This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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






State of Minnesota, County of St. Louis,



Jackelyn M. Zasadni, petitioner,





William Robert Laugen,



Filed August 26, 2003

Affirmed as modified

Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge


St. Louis County District Court

File No. F001150410




Mark M. Starr, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney, 300 South Fifth Avenue, Rm. 222, Virginia, MN 55796 (for respondent St. Louis County)


Jackelyn M. Zasadni, 921 Clay Court, Eveleth, MN 55734 (pro se respondent)


William Robert Laugen, P.O. Box 272, Myrtle Creek, OR 97457-0028 (pro se appellant)





            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


            Appellant challenges the district court’s order denying his motion to modify his child support obligation, arguing that there has been a substantial change in his circumstances.  Appellant also contends that the district court’s order contains a clerical error regarding his medical-assistance obligation.  Because the district court properly denied appellant’s motion for modification but made a clerical error, we affirm as modified.


            Respondent Jackelyn Zasadni brought a paternity action against appellant William Robert Laugen and sought child support as well.  After establishing Laugen’s paternity of Zasadni’s child, the district court ordered Laugen to pay the presumptive guideline child support.  In April 2002, St. Louis County learned that Laugen had two previous children with his current wife.  The parties stipulated to a modification of Laugen’s child support, and the court approved the stipulation.  The April 22, 2002 order set Laugen’s child support obligation at $271 each month and his medical-assistance payment at $50 a month. 

            In May 2002, Laugen’s employer fired him for failing to renew his leave of absence.  Laugen had been working 40 hours a week at a pay rate of $15.06 an hour.  The department of economic security denied his application for unemployment compensation benefits because his failure to renew his leave of absence and to preserve his job was a “wantonly negligent disregard for the interest of the employer.”

            After being terminated from his job, Laugen began working for another employer 20 hours a week for $9 an hour.  He moved to modify his child support obligation.  The child support magistrate denied his motion and found that Laugen’s child support obligation should remain at $271 each month because he was underemployed, and that his medical assistance payment should continue at “$100” a month.  Because of the finding of underemployment, the magistrate ruled that Laugen had not had a substantial change in circumstances that rendered his existing order unreasonable and unfair.

            On review, the district court affirmed the magistrate’s order.  Laugen appeals the district court’s order.


1.         Substantial change in circumstances

When a party moves for review of the child support magistrate’s decision under Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 376.01, either the magistrate or the district court may conduct an “independent review” of the magistrate’s original decision.  Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 376.03.  The reviewer owes no deference to the magistrate’s original decision and addresses the matter de novo.  Blonigen v. Blonigen, 621 N.W.2d 276, 280 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Mar. 13, 2001).  When the district court affirms the magistrate’s original order, the magistrate’s decision becomes the decision of the district court.  See Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 377.09, subd. 2(b) (providing that the district court need not make specific findings or conclusions when affirming the magistrate’s decision); Blonigen, 621 N.W.2d at 280 (stating that the magistrate’s findings that are adopted by the district court become part of the district court’s decision). 

On appeal,

[w]e will reverse a district court’s order regarding child support only if we are convinced that the district court abused its broad discretion by reaching a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on record.


Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 347 (Minn. 2002) (citation omitted).

            A guideline child support obligation is calculated as a percentage of the obligor’s net monthly income.  Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) (2002).  Ordinarily, an obligor’s net monthly income is equivalent to gross monthly income minus the deductions specified in the child support guidelines.  Id. 

            Laugen challenges the district court’s order denying his motion to modify his child support obligation.  He contends that after his original job terminated, he had a substantial change in circumstances that prevented him from being able to pay his current child support obligation of $271 per month.

            Under Minnesota law, “terms of an order respecting * * * support may be modified upon a showing of * * * substantially increased or decreased earnings of a party.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(a) - 2(a)(1) (2002).  The governing statute provides:

It is presumed that there has been a substantial change in circumstances * * * and the terms of a current support order shall be rebuttably presumed to be unreasonable and unfair if:

(1) the application of the child support guidelines in section 518.551, subdivision 5, to the current circumstances of the parties results in a calculated court order that is at least 20 percent and at least $50 per month higher or lower than the current support order.


Id., subd. 2(b) - 2(b)(1) (2002).

