This opinion will be unpublished and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
In re: Merry D. Hendricks, n/k/a Merry DeeAnn Charles, petitioner,
Dennis L. Hendricks,
Filed November 30, 2004
Beltrami County District Court
File No. F4-98-1278
Merry D. Charles, 6076 Tall Pines Road NE, Bemidji, MN† 56601 (pro se appellant)
Darrell Carter, 622 Bemidji Avenue North, Bemidji, MN† 56601 (for respondent)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Stoneburner, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.*
On appeal in this marital dissolution dispute, appellant argues that (1) the district court failed to make a specific finding regarding the marital debt issue; (2) the district court erred by requiring respondent to pay half of the Minnesota Care premium in the event that union coverage was no longer available; (3) the district court failed to make adequate findings on reimbursement of past medical coverage; and (4) the district court erred in its calculation of net income for support purposes.† We affirm.
††††††††††† This matter has been before this court on two prior occasions.† Appellant Merry D. Charles and respondent Dennis L. Hendricks were married in 1984 and had two children during the course of their marriage.† In 1998, the parties commenced an action for dissolution of their marriage.† On January 4, 1999, the district court issued a temporary order requiring, among other things, that respondent pay $175 per month toward the marital debt.†
First district court proceeding
††††††††††† In December 1999, the district court entered a dissolution decree.† In its decree, the district court divided the partiesí marital property and real estate, and also included a property-equalization payment.† It further required that respondent maintain health insurance through his employer, but provided that if this coverage became unavailable, the parties would share equally in the cost of their childrenís health insurance.† The decree also required respondent to pay $504 per month in child support.† The decree added, ď[a]t the end of the calendar year 1999 either party may bring a motion to review and reset child support based on the actual income of Respondent in 1999.Ē† The court also divided the marital debt.† Up to that point, respondent had not complied with the temporary order, requiring a $175 per month payment toward the marital debt.† The final decree made no mention of the temporary order or respondentís failure to make payment on that order.†
First appellate review
††††††††††† In February 2000, appellant appealed the district courtís division of martial property, its valuation of various assets, and the aforementioned property-equalization payment.† This court addressed appellantís issues in In re Hendricks v. Hendricks, C7-00- 257, 2000 WL 1780279 (Minn. App. Dec 5, 2000) (hereinafter Hendricks I).† This court affirmed the district courtís findings on the valuation of assets and division of the partiesí assets.† But, because the district courtís order did not provide a basis for the property-equalization payment, this court remanded for further findings on that issue.† And, because the district courtís order did not address respondentís failure to make the marital debt payments required by the 1999 temporary order, we also remanded on that issue.†
Second district court proceeding
††††††††††† In November 2001, the district court issued a scheduling order.† The order provided that all outstanding issues previously addressed by this court, and all outstanding issues arising out of the 1999 dissolution decree, were to be resolved by way of motion.† As a result, appellant filed numerous motions, which included motions to (1) increase child support, (2) receive reimbursement for medical and dental costs resulting from respondent's failure to maintain coverage in 2000 and 2001, and (3) deny respondentís claim for relief from the marital debt under appellantís bankruptcy proceedings.†
††††††††††† In May 2002, the district court entered an order, (1) resolving the remanded property-equalization issue, (2) awarding appellant reimbursement of health-care premiums in the amount of $1,013.52, paid in 2000 and 2001, (3) denying appellantís request for respondent to pay $3,499.77 in marital debt, and (4) remanding the child-support issue to a Child Support Magistrate (CSM) for further findings.† The district court did not consider the portion of the remanded temporary order addressing the required payment on the marital debt.† In its attached memorandum, the district court reflected on its decisionĖmaking process and on the credibility determinations on which it rested its decisions.† For example, the court made the following observations:
††††††††††† The [c]ourt has spent considerable time reviewing the hodge-podge of bills and invoices [appellant] submitted regarding insurance and medical expenses.† Many of the invoices do not appear genuine and are peppered with [appellantís] own editorial comments.† Any doubts as to the veracity of this material are properly resolved in [r]espondentís favor . . . .
