This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






Letita L. Moore,



Hennepin County,





Lucas Martel James,



Filed ­­­June 24, 2003

Reversed and remanded

Harten, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. PA44297


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Theresa A. Farrell-Strauss, Assistant County Attorney, 110 South Fourth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401 (for appellant Hennepin County)


Karim G. El-Ghazzawy, Donald L. Enockson, Hennepin County Family Court Public Defender, Suite 300, 701 Fourth Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent Moore)


Lucas M. James, c/o Bernadene Jones, 1308-69th Avenue North #207, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430 (pro se Lucas James)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Harten, Judge, and Minge, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N




A district court denied appellant county’s request for a continuance so that respondent mother could apply for a good-cause exemption from the requirement that she cooperate with the county in paternity adjudication proceedings.  Because the district court abused its discretion in denying the continuance and erred in dismissing the parentage proceedings, we reverse and remand. 



Respondent Letita Moore is the mother of M.M., age 3.  It is undisputed that respondent Lucas James, the child’s unadjudicated father, had no involvement with M.M. and contributed nothing to her support.  He has been repeatedly incarcerated and has undergone multiple chemical dependency treatments.  M.M. lives with Moore and Moore’s other children, ages 13 and 8.  Moore supports herself and the three children by working as a bus driver.

 In order to work, Moore requires child care assistance from appellant Hennepin County (the county).  When she applied for assistance, she was required to sign a statement including the provision:

I understand that if I do not cooperate with the Child Support Office, and have not applied for and been granted good cause, my Child Care Assistance will be terminated for non-cooperation.


The county required Moore to join in bringing a parentage action to have James adjudicated as M.M.’s father for purposes of child support enforcement.  At the hearing, however, Moore told the referee that she was pursuing the adjudication not for M.M.’s benefit but only because she believed the county would terminate her child care assistance if she did not cooperate. 

The county told the referee that it “would have no objection to a continuance” so Moore could apply for a good-cause exemption, but the referee replied, “I don’t want a continuance on this case” and dismissed the matter.[1]  Appellant now challenges both the denial of the continuance and the dismissal on the ground that the referee sua sponte implicitly conferred a good-cause exemption on Moore.

 D E C I S I O N


A district court’s decision on a continuance will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.  Dunshee v. Douglas, 255 N.W.2d 42, 45 (Minn. 1977).  The application of a statute to the undisputed facts of a case involves a question of law, and the district court’s decision is not binding on this court.  O’Malley v. Ulland Bros., 549 N.W.2d 889, 892 (Minn. 1996). 

            Public assistance recipients are required to cooperate with public assistance agencies to collect funds from obligors.  Minn. Stat. § 256.741, subds. 5-8 (2002).  But a caregiver who receives public assistance need not comply with the statutory requirement to cooperate with the public assistance agency in establishing paternity if the caregiver has good cause for noncooperation.  Minn. Stat. § 256.741, subd. 10(a) (2002).  “The public authority shall consider the best interests of the child in determining good cause.”  Minn. Stat. § 256.741, subd. 10(d) (2002). 

            The granting of a good cause exemption is not discretionary.

            A good cause exemption must be granted if the individual’s claim and the investigation of the supporting evidence satisfy the investigating agencies that the individual has good cause for refusing to cooperate.


Minn. Stat. § 256.741, subd. 12 (2002). 

            The statute also provides that 

[t]he public assistance agency shall notify each applicant or recipient in writing of the right to claim a good cause exemption from cooperating with the requirements in this section.  A copy of the notice must be furnished to the applicant or recipient, and the applicant or recipient and a representative from the public authority shall acknowledge receipt of the notice by signing and dating a copy of the notice.


Minn. Stat. § 256.741, subd. 5.  Although the county claims it complied with this subdivision, the record does not include evidence of compliance, and Moore’s statements to the district court at the hearing did not show that she knew of either her right to claim a good cause exemption or the procedure for exercising that right. 

            That procedure is also set forth in the statute.

An individual may request a good cause exemption by filing a written claim with the public assistance agency on a form provided by the commissioner of human services.


Minn. Stat. § 256.741, subd. 10(a).

            An individual seeking a good cause exemption has 20 days from the date the good cause claim was provided to the public assistance agency to supply evidence supporting the claim.


Minn. Stat. § 256.741, subd. 11(a) (2002).  Moore neither filed a written claim for a good cause exemption nor provided evidence that would have supported such a claim.   

Despite the lack of evidence that the county had fulfilled its statutory obligation to inform Moore of her right to claim a good cause exemption and Moore’s failure both to claim the exemption and to provide support for her claim, the referee implicitly found that she had a good cause exemption and dismissed the case.  We reverse the dismissal and remand for Moore to comply with the statutory requirements regarding claiming and supporting good cause exemptions and for appellant to comply with the statutory requirements that it consider Moore’s claim and its support in light of the best interests of M.M. 

Reversed and remanded. 

[1] The county also told the referee, however, that Moore was unlikely to be granted a good cause exemption “because the facts of this case do not rise to the caliber of facts where good cause would be granted.”