monthly child support obligation of respondent John Lee Gooderum (husband) and requiring wife to bear the full financial burden of medical and dental insurance for the partiesí two minor children.† Because the child support magistrate made insufficient findings concerning husbandís current income, we reverse and remand.

FACTS

The 11-year marriage of husband and wife was dissolved by a stipulated judgment and decree entered July 13, 1999.† The decree (1) granted wife physical custody of the partiesí two minor children; (2) stated that husbandís earning capacity was $40,000 and set husbandís monthly child-support obligation at $500; and (3) provided that in the future, either party could move the district court to modify husbandís support obligation based upon a de novo review of husbandís ability to pay support.

At the time of the decree, wifeís employer provided her with dental insurance for both children.† The decree provided that husband would purchase dental and medical insurance for the children if such insurance became available through his employer, failing which the parties would purchase the insurance together and be equally responsible for premium costs.

Wife subsequently moved to increase, and husband to decrease, husbandís child support obligation.† At the hearing before a child support magistrate in July 2001, husband testified that he had been supplementing his income with an inheritance from his mother and a federal tax refund, both of unspecified amounts.† Husband also claimed, without support, that he is 33% totally disabled from a 1979 gunshot wound, despite the fact that he stipulated in the 1999 dissolution decree to being ďin good health and capable of self-support.Ē

The magistrate found that husband was fully employed on the basis of a single June 2001 pay stub and husbandís alleged disability.† The magistrate calculated husbandís current net monthly income on the basis of his 2000 tax return, which reflected husbandís income from his previous job.† The magistrate did not conduct a de novo review of husbandís ability to pay support, as required by the dissolution decree.† Instead, the magistrate concluded that the disparity between husbandís 1999 earning capacity and his 2000 actual income rendered the 1999 support order presumptively unreasonable and unfair pursuant to the statutory standard for modifying child support.† See Minn. Stat. ß 518.64, subd. 2 (2002).[1]† The magistrate ordered husbandís monthly child-support obligation reduced to $255.

When wife sought review of the magistrateís decision, the district court adopted that decision by affirming it.† Wife now challenges the district courtís order, arguing that the magistrate erroneously determined husbandís current ability to pay support and altered the dissolution decree to make wife wholly responsible for the childrenís medical insurance.†

D E C I S I O N

We review a district courtís order confirming a magistrateís decision regarding child support under an abuse-of-discretion standard.† Davis v. Davis, 631 N.W.2d 822, 825-26 (Minn. App. 2001).† We will not set aside a district courtís findings of fact unless clearly erroneous and will affirm a finding of net income if it has a reasonable basis in fact.† Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (findings of fact); Strauch v. Strauch, 401 N.W.2d 444, 448 (Minn. App. 1987) (finding of net income).

A party moving for modification of a support order based on a change in circumstances ďmust provide sufficient proof of his present circumstances before any comparison can be made.Ē† Johnson v. Fritz, 406 N.W.2d 614, 616 (Minn. App. 1987).† It is ďessential that magistrates carefully examine the evidence presented by the parties and make thorough and accurate findings of factĒ in determining an obligorís ability to pay support.† See Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 348 (Minn. 2002).

The district courtís determination of husbandís present net income based on his 2000 tax return does not have a reasonable basis in fact.† See Thomas v. Thomas, 407 N.W.2d 124, 127 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that six-month-old tax return does not represent current income for calculation of support obligation).

After determining the obligorís monthly net income and applying the guidelines, a district court ruling on a motion for the modification of a support order must also consider ďall earnings, income, and resources of the parents.Ē† Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(c) (2002).† Here, although husband testified that he supplemented his income with an inheritance and tax refunds, the district court did not consider these resources when determining husbandís ability to pay support.

The district courtís findings were insufficient to support its determination of husbandís current net income and resources or to permit meaningful appellate review.† We conclude that on the record before us, the district court abused its discretion by affirming the magistrateís modification of husbandís support obligation.† We therefore reverse the district courtís order and remand for a determination of husbandís ability to pay support based on the appropriate statutory factors.† The district court may reopen the record and allow the parties to submit new evidence at its discretion.

After determining husbandís current net income, the district court shall determine whether husband is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed.† If it finds that he is, the court shall impute income to husband pursuant to the terms of Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5b(d) (2002).† Having determined husbandís actual or imputed current net income, the court shall determine husbandís support obligation based upon a de novo review of husbandís ability to pay support, as stipulated in the dissolution decree.

The district court also ordered wife to assume full financial responsibility for the childrenís medical insurance costs, finding that husband lacked the ability to contribute to the insurance.† The district court did not find that wife had the ability to pay for the health insurance.†

We reverse and remand the district courtís order as to the childrenís health insurance as based on insufficient findings of husbandís current net income and resources and contrary to the terms of the stipulated dissolution decree, which provides that if husband proves unable to provide group health insurance for the children, the parties shall divide the cost of insurance equally.† On remand, the district court shall apportion the partiesí responsibilities for the childrenís medical insurance based on an appropriate determination of husbandís net income and in a manner consistent with the terms of the dissolution decree.

††††††††††† Reversed and remanded.



[1]† We cite the 2002 versions of the statute sections involved herein, acknowledging that earlier versions were in effect when litigated below.† The current version is not different from the earlier versions in any manner material to this case.