††††††††††† In June 2002, appellant filed two more motions to the district court.† First, appellant moved for a judgment on the temporary order.† And, second, appellant moved for an additional reimbursement award for health insurance coverage and enforcement of the provision under the original decree.† In September 2002, the CSM entered an upward modification order for child support.†
Second appellate review
††††††††††† In November 2002, respondent filed a notice of appeal before this court.† Appellant filed a notice of cross-appeal in December 2002.† Respondent appealed the CSMís determination of net income for child support, because (1) there was no pending motion to set retroactive child support, (2) the CSM did not take union dues into account per the statutory requirement, and (3) the CSM did not account for respondentís extended periods of unemployment due to the seasonal nature of his job.† Appellant appealed both the CSMís net income determination, and the district courtís order on the issues of (1) attorneyís fees, (2) the determination of marital debt appellant paid on behalf of respondent, (3) enforcement of medical coverage, (4) enforcement of the temporary order, and (5) medical coverage reimbursement.†
††††††††††† This court consolidated the appeals of both parties in In re Hendricks, n/k/a Charles v. Hendricks, C2-02-2101, C2-02-2132, 2003 WL 21911163 (Minn. App. Aug. 12, 2003) (hereinafter Hendricks II).† This court affirmed a number of the district courtís determinations, but again found that a there were issues that needed to be addressed on remand, specifically; (1) determination of retroactive past-due child support amounts from the modification date, (2) net income findings based upon the statutory requirements, (3) determination of the veracity of appellantís allegation that respondent had rental income, (4) assignment of responsibility for maintaining medical coverage for the partiesí minor children, (5) determination of the amount of marital debt paid by appellant prior to her filing for bankruptcy, and (6) determination of the amount owed on the temporary order toward the marital debt.†
††††††††††† This court also allowed the district court broad discretion to address other issues raised by the parties.† Finally, this court admonished the parties to find a quick resolution to all of the outstanding issues and stated, ď[t]he emotional and financial toll on the parties and their children has already been too high.† All involved - attorneys, represented parties, pro se parties, CSMs, and the district court - must marshal all efforts to finally put all issues to rest.† It is time.Ē Id. at *7.
Third district court proceeding
††††††††††† In December 2003, appellant filed affidavits with the district court asking for, (1) reimbursement of medical insurance premiums in the amount of $180.00, and (2) payment of $3,399.17 in past marital debt.† In February 2004, the district court issued an order requiring that (1) respondent pay $5,739.54 for child support arrearages from the modification date, (2) respondent pay $799.55 in ongoing child support, (3) respondent provide medical insurance for the children through his employer, and, (4) respondent pay $1,225 from the January 4, 1999 temporary order for payment of marital debt.†
Appellant then brought this appeal, requesting that this court (1) compel payment of $3,499.77 on past marital debt, (2) clarify the partiesí responsibility for medical insurance coverage, (3) order reimbursement for medical coverage in the amount of $180.00, and (4) remand to the district court for another determination of net income for child support purposes.
I.††††††††† Marital-debt issue
††††††††††† Appellant first asks this court to enter judgment in her favor in the amount of $3,499.77.† Appellant claims this amount for portions of the marital debt that she paid on behalf of respondent prior to, and as a result of, her filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy.† She argues that the district court erred by failing to make a ruling on this issue, as it was directed to by this court in Hendricks II.† See Halverson v. Village of Deerwood, 322 N.W.2d 761, 766 (Minn. 1982). (stating that it is the duty of the trial court on remand to execute the mandate of this court strictly according to its terms).
††††††††††† Respondent argues, however, that the district court addressed this issue in its most recent order and that enforcement of the temporary order in the amount of $1,225 was for full and final payment on this marital debt.
††††††††††† In its December 1999 dissolution decree, the district court apportioned the marital debt between the parties.† Respondent was responsible for two bills: (1) the USA Visa bill for $3,064, and (2) the Advanta bill for $2,424.88.† These bills were in appellantís name and were eventually discharged in bankruptcy proceedings.† In May 2002, the district court issued an order addressing the implications of the bankruptcy proceeding on this debt, and denying appellantís motion for payment of $3,499.77.† The district court stated in its attached memorandum that,
††††††††††† Any payments made voluntarily by [appellant] or by the Bankruptcy Trustee on account of Respondentís marital debts are payments of bills that were either voluntarily made on [appellantís] part or were discharged in Bankruptcy.† Either [appellant] chose to make such payments, or the payments were made at the mandate of the Bankruptcy Trustee.† Thus, denial of this Motion is appropriate.
