This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Department of Human Services,
Hennepin County Economic Assistance and Child Support Divisions,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. MC 03-009552
Michael Beach, P.O. Box 270057, Golden Valley, MN 55427-6057 (pro se appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, David A. Rowley, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134 (for respondent State of Minnesota)
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Roberta C. Jones, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent Hennepin County)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
Appellant child-support obligor challenges the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the two respondents who are agencies, arguing that the court erred in upholding the use of child-support-enforcement procedures. Because parents have a legal obligation to support their children and because appellant fails to show how the child-support-enforcement laws violate a parent’s constitutional rights, we affirm.
After the marriage of appellant Michael Beach and KoniKaye Morgan Jeschke was dissolved, Jeschke was granted sole physical and legal custody of the parties’ two minor children. The district court issued a temporary order setting appellant’s child-support obligation at $1,690.50 per month. Subsequently, Jeschke applied to respondent Hennepin County Economic Assistance and Child Support Divisions (Hennepin County) for child-support-enforcement and collection services. Appellant failed to make child support payments and arrearages accumulated. As a part of Hennepin County’s collection efforts, appellant’s driver’s license was revoked and other orders were entered.
In June 2003, appellant initiated an action pro se against respondents State of Minnesota, Department of Human Services (DHS) and Hennepin County. Appellant argued that he never agreed to the use of public child-support-enforcement services by his former spouse, that an individual needs to qualify for public assistance to be eligible for such services, and that the state cannot furnish collection services to enforce his child-support obligation. Appellant requested that the district court terminate the public collection services provided to Jeschke, reinstate appellant’s driver’s license, recalculate his child support, restore his parental rights, and eliminate all child-support arrearages and future support obligations. Appellant subsequently filed various motions, seeking a temporary restraining order, temporary injunctive relief, an extension of the discovery deadline, and an order requiring that DHS produce a “bill of particulars.”
The district court denied appellant’s motions and granted respondents’ motions for summary judgment. The district court determined that the statute did not provide a basis for terminating the services offered to Jeschke and that there was not a requirement that an individual be on public assistance to receive such services. This appeal follows.
“On an appeal from summary judgment, we ask two questions: (1) whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and (2) whether the lower courts erred in the application of the law.” State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. 1990).
The first issue is whether appellant can challenge his former spouse’s use of “IV-D” child-support-enforcement services. An explanation of the underlying statutory scheme is required. Minnesota participates in the federally funded Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (“TANF”), which provides grants to states to meet the needs of low-income families. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 601-619 (2000). As a condition of receiving TANF funding, states have to operate a child-support-enforcement program that conforms to certain enumerated requirements in Subchapter IV-D of the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 602(a)(2), 651-669b (2000). The requirements include the availability of IV-D services related to the establishment, modification, and enforcement of child-support. Enforcement must include procedures to withhold the obligation from income-tax refunds and paychecks, place child-support liens on property, and suspend driver’s licenses, professional licenses, and recreational licenses. 42 U.S.C. § 666(a) (2000). Under federal law, states must provide these services to qualified individuals. 42 U.S.C. § 654(4) (2000). Minnesota’s IV-D child-support program is governed by Minn. Stat. ch. 518 (2002 and Supp. 2003).
Appellant claims that 42 U.S.C. § 1301(d) (2000) of the Social Security Act prohibits IV-D child-support enforcement procedures against him. That section states:
Nothing in this chapter shall be construed as authorizing any Federal official, agent, or representative, in carrying out any of the provisions of this chapter, to take charge of any child over the objection of either of the parents of such child, or of the person standing in loco parentis to such child.
42 U.S.C. § 1301(d). “We review questions of statutory construction de novo.” Houston v. Int’l Data Transfer Corp., 645 N.W.2d 144, 149 (Minn. 2002) (citation omitted). Absent ambiguity, courts are bound to interpret words using their usual and accepted meaning. Mauer v. Kircher, 587 N.W.2d 512, 514 (Minn. App. 1998), review granted (Minn. Feb. 18, 1999). Further, “[a] statute should be interpreted, whenever possible, to give effect to all of its provisions, and no word, phrase, or sentence should be deemed superfluous, void, or insignificant.” State v. Larivee, 656 N.W.2d 226 (Minn. 2003) (quotation and citation omitted).
Interpreting the federal statute to include state officials would be a mistake. The statute clearly and only uses the word “federal.” Further, the usual and accepted use of the term “take charge” of a child would not include such actions as withholding money from a paycheck and suspending driver’s licenses. Therefore, it is clear that the provision in question does not extend to state officials and even if it did, does not preclude state officials from providing respondent with the collection services used in this case.
