This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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

 

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A03-284

 

In re the Marriage of:

Erika Shannon Arneson, petitioner,

Respondent,

 

vs.

 

Jon Carl Arneson,

Appellant.

 

Filed November 25, 2003

Affirmed in part and reversed in part

Hudson, Judge

 

Hennepin County District Court

File No. DC 259412

 

 

Michael L. Perlman, Perlman Law Office, Woodside Office Park, 10520 Wayzata Boulevard, Minnetonka, Minnesota 55305; and

 

William R. Skolnick, Skolnick & Associates, 2100 Rand Tower, 527 Marquette Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402 (for respondent)

 

Maury D. Beaulier, Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC, 10400 Viking Drive, Suite 500, Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55344 (for appellant)

 

††††††††††† Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Poritsky, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N

HUDSON, Judge

In this dissolution appeal, appellant-father argues the district court (1) overstated his child support obligation by imputing income to him, setting child support at an amount above that suggested by the Hortis/Valento formula, and requiring father to pay one-half of the childrenís school expenses in addition to child support; (2) erred in valuing fatherís company; and (3) failed to divide the unsecured credit card debt of the parties as either a business expense or as a personal debt.† We affirm in part and reverse in part.

FACTS

Appellant-father, Jon Carl Arneson, married respondent-mother, Erika Shannon Arneson, on September 8, 1989.† The parties had two children, and separated in July 2000.† The parties executed a parenting plan agreement on July 24, 2001, which addressed, among other things, the fact that the parties would share joint physical and legal custody of the children and parenting time.† All issues not agreed upon in the parenting plan were tried, including child support, division of marital property, and the value of fatherís business.† The parties produced contradictory evidence on all of these issues.†

On February 13, 2003, the district court issued extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law.† The district court ordered father to pay $1,426.80 per month in child support.† In awarding child support, the district court determined each partyís gross income, calculated the amount of support under the Hortis/Valento formula, calculated the amount of support with a deviation from the Hortis/Valento formula, and concluded that a deviation was in the childrenís best interest.† The district court also ordered each party to pay half of the childrenís tuition expenses.† The district court also determined that the value of fatherís interest in a business he co-owns with his brother to be $156,000, as of December 31, 2000.† Finally, the district court found that the parties had satisfied all of the joint debts and obligations incurred during the marriage, and ordered each party to pay any debt incurred since their separation.† Without seeking a new trial, father appeals.†

D E C I S I O N

Absent a motion for a new trial, our scope of review is generally limited to whether the evidence supports the district courtís findings of fact and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law and the judgment.† Erickson v. Erickson, 434 N.W.2d 284, 286 (Minn. App. 1989); see Alpha Real Estate Co. of Rochester v. Delta Dental Plan of Minn., 664 N.W.2d 303, 308-11 (Minn. 2003) (addressing scope of review).

I

A.† Fatherís income

Father challenges several aspects of his support obligation.† The determination of a support obligorís income for child support purposes is generally a finding of fact that is not set aside unless clearly erroneous.† Ludwigson v. Ludwigson, 642 N.W.2d 441, 446 (Minn. App. 2002) (stating income determination is a finding of fact not set aside on appeal unless clearly erroneous).† Whether to impute income to a support obligor is discretionary with the district court.† See Murphy v. Murphy, 574 N.W.2d 77, 82-83 (Minn. App. 1998) (applying abuse-of-discretion standard of review to child support order based on imputed income); see also Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 353-54 (Minn. 2002) (stating child support magistrate has broad discretion in deciding whether to impute income).† Because the question of whether to impute income is a discretionary decision and because father did not make a new-trial motion, the question of whether to impute income to father is beyond our narrow scope of review.†

Regarding whether the amount imputed to father is clearly erroneous, we note that the proper method for challenging a district courtís findings of fact is set out in Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 472 (Minn. App. 2000), which notes that this court defers to district courtsí credibility determinations and reviews the record in the light most favorable to the findings.† Further, the rules require a party challenging findings to summarize all of the evidence and inferences from that evidence that support the finding(s) being challenged.† Id. at 474.

Here, father claims that he earns gross wages of $40,000 per year.† The district court did not find this claim credible.† The district court noted that father has been able to meet his monthly obligations and added them to his reasonable and necessary monthly living expenses to determine that father has had access to $5,393 per month.† The district court set fatherís net monthly income at $4,756 per month.† A review of the record shows that it supports the district courtís finding of the amount of income imputed to father.† See Wilson v. Moline, 234 Minn. 174, 182, 47 N.W.2d 865, 870 (1951) (stating appellate court need not ďdiscuss and review in detail the evidence for the purpose of demonstrating that it supports the trial courtís findings,Ē and that its ďduty is performed when [it] consider[s] all the evidence . . . and determine[s] that it reasonably supports the findingsĒ); Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d at 474-75 & n.1 (applying Wilson).