In Hendricks II, this court remanded the marital debt issue, stating that ď[p]ayments made under the threat of creditor action . . . are not necessarily voluntary.Ē In re Hendricks, n/k/a Charles v. Hendricks, C2-02-2101, C2-02-2132, 2003 WL 21911163 at *6 (Minn. App. Aug. 12, 2003) (emphasis added).†
††††††††††† On remand, the district court awarded appellant a judgment in the amount of $1,225 for marital debt under the January 4, 1999, temporary order.† While the court did not specifically address the issue of payment of marital debt prior to bankruptcy, we conclude that the court implicitly made a finding that payments after dissolution but prior to bankruptcy were voluntary and should not be reimbursed.† Although this court stated that payment on the debt was not necessarily voluntary, if the district court found that, after reviewing the credibility of the evidence supplied by the parties, payment on the debt was voluntary, this court will not interfere.† The district courtís determination of marital debt is affirmed as the district court is in the best position to reĖevaluate the entire record.† See Robert v. Zygmunt, 652 N.W.2d 537, 544 (Minn. App. 2002).†
II.††††††† Medical insurance premiums
††††††††††† Appellant next argues that the district court abused its discretion by, (1) not issuing a finding reimbursing her for $180.00 in medical insurance premiums, and (2) requiring respondent to pay half of Minnesota Care premiums in the event that insurance is no longer available through his union.†
††††††††††† In its original decree dated December 16, 1999 the district court provided that respondent shall maintain health insurance for his children in the event that a group plan is offered by his employer.† In the event a group plan was not available through respondentís employer, the district court held that the parties would share equally in the costs of the health plan for their children.† At the time of† the second appeal in this case, the children were receiving coverage through Minnesota Care.† Appellant asked this court to enforce the district courtís decree, because, at the time, she alleged respondent had not provided medical coverage for the children through his employer.† This court, in Hendricks II, ordered the district court to assign responsibility for medical coverage.
††††††††††† There is a factual dispute regarding exactly when respondent began paying for medical coverage.† Appellant argues that she should be paid $180.00 for the time period in which she continued to pay premiums for Minnesota Care while waiting for the district court to make its determination.† Respondent argues that appellant continued to carry Minnesota Care for the children during the same time that his insurance covered the children in order to maintain coverage for herself.† It appears from the record that, at one point, both parties may have been paying for medical coverage for the children at the same time.† The district court did not make a specific finding on when exactly the respondent began maintaining coverage.† However, based on the abundance of factual documentation that both parties brought forward, it is very likely that the district court made a credibility determination and found that appellantís claim for this amount had not been sufficiently proven.† See Robert, 652 N.W.2d at 544 (stating that the district court is in the best position to make credibility determinations).
††††††††††† Appellant also argues that the district court abused its discretion by requiring respondent to pay half of the Minnesota Care premiums in the event that insurance through his union became unavailable.† On remand, the district court, per the mandate of this court, addressed the issue of responsibility for maintaining the childrenís medical coverage.† The district court held that, ď[i]n the alternative, if medical insurance is not available through [r]espondentís employer, [r]espondent shall pay one half of Minnesota Care insurance premiums.Ē† While this court stated in Hendricks II, that Minnesota Care is not medical coverage as required by the original decree, we will not remand this issue based on speculation that the fatherís insurance coverage might cease sometime in the future.
††††††††††† Given the extremely litigious nature of this matter, remand would be inappropriate.† This court declines to remand for de minimus technical errors.† Wibbens v. Wibbens, 379 N.W.2d 225, 227 (Minn. App. 1985).† The children currently have medical coverage.† The medical coverage remains modifiable if future events so dictate.† As such, we will not remand this issue for a clarification that is unnecessary at this point.† The district courtís assignment of medical coverage is affirmed.†
III.†††††† Net income calculation †
††††††††††† Appellant challenges the district courtís findings regarding respondentís net income.† Findings of income are findings of fact, and will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous.† Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.† A district courtís findings on net income, for purposes of child support, will be affirmed on appeal if those findings have a reasonable basis in fact and are not clearly erroneous.† State ex rel. Rimold v. Tinker, 601 N.W.2d 468, 470 (Minn. App. 1999).† A finding is clearly erroneous if the reviewing court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.† Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 472 (Minn. App. 2000).†††
††††††††††† Appellant first asks this court to determine whether the district court abused its discretion when it calculated net income from the date of the motion for support modification.† In the district courtís most recent order, it determined net income from the year 2000, the date on which modification was requested.† In Hendricks II, this court specifically allowed the district court broad discretion in making a determination of the relevant facts necessary for a net-income determination from the date of modification.† Based on the clear directive from this court, the district court correctly determined net income from the date of the original motion for modification and did not abuse its discretion in doing so.