            After Laugen’s job termination, he began working fewer hours for less money with another employer.  This employment provided Laugen with gross monthly income of $780.  The district court found that Laugen was “voluntarily underemployed,” finding that he was not “disabled, and [had] the ability to work full-time, 40 hours per week, and to earn $15.06 per hour based on [his] employment history.”  The district court also found that Laugen appears to have been “voluntarily” terminated from his original job because he failed to renew his leave of absence and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development determined this to have been negligent disregard of his employer’s interests.

            Laugen argues that he cannot earn $15.06 per hour, which he previously earned because he has only a tenth-grade education and he received his previous job because his family members worked for the same employer.  He also contends that he cannot pay the $271 per month child support obligation because he is depressed, receives public assistance, and cannot find any work in the winter months.

            It is Laugen’s burden to prove that he is not voluntarily underemployed.  Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5b(d) (2002).  We have previously concluded that the district court “may deny the party’s motion to reduce the child support obligation if the party unjustifiably self-limited his income.”  Anderson v. Anderson, 450 N.W.2d 384, 386 (Minn. App. 1990).  Under the law in Minnesota,

[i]f the court finds that a parent is voluntarily * * * underemployed * * * support shall be calculated based on a determination of imputed income.  A parent is not considered voluntarily * * * underemployed upon a showing by the parent that the * * * underemployment: (1) is temporary and will ultimately lead to an increase in income; or (2) represents a bona fide career change that outweighs the adverse effect of that parent’s diminished income on the child.  Imputed income means the estimated earning ability of a parent based on the parent’s prior earnings history, education, and job skills, and on availability of jobs within the community for an individual with the parent’s qualifications.


Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5b(d). 

            We conclude that the district court properly found that Laugen was voluntarily underemployed.  Laugen failed to show any reason that he cannot work 40 hours a week.  And even though his lack of education might be a limiting influence on his ability to earn $15 an hour in the current northern Minnesota economy, he has done nothing more than allege and speculate on the possibility of such a limitation.  Further, Laugen did not provide any evidence that this was a bona fide career change or that his income would increase in the near future.  Also, there is no evidence that Laugen receives public assistance.  Because Laugen failed to meet his burden of proving that he was not voluntarily underemployed, the district court properly imputed income to him in an amount that required child support of $271 each month.

2.         Clerical Error

            Laugen contends that the district court erred by stating that his medical-assistance payment should remain at “$100” a month.  His payment had previously been set at $50 a month.  The Minnesota Rules of General Practice provide that

[c]lerical mistakes, typographical errors, and errors in mathematical calculations in orders * * * arising from oversight or omission may be corrected by the child support magistrate at any time upon the magistrate’s own initiative or upon motion of any party after notice to all parties.


Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 375.01.  We have previously reviewed the caselaw surrounding Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.01 for guidance to determine what constitutes a clerical error.  See Brazinsky v. Brazinsky, 610 N.W.2d 707, 710 (Minn. App. 2000) (addressing caselaw interpreting Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.01).  The supreme court has held that a clerical error is one of form and that it “includes one made by the court which cannot reasonably be attributed to the exercise of judicial consideration or discretion.”  Wilson v. City of Fergus Falls, 181 Minn. 329, 332, 232 N.W. 322, 323 (1930).

We may correct clerical errors on appeal.  See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.05 (providing that this court may direct that errors be corrected either by motion of a party or on its own initiative); see also Redding v. Redding, 372 N.W.2d 31, 37 (Minn. App. 1985) (making a modification of an inadvertent error in a judgment), review denied (Minn. Oct. 18, 1985).

            In the stipulation and order dated April 22, 2002, the district court set Laugen’s medical-assistance payment at $50 a month.  In the magistrate’s August 21, 2002, modification order, the magistrate erroneously stated that

[t]he Obligor is currently subject to a child support obligation of $271, plus $100 medical assistance reimbursement per month based upon the prior order dated April 22, 2002.


The magistrate then ordered that “[t]he Obligor shall continue to pay $100 per month medical assistance reimbursement.”  The district court affirmed the magistrate’s decision.

            We conclude that the change in the amount of medical assistance, from $50 in the April 22, 2002 order to $100 in the August 21, 2002 order, is a clerical error.  It is clear that in the modification order the magistrate did not exercise any judicial discretion but merely deferred to the prior stipulated April 22, 2002 order and stated that the amount of medical assistance would continue unchanged.  Thus, under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.05, this clerical error in the district court’s order is corrected to provide that Laugen’s monthly medical-assistance payment remains at $50.

            Affirmed as modified.