This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






In re the Marriage of:

Nancy Campbell Vallez, petitioner,





Michael James Vallez,





County of Dakota, intervenor,



Filed April 22, 2003

Reversed and remanded

Klaphake, Judge


Dakota County District Court

File No. F29814090


Rodney H. Jensen, Jensen, McGrath & Mullen, PLLP, Wells Fargo Plaza, 7900 Xerxes Avenue South, Suite 1350, Bloomington, MN  55431 (for respondent Nancy Vallez)


John G. Westrick, Tammy L. Merkins, Westrick & McDowall-Nix, P.L.L.P., 400 Minnesota Building, 46 East Fourth Street, St. Paul, MN  55101 (for appellant)


James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Pamela L. Zielske, Assistant County Attorney, Dakota County Northern Service Center, One Mendota Road West, Suite 220, West St. Paul, MN  55118 (for respondent Dakota County)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Michael James Vallez moved to reduce his child support obligation for a number of reasons, including the emancipation of the oldest of his four children.  He appeals from an order by the district court denying his request for review of the child support magistrate’s (CSM’s) order, but granting a request by intervenor Dakota County (the county) to correct a “clerical” error in the CSM’s order.  Because the district court erred by failing to enforce the provisions of the judgment in which the parties stipulated to an automatic reduction in appellant’s child support obligation upon each child’s emancipation, we reverse and remand.


            Appellant argues that the district court erred by ordering him to continue to pay $1,750 in child support for three children, when that amount represents the guideline amount for four children.[1]  He asserts that the analysis used by the CSM and the district
court ignored the provision in the parties’ stipulated judgment that required an automatic reduction in child support as the children become emancipated.

            That provision is entitled “Child Support” and states:

            Payment shall be payable through the month in which the youngest child is 18, until married, emancipated, self-supporting, deceased, or in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, whichever shall occur first, or until further order of the court.  In the event a child is attending high school at the time of his 18th birthday, the child support obligation shall continue so long as he is attending high school, but in no event after said child becomes 20 years of age.  When the number of children eligible for support is reduced, child support payments then due and payable shall be reduced for the number of children then eligible.  The reduced amount shall commence on the first day of the month following the change in the number of children eligible for support.


(Emphasis added.)  The parties agree that this provision requires an automatic reduction in appellant’s child support obligation as each of the children becomes emancipated.

            Because appellant’s motion merely sought to enforce a provision in the judgment, the district court erred by requiring him to prove a substantial change in circumstances under Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(b) (2002).  “[W]here the language employed by the parties is plain and unambiguous there is no room for construction.”  Starr v. Starr, 312 Minn. 561, 563, 251 N.W.2d 341, 342 (1977).  The district court thus erred in continuing appellant’s child support obligation at its current level, $1,750, which is the guideline amount for four children.  We therefore reverse and remand.

            On remand, the district court shall set child support according to the unambiguous provisions of the judgment in which the parties agreed to the guidelines amount and to automatic reduction of child support upon each child’s emancipation.  Thus, child support must be set at 35% (the guideline amount for three children) of $4,245 (appellant’s net monthly income at the time of the prior order).  See Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b)(2002) (setting out child support guidelines).  To the resulting amount of $1,485.75, the district court must calculate and add the appropriate cost of living adjustment that became effective in May 2002. 

            Finally, according to appellant’s affidavit in support of his motion, his oldest child became emancipated in June 2002.  Thus, under the terms of the judgment, this “reduced amount shall commence on the first day of the month following the change in the number of children eligible for support,” or July 1, 2002.  We make no decision regarding the apparent overpayments appellant has been making since that date or regarding any other support-related issues that might be affected by our decision. 

            Reversed and remanded.


[1]  Appellant also argues that the district court erred by correcting a “clerical error” in the CSM’s order and urges that this court reinstate the order issued by the CSM.  See Brazinsky v. Brazinsky, 610 N.W.2d 707, 710-11 (Minn. App. 2000) (vacating order in which CSM, under guise of correcting clerical error, made substantive change to finding).  Although we agree that the district court went beyond the scope of correcting a clerical error because it made substantive changes to the CSM’s order, we decline to reinstate the CSM’s order because neither the CSM nor the district court correctly analyzed appellant’s motion as one to enforce the provision of the judgment requiring an automatic reduction of appellant’s child support obligation upon emancipation of each child.