††††††††††† Appellant next argues that the district courtís
determination of respondentís net income was in error.† Specifically, appellant argues that the
district court erred when it accepted respondentís tax returns and a
handwritten note as proof of medical expenses
for the years 2000-2002.† Further, appellant argues that the district court erred in not making specific findings regarding rental income that she believed respondent to have.† We disagree.
††††††††††† To successfully challenge a district courtís findings of fact,
the party challenging the findings must show that despite viewing [the] evidence in the light most favorable to the [district] courtís findings (and accounting for an appellate courtís deference to a [district] courtís credibility determinations and its inability to resolve conflicts in the evidence), the record still requires the definite and firm conviction that a mistake was made.
Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d at 474.† When a party alleges that a number of the district courtís findings are unsupported by the record, this court need not individually address whether each challenged finding is supported by the record.† Id. at 474 n.1.† This courtís ďduty is performed when [the court] consider[s] all the evidence . . . and determine[s] that it reasonably supports the findings.Ē† Wilson v. Moline, 234 Minn. 174, 182, 47 N.W.2d 865, 870 (1951).†
††††††††††† The record reflects that respondent was required to and did submit a large amount of documentation in order to assist the district court in making its determination of net income.† The district court stated that it made its determination of respondentís net income ďbased on the tax returns and other income information in the record.Ē† The reliability of the respondentís income-tax returns and other documentation is a credibility determination.† Credibility determinations in family-law matters are best left to the fact-finder because they are in the best position to make such assessments.† Robert, 652 N.W.2d at 544.† It is clear the district court found appellantís allegations of respondentís rental income were not credible.
††††††††††† Based on a review of the testimony and the documents submitted at trial, the district court made a determination of respondentís net income.† The district court was well within its discretion in making this fact-based determination.† As such, we affirm its determination.†
*† Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, ß 10.
† Though appellant in her motion talked about the temporary child support order, the record reflects that this temporary order was for marital debt.
† In making its net income determination, the district court stated that it relied upon ďtax returns and other income information in the record.Ē††
† Respondent further argues that the January 4, 1999, temporary order is unenforceable because the final decree dissolved the temporary order, and, as a result, neither this court nor the district court has jurisdiction to address this issue.† A lack of subject matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time, by any party, or by the court itself. Stadum v. Norman County, 508 N.W.2d 217, 218 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. Jan. 6, 1994); see also 1 David F. Herr & Roger S. Haydock, Minnesota Practice ß 12.16 (3d ed.1998).† Subject matter jurisdiction involves a courtís authority to decide a particular class of actions and its authority to decide the particular questions before it.† Cochrane v. Tudor Oaks Condominium Project,529 N.W.2d 429, 432 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. May 31, 1995).† Cases involving family law fall within the district courtís original jurisdiction.† Holmberg v. Holmberg, 588 N.W.2d 720, 724, (Minn. 1999).† Because the temporary issue was within the jurisdiction of the district court originally, and the subsequent judicial proceedings were tied to the district courtís holding in the original decree, thiscourt and the district court had jurisdiction to hear the issue.† Rather than a jurisdictional issue, this is one of scope of review.† This court will generally not consider matters not argued or considered in the court below.† Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988).† Appellant failed to argue below that enforcement of the temporary order for marital support was unenforceable.† Thus, we need not address this issue on appeal.†
† In its February 2004 order the district court referred to the January 4, 1999, temporary order as a ďsupport order.Ē† This appears to be a typographical error as the temporary order was for payment on marital debt.† The January 1999 order, specifically stated that ď[r]espondent shall pay $175.00 per month towards the partiesí marital debts.Ē
†Appellant also argues that respondent is purposely limiting his income by not working a 40-hour work week.† It does not appear from the record that this issue was addressed before the district court.† This court will generally not consider matters not argued or considered in the court below.† Thiele, 425 N.W.2d at 582.†