B.† Deviation from Hortis/Valento formula

The presumptively correct child-support obligations for parents with joint physical custody of their children are the amounts calculated under Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(b) (2002), for each parent, less the amount offset by the Hortis/Valento formula.† Schlichting v. Paulus, 632 N.W.2d 790, 793 (Minn. App. 2001).† Here, the district court deviated from the presumptively correct support obligation.† Because an application of the Hortis/Valento formula is an application of the child-support guidelines, a district court may deviate from the presumptively correct support obligation suggested by the Hortis/Valento formula only if it addresses the factors in Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(c) (2002), and determines that a deviation is necessary to serve the childrenís best interest.† Id.; see Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(i) (2002) (addressing deviation from guidelines support amount).†

Whether to deviate from a presumptively correct support obligation is discretionary with the district court.† Stewart v. Stewart, 373 N.W.2d 856, 857 (Minn. App. 1985).† Therefore, because of our limited scope of review, we will not review the propriety of the deviation, and the questions before us are whether the evidence supports the district courtís deviation-related findings and whether those findings support the extent of the deviation.†

Father argues the district court gave weight to only one of the deviation factorsóthe standard of living the children would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved.† See Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(c), (i) (listing procedure and factors to be considered when contemplating whether to set support at an amount deviating from presumptively correct amount).† Father contends that the record does not support the district courtís finding that the parties had an upper-middle-class lifestyle.† Father claims the facts show that they lived on a strict budget, went on low-cost vacations, and had to borrow money from fatherís parents to finance their lifestyle.† Father also argues the district court justified the above-the-guidelines support obligation by considering expenses that may be associated with any family with children, claiming such expenses do not warrant a deviation.

We initially note that the district court addressed each of the statutory deviation factors, including, but not limited to, (1) the earnings, income, and resources of the parents; (2) the financial and educational needs of the children; and (3) the standard of living the children would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved.† Minn. Stat. ß 518.551, subd. 5(c)(1)-(3).† We next note that, viewed in the light most favorable to the district courtís findings, the record supports the district courtís findings on these points, including the determination that the parties enjoyed an upper-middle-class standard of living.† See Wilson, 234 Minn. at 182, 47 N.W.2d at 870; Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d at 474-75 & n.1 (applying Wilson).† Lastly, in light of the district courtís findings regarding the marital standard of living and the extent of the childrenís extra-curricular activities, we conclude that the district courtís deviation findings support the extent of the deviation.† See Katz v. Katz, 380 N.W.2d 527, 530 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding the support provided gives the children a standard of living to participate in their desired activities that would otherwise be beyond their means), affíd and remanded, 408 N.W.2d 835 (Minn. 1987).†

C.† Tuition expenses in addition to child support

In addition to setting fatherís child support obligation at an above-the-guidelines amount, the district court also ordered father to contribute half of any tuition expenses related to the education of the children.† In setting fatherís support obligation at the above-the-guidelines amount, the district court had already considered and added the childrenís tuition expenses.† Therefore, the district courtís tuition-related findings do not support the portion of its order requiring father to pay half the childrenís tuition in addition to his above-the-guidelines support obligation.† Accordingly, we reverse the part of the district courtís ruling requiring father to pay one-half of the childrenís tuition.

II

Father challenges the district courtís adoption of the valuation of his interest in the business proffered by motherís expert.† Appellate courts do not require a district court to be exact in its valuation of assets; ďit is only necessary that the value arrived at lies within a reasonable range of figures.Ē† Johnson v. Johnson, 277 N.W.2d 208, 211 (Minn. 1979).† A district courtís valuation of a business in a dissolution proceeding will be set aside if the valuation is clearly erroneous.† Bury v. Bury, 416 N.W.2d 133, 137 (Minn. App. 1987).† Nardini lists specific factors the district court must consider, but there is no set formula to determine the value of a closely-held business.† Nardini v. Nardini, 414 N.W.2d 184, 189-90 (Minn. 1987).† Here, while father makes various attacks on the methodology used by motherís expert, we note that both partiesí experts addressed the Nardini criteria and that motherís expert, unlike fatherís, used the valuation date to which the parties had stipulated.† Viewing these facts in light most favorable to the district courtís valuation of fatherís interest in the business, and in light of the district courtís explicit determination that the valuation of motherís expert was more credible than that of fatherís expert, we will not alter the district courtís valuation of fatherís interest in the business.† See Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988) (stating appellate courts defer to district court credibility determinations).

III

Father argues that the district court failed to divide and designate the unsecured credit card debt of the parties as either a business expense or a personal debt.† Father contends that the partiesí testimony shows they paid their expenses in 1999 by accruing credit card debt and borrowing money.† Father notes that the credit card debt was approximately $43,000 at the time of separation, and $20,000 at the time of trial.† The district court found to the contrary, and the evidence supports the district courtís findings that the parties had satisfied all of the joint debts and obligations incurred during the marriage.† Therefore, we affirm.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part.



* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, ß 10.