This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Kathleen E. Hagerty,
Rodney J. Grau,
Affirmed as modified
Hennepin County District Court
File No. PA33100
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Peter Stiehm, Theresa Farrell-Strauss, Assistant County Attorneys, 110 South Fourth Street, Minneapolis, MN† 55401 (for respondent Hennepin County)
Kathleen E. Hagerty, c/o Okesons, 13167 W. Lake Sallie Drive, Detroit Lakes, MN† 56501 (pro se respondent)
Jason R. Vohnoutka, 3109 Hennepin Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN† 55408 (for appellant)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Wright, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.*
In this child support dispute, appellant challenges the district courtís calculation of his monthly income and argues that the district court abused its discretion by ordering him to contribute toward his childís health insurance and daycare costs without adequate evidentiary support that respondent incurred those costs.† We affirm as modified.
††††††††††† Prior to the action giving rise to this appeal, appellant-father Rodney Grauís child support obligation was $337 per month.† In addition, he contributed $84 per month for medical expenses and $27.78 per month for daycare costs.† Fatherís child support obligation was based on his monthly income of $1,235.60.†
On February 16, 2002, respondent-mother Kathleen Hagerty filed a motion to modify child support based on fatherís increased earnings.† The child support magistrate found that (1) fatherís current base monthly income was $3,505.42; (2) he received $270.01 per month in flex benefits to pay the health coverage costs; and (3) he deducted 14 percent of his base salary per month as his pension contribution.† The magistrate added the flex-benefit amount of $270.01 into fatherís base monthly income of $3,505.42 and subtracted it in full, because father used that amount to pay his monthly health insurance costs of $271.29.† Because the magistrate found that father failed to demonstrate that a pension deduction of 14 percent was reasonable, she allowed only a six-percent deduction.† Finding that the partiesí child was covered under motherís health insurance at a cost of $97.90 per month, the magistrate determined that fatherís contribution toward this cost should be $60.† Based on these considerations, the magistrate determined that fatherís average monthly net income was $2,333.59 after deducting (1) $885.30 for federal and state income tax; (2) $226.53 for pension contribution based on six percent of his base salary; and (3) $60 for the childís health insurance coverage.
The magistrate determined that fatherís increase in income constituted a substantial change in circumstances, rendering fatherís child-support obligation unreasonable.† The magistrate also found that mother paid $78 per month for childcare.† She then ordered father to pay monthly guideline child support in the amount of $583.40, a monthly contribution to medical costs in the amount of $60, and a monthly contribution to childcare costs in the amount of $37.†
††††††††††† On June 4, 2002, father petitioned Hennepin County District Court for review of the order, arguing that the magistrate erred by failing to deduct fatherís medical insurance costs in calculating his monthly net income and setting the amount of his contribution to daycare and health insurance costs without adequate evidentiary support.† On July 25, 2002, the district court affirmed the magistrateís order.† This appeal followed.
The district court has broad discretion to provide for the support of the partiesí children.† Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).† We will not reverse a district courtís determination of net income used to calculate child support if it has a reasonable basis in fact.† Strauch v. Strauch, 401 N.W.2d 444, 448 (Minn. App. 1987).† Interpretation of statutes is subject to de novo review.† Bol v. Cole, 561 N.W.2d 143, 146 (Minn. 1997).†
Under the child support guidelines, an obligorís child support obligation is calculated as a percentage of his or her monthly net income.† Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(b) (2002).† Ordinarily, an obligorís monthly net income is equal to his or her actual monthly gross income minus the deductions specified under the guidelines.† Id.; Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 348 (Minn. 2002).† Those deductions include:
(i) Federal Income Tax
(ii) State Income Tax
(iii) Social Security Deductions
(iv) Reasonable Pension Deductions
(v) Union Dues
(vi) Cost of Dependent Health Insurance Coverage
(vii) Cost of Individual or Group Health/Hospitalization Coverage or an Amount of Actual Medical Expenses
(viii) A Child Support or Maintenance Order that is Currently Being Paid.
Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(b).† Father argues that the district court abused its discretion when it failed to deduct $271.29 in his health insurance costs per month and instead added and then subtracted $270.01 of flex benefits from his base monthly income.† The district court specifically found that fatherís flex benefits were used to pay his health insurance costs.† Without providing any legal support, father contends that the district court erred by adding his flex benefits into his base monthly income without a specific finding that those benefits constituted income.† We disagree.
any form of periodic payment to an individual including, but not limited to, wages, salaries, payments to an independent contractor, workersí compensation, unemployment benefits, annuity, military and naval retirement, pension and disability payments.†
Minn. Stat. ß 518.54, subd. 6 (2002) (emphasis added).† While the statute does not specifically address ďflex benefitsĒ where they are received as a ďperiodic payment,Ē even if restricted to a designated use such as health care coverage, we conclude that they constitute income.† The district court, therefore, did not err in including this amount in fatherís income.† At the same time, we note that the better practice would have been to add $270.01 of flex benefits into fatherís monthly income of $3,505.42 and then subtract the actual $271.29 of health coverage costs.† Because the difference of $1.28 is de minimis, we decline to reverse the district courtís findings on that basis.† See Wibbens v. Wibbens, 379 N.W.2d 225, 227 (Minn. App. 1985) (de minimis error not ground for reversal).†
Father next argues that the district court abused its discretion by ordering him to contribute toward health insurance costs for the partiesí child.† A child support order must assign or reserve the responsibility to maintain health insurance for the dependent child.† Minn. Stat. ß 518.171, subd. 1(a) Ė (c) (2002).† Medical expenses not covered by health insurance may be proportionally allocated based on a partyís income.† Id.† Finding that motherís monthly health insurance cost for the partiesí child was $97.90, the district court set fatherís contribution at $60 per month.†
When fatherís contribution was ordered, the partiesí child was covered under motherís estranged husbandís health insurance at no additional cost to her.† At the time of the child support hearing, mother was in the process of dissolving her marriage.† When the dissolution becomes final, the child no longer will be covered under this health insurance.† Mother submitted evidence showing that the cost for the childís health insurance through motherís employment will be $97.90 per month.† Because mother had no health insurance cost at the time of the modification hearing, we hold that the award of $60 per month was erroneous.† But the triggering event for the health insurance obligation is imminent, and father does not dispute that his contribution should be $60 per month when the expense is incurred.† We, therefore, modify this aspect of the district courtís order to take effect only after mother provides proof to the Hennepin County child support office that her actual health insurance cost for the partiesí child is the anticipated amount of $97.90 per month.
Father, in turn, may not deduct $60 from his monthly income for the purpose of calculating his child support obligation until such payment is made.† In the interim, fatherís monthly income is $2,393.59, instead of $2,333.59.† Accordingly, fatherís guideline child support obligation, as modified, is $598.39.† When mother provides the above-referenced proof of the childís health insurance cost, father shall pay $583.40 in guideline child support and $60 in health insurance costs for the partiesí child.
††††††††††† Father next argues that the district court abused its discretion by ordering him to contribute $37 per month toward childcare costs.† He contends that the record is devoid of any documentary support for the childcare expenses.† Under Minnesota law, a district court may allocate the cost of childcare to each parent in proportion to the partiesí income.† Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(b).† To reflect the value of state and federal tax credits, the cost is set at 75 percent of the actual amount paid.† Id.† Verified employment or school attendance and documented childcare expenses are required to support the amount awarded.† Id. †Where there are fluctuations resulting from seasonal employment or school attendance, childcare expenses are determined based on an average monthly cost.† Id.
Mother submitted a number of receipts from the childís daycare providers and testified that the daycare expenses for the child are approximately $25 per week.† Based on this evidence, the district court estimated that mother spent $78 per month.† Our review of the record supports this finding.† Although the submitted receipts for certain periods are somewhat sporadic and include several daycare providers, the district court estimated an average monthly cost in accordance with Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(b).† We conclude, therefore, that the district court did not abuse its discretion by ordering father to contribute $37 per month for the cost of childcare.†
††††††††††† Affirmed as modified.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, ß 10.