This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






In re: Martha A. Widmer,
f/k/a Martha A. Riederer, petitioner below,
Redwood County,


Daniel E. Riederer,


Filed June 17, 2003


Stoneburner, Judge


Redwood County District Court

File No. F488534


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


Michelle A. Dietrich, Redwood County Attorney, Box 130, Redwood Falls, MN 56283 (for appellant)


Maryellen Suhrhoff, 937 Third Avenue, Box 397, Windom, MN 56101 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Minge, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N



            Appellant Redwood County Human Services challenges the denial of its motion for an increase in respondent Daniel Riederer’s child support obligation for A.R., arguing that the child support magistrate abused its discretion by deviating from the child support guidelines in a manner that (1) ignored the statutory presumption for modification; (2) gives undue deference to subsequent children; and (3) was based on monthly expenses not supported by the record.  We affirm.



            In August 2002, petitioner Martha A. Widmer and appellant Redwood County Human Services (county) moved to modify respondent Daniel Riederer’s child support obligation for A.R., the child of respondent’s marriage to petitioner.  At the time of the motion, respondent’s child support obligation for A.R. was $342 per month, established in an order issued in December 2000.[1]  This amount represented a downward deviation from the presumptive guideline support of $418 per month, based on the fact that respondent was supporting two subsequent children.

            Respondent agrees with the county that respondent’s increased income since December 2000 would equate to a guideline support obligation for A.R. of $447 per month, creating a statutory presumption that the $342 per month obligation for A.R. is unreasonable and unfair.   See Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(b)(1) (2002).[2]  Respondent’s total support obligation for his two subsequent children is $457 per month.  The CSM found that, based on respondent’s expenses and obligation for subsequent children, the

$342 per month amount of support respondent pays for A.R. is not unreasonable or unfair and denied the county’s motion for modification.  The county appeals directly from the child support magistrate’s order denying its motion for child-support modification for A.R.



            Because the county appeals directly from the CSM’s order, our scope of review is limited to determining whether the evidence supports the findings of fact and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law and the judgment.  Davis v. Davis, 631 N.W.2d 822, 825.  When reviewing the order of a child-support magistrate [CSM] this court applies the same standard of review that is applied to a district court order.  Brazinsky v. Branzinsky, 610 N.W.2d 707, 710 (Minn. App. 2000).  The district court has broad discretion to determine child support, and this court will affirm that determination unless it is clearly erroneous, and against logic and the facts on the record.  Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 347 (Minn. 2002). 

An appellate court may not reverse a trial court due to mere disagreement with its findings.  Rather, we will reverse a lower court’s findings of fact only when those findings are clearly erroneous.  Findings of fact are considered clearly erroneous only if they are not reasonably supported by the evidence. 


Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 102 (Minn. 1999) (citing Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01).  But legal questions are reviewed de novo.  Shirk v. Shirk, 561 N.W.2d 519, 521 (Minn. 1997).

            The Minnesota Child Support Guidelines create a rebuttable presumption that must be used in all cases when establishing or modifying child support.  Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(i) (2002).  A court may deviate from the guidelines but must make

written findings stating the amount of support calculated under the guidelines and the reasons for the deviation.  Id.  The court may not set child support at an amount below the guidelines amount unless the court makes express findings of fact on the reasons for the departure.  Id.; Kowalzek v. Kowalzek, 360 N.W.2d 423, 425 (Minn. App. 1985).

            Although the CSM erroneously stated as a conclusion of law that “the terms of the prior order are not rebuttably presumed to be unreasonable and unfair,” the CSM implicitly found that respondent rebutted the presumption by finding that “failure to deviate * * * in considering modifying support in this case would cause an undue hardship on” respondent and that a downward departure is in A.R.’s best interests.  The CSM noted respondent’s already tight budget and various needs that were not being met due to his child support obligations.

            As a general rule, where a support obligor has multiple support obligations, “[t]he needs of subsequent children shall not be factored into a support guidelines calculation.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5f (2002); Erickson v. Erickson, 385 N.W.2d 301, 304 (Minn. 1986).  This rule precludes a motion to decrease a support obligation for an older child based on the fact that a support obligation has been established for a subsequent child.  But the court is required to take the needs of subsequent children into account when an obligee requests modification of child support for prior child(ren).  Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5f; In re. J.M.V. and R.R.V., 656 N.W.2d 558, 564 (Minn. App. 2003), review denied (Minn. Apr. 19, 2003).  The CSM was required to consider the needs of respondent’s subsequent children in connection with the county’s motion to increase respondent’s support obligation for A.R. 

            In the event of a deviation from the guidelines based on consideration of a support order for subsequent children, the court normally must not favor subsequent children over respondent’s first child.  Bock v. Bock, 506 N.W.2d 321, 325 (Minn. App. 1993).

[A]bsent unusual circumstances, the contribution recognized for each subsequent child of the obligor should not exceed the award now being established or modified for each prior child.

Id. at 324.

            The county argues that because the amount of monthly support for respondent’s subsequent children is greater than the amount of monthly support for A.R., the CSM has favored the subsequent children.  On a per child basis, however, A.R. receives more support than the subsequent children.  We conclude that the CSM did not impermissibly favor respondent’s subsequent children by denying the county’s motion for an increase in respondent’ support obligation for A.R.

            The county also argues that the CSM’s findings regarding respondent’s expenses are based on inflated and unsubstantiated expenses.  The CSM’s finding that failure to deviate from the guidelines would impose an undue hardship on respondent was based in part on the CSM’s calculation of respondent’s expenses.  The CSM discounted respondent’s claim for transportation expenses associated with visitation for all of his children, but accepted respondent’s testimony with regard to other expenses.[3]  The county

did not question respondent about his claimed expenses.  The CSM’s determination of respondent’s monthly expenses is supported by the record and is not clearly erroneous.



[1] The December 2000 order was not the initial order setting child support for A.R.

[2] The parties agree and the CSM found that respondent’s net monthly income is currently $1788 and would equate to a guideline support obligation for A.R. of $447, which is 20% higher than the amount set in December 2000.

[3] Respondent listed his expenses variously as annual, monthly or weekly expenses.  He listed “$100 – $50” for uninsured medical expenses but testified that these expenses were limited to the purchase of over-the counter medications and doctor visits of $50 per year.