This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Joseph George Lambrecht,
Filed November 18, 2003
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
Joseph G. Lambrecht, 5324 Maddox Lane, Edina, MN 55436 (pro se respondent)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
Under Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 378.01, Elizabeth Ann Lambrecht, n/k/a Elizabeth Ann Holmberg, appeals directly to this court from a child support magistrate's decision. Holmberg argues the magistrate erred 1) by failing to modify the allocation of the tax dependency exemptions, 2) by not requiring respondent Joseph George Lambrecht to pay his portion of unreimbursed healthcare expenses from the previous year, 3) by altering the parties' percentage share of unreimbursed medical and dental expenses, and 4) by refusing to require Lambrecht to contribute to the extraordinary expenses of the parties' children. We affirm in part and remand.
The amended judgment and decree dissolving the parties' marriage outlined both parties' obligations. It awarded Holmberg physical custody of the parties' three minor children, awarded Lambrecht two and Holmberg one of the tax dependency exemptions, respectively, set Lambrecht's monthly child support obligation at $1,750, and required Lambrecht to maintain health insurance for himself and the minor children. The amended judgment also ordered other healthcare expenses were to be "shared by the parties proportionate to their incomes." Spousal maintenance and child support were included as part of Holmberg's income. It also stated that, in the event of other extra or unusual expenses related to the children, the parties were to first meet and agree that the money should be spent and then the expenses were to be apportioned in amounts proportionate to their incomes. At the time of the dissolution, Lambrecht's net monthly income was approximately $7,800. His net monthly expenses were approximately $3,300. Holmberg was unemployed and had no monthly income other than spousal maintenance and child support. Her monthly expenses were approximately $4,750.
In early 1997, Lambrecht's average net monthly income dropped to $2,320, and he moved to reduce his child support obligation as well as his share of the children's unreimbursed healthcare expenses. Lambrecht's total monthly expenses had increased to $4,106. Holmberg's monthly expenses had decreased slightly to $4,085. In an October 1997 stipulated order, the magistrate reduced Lambrecht's child support obligation to $1,000 per month and, apparently based on the proportionate income of each party, specified the appropriate division of the children's unreimbursed healthcare expenses as 60% to Lambrecht and 40% to Holmberg.
In November 2002, Lambrecht again sought a modification of his child support and healthcare expense obligations, arguing his income had substantially decreased, Holmberg's child care expenses had decreased, the children's residence had changed, and the parties' oldest child had been emancipated. At the hearing, Holmberg sought to make cross-motions requesting she be granted the tax exemptions for all three of the parties' children and an order requiring Lambrecht to pay his proportional share of the unreimbursed healthcare and the extraordinary expenses. The magistrate, with Lambrecht's consent, agreed to consider the motions.
In January 2003, the magistrate issued his decision. The magistrate concluded substantial changes in circumstances had occurred that rendered existing orders unreasonable and unfair. Lambrecht's net monthly income increased from $2,320 to $2,461. Lambrecht's monthly expenses also increased from $4,106 to $7,181. Holmberg's income had increased from $1,725 per month to a net monthly income of $3,918; her net monthly expenses were also $3,918. The magistrate ordered Lambrecht to pay $738 per month in child support and obtain/maintain medical and dental insurance for the parties' minor children. The magistrate also ordered, according to the parties' income, Lambrecht to pay for 39% of the unreimbursed medical and dental expenses of the parties' minor children and Holmberg to pay the remaining 61%. Finally, the magistrate denied all of Holmberg's motions.
Any party may seek review of a child support magistrate's decision under Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 376.01. Additionally, under Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 378.01, a party can appeal directly to this court from the magistrate’s decision without seeking review. On such appeals, however, this court’s scope of review is limited to whether the evidence supports the findings of fact and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law and judgment. Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 378.01 advisory comm. cmt.
The standard used to review issues within this limited scope of review is the same standard that would apply if a district court had issued the order. Brazinsky v. Brazinsky, 610 N.W.2d 707, 710 (Minn. App. 2000). Issues of law are reviewed de novo. Id. Findings of fact, however, are reviewed for clear error. Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999).
1. Modifying the allocation of tax dependency exemptions is analogous to modifying child support. Biscoe v. Biscoe, 443 N.W.2d 221, 224 (Minn. App. 1989). Modifying child support requires a district court to make certain statutory findings. See Minn. Stat. § 518.64 subd. 2 (2002) (addressing modification of child support); Erickson v. Erickson, 385 N.W.2d 301, 303 (Minn. 1986) (remanding support modification where district court did not make adequate findings under Minn. Stat. § 518.64). Therefore, when a court is asked to modify the allocation of tax dependency exemptions, the court must make findings on the same statutory factors and failure to do so will result in a remand. Biscoe, 443 N.W.2d at 225.
Here, the magistrate made no findings on the required statutory factors and the magistrate's findings do not support a denial of Holmberg's motion to modify the allocation of tax dependency exemption. We remand for further consideration of the question as well as the required findings consistent with this opinion.
2. Holmberg also argues the magistrate erred in failing to specifically address her oral motion for reimbursement of unreimbursed medical expenses from the preceding year. Although Lambrecht appears to agree that two bills totaling $1,200 in unreimbursed healthcare expenses exist, the magistrate makes no mention of this issue in his findings of fact or conclusions of law. He simply concluded, "All motions filed by [Holmberg] are denied." Absent findings of fact addressing why Holmberg's request for reimbursement was denied, effective appellate review is not possible. Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989) (noting necessity of adequate findings for review of maintenance questions); Moylan v. Moylan, 384 N.W.2d 859, 865 (Minn. 1986) (noting necessity of adequate findings for review of child support questions). Therefore, the magistrate's findings do not support his denial of Holmberg's motion for Lambrecht to be ordered to contribute his proportionate share of the previous year's unreimbursed healthcare expenses is remanded for consideration and whatever findings are necessary to support the ultimate resolution of the question.
3. Holmberg also challenges the magistrate's determination that she is responsible for 61% of the unreimbursed medical and dental expenses while Lambrecht is only responsible for 39%. The amended judgment states such expenses "will be shared by the parties proportionate to their incomes, with . . . child support being included as part of wife's income."
Here, evidence in the record supports the magistrate's finding that Holmberg's proportionate share of income is 61% while Lambrecht's share is 39%. Because the evidence supports the magistrate's findings regarding income and the findings supports the magistrate's conclusion regarding each party's healthcare expense obligation, the magistrate's decision is affirmed.
4. Finally, Holmberg argues the magistrate erred in not requiring Lambrecht to contribute to certain extraordinary expenses of the parties' children, as she argues the judgment requires. Regarding the children's extraordinary expenses, the judgment states the parties must "first meet and agree as to whether or not to spend the money."
Here, consistent with record, the magistrate found it "clear from the testimony and record that [Lambrecht] never agreed to the particular expenses incurred." Moreover, review of the record shows Holmberg provided no evidence that a meeting occurred between the parties where Lambrecht agreed to the expenses. Thus, the magistrate's finding that Lambrecht did not agree to the expenses is supported by the evidence, and that finding supports a conclusion that Lambrecht is not obligated to pay the expenses. Therefore, we affirm the magistrate's decision to deny Holmberg's motion for reimbursement of extraordinary expenses.
Affirmed in part and remanded.