Further, as the district court correctly noted, appellant’s interpretation completely disregards the whole directive of the federal statute. The federal statute requires that the states establish procedures for collecting child support. Support is set by state court process. The federal government is not involved. Here the federal government is only conditioning the receipt of certain federal funds on the state moving aggressively to enforce its own state court orders. Appellant’s interpretation is a misreading of the statute and would create a nonsensical result. Appellant cannot terminate the use of enforcement proceedings against him simply by creating his own interpretation of the statute.
Appellant additionally argues that the services should be terminated because Jeschke is not “needy” and therefore is not an intended beneficiary of such services. Appellant is correct that the statute requires that the state must provide these services to “(i) each child for whom (I) assistance is provided under the State program funded under part A of this subchapter, (II) benefits or services for foster care maintenance are provided under the State program funded under part E of this subchapter, (III) medical assistance is provided under the State plan . . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 654(4)(A)(i) (2000).
But as the district court correctly notes, appellant totally ignores the second clause of the subparagraph. The statute explicitly provides that the state must furnish services for “any other child, if an individual applies for such services with respect to the child[.]” 42 U.S.C. § 654(4)(A)(ii). Under such subsection, the only requirement for receipt of the services is that the person applies for such services. The requirement that a person receive public assistance payments or other state services is specifically limited to the first clause.
By challenging this statute and the use of child-support-enforcement procedures generally, appellant essentially challenges many of the fundamental principles of our society. It is well established that public policy requires that parents support their children. Darcy v. Darcy, 455 N.W.2d 518, 522 (Minn. App. 1990). Children who do not receive support from their parents often seek and receive state funds and services and, depending on their particular need, can become a financial burden on the state and qualify for federally supported entitlement programs. There is a legitimate national interest in ensuring that parents provide for their children to the extent they are able.
It is well established that Congress can condition states’ receipt of federal funds if it does so unambiguously and enables states to exercise their choice knowingly. South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203, 207, 107 S. Ct. 2793, 2796 (1987). Congress “has repeatedly employed the power to further broad policy objectives.” Id. at 206, 107 S. Ct. at 2796 (quotation omitted). In accordance with established law and because of the national interest in parents supporting their children, Congress conditioned the receipt of federal funds on states’ enactment of child-support-enforcement laws. Minnesota could have rejected the federal funds and the IV-D program.
Appellant makes references and claims that judicial involvement in the child-support enforcement process violates separation of powers and due-process rights. We note that under the separation-of-powers doctrine, the courts generally defer to the legislature to create the law. State legislation is the proper means to create laws addressing the legal aspects of child-support obligations. Cf. Mund v. Mund, 252 Minn. 442, 445, 90 N.W.2d 309, 312 (1985) (concluding parents’ obligation to support their children is based on their legal and natural duty to do so). The legislature has discretion in enumerating procedures for enforcing statutorily recognized obligations. By legislative action, the courts have the power to determine custody and child-support obligations in marital proceedings and the power to modify such determinations. See Minn. Stat. §§ 518.17, .18 (2002) (explaining the factors district courts should consider in determining custody and child-support obligations, and in modifying such orders). The state legislature has established a procedure for determining child support. It is the responsibility of the courts to enforce this procedure. Unless the parents and the state have access to the courts, such obligations and enforcement rights are useless. Appellant’s separation-of-powers claim is without merit.
We agree with appellant that due process is an important concept. See U.S. Const., amend. XIV, § 1; Minn. Const., art. I, § 7. The caselaw recognizes everyone’s right to due process. See Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332, 96 S. Ct. 893, 901 (1976) (holding that individuals receiving social security disability benefits have a statutorily created property interest in the continuing receipt of such benefits); Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 262-64, 90 S. Ct. 1011, 1017-19 (1970) (holding the same for individuals receiving public assistance). This court has stated that “an obligor is entitled to notice and a hearing before income is withheld.” Hamann v. Hamann, 479 N.W.2d 751, 753 (Minn. App. 1992). The laws of this state and court rules afford appellant and other child-support obligors due-process rights. Appellant does not present any credible argument or cite any relevant authority that indicates that Minnesota’s child-support laws were passed or are being enforced in any way other than in accordance with due-process rights as set forth in the Minnesota or federal constitutions.
Appellant claims that the district court’s involvement in his case was a conflict of interest. He does not cite to any examples of partiality to support his argument, and we find no evidence of wrongdoing by the district court. Without an explanation of the alleged conflict of interest, we have no basis for considering a reversal of the district court’s order.