This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







In re Jill Louise Lohse,

n/k/a Jill Louise Ritzer, petitioner,





Timothy Jon Lohse,



Filed February 8, 2005


Hudson, Judge


Wright County District Court

File No. F4-94-1385


Ronald Resnik, Suite 340, 6200 Shingle Creek Parkway, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota 55430 (for appellant)


Geoffrey W. Tenney, 24 East Division Street, Buffalo, Minnesota 55313 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Peterson, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant-mother challenges the district court’s order compelling her to pay child support in the amount of $600 per month and arrearages totaling $9,756.  Appellant argues that (a) the record does not support the finding that she was voluntarily unemployed, nor does it support the findings imputing income to her; and (b) the lack of evidence regarding her support obligation requires that any support arrears accruing as a result of the obligation be forgiven.  Because appellant provided the district court with no credible evidence of her current earnings or earning capacity, we affirm.


On November 7, 1981, Jill Lohse (appellant) and Timothy Lohse (respondent) were married.  Their marriage produced two children.  Appellant and respondent were divorced in July 1994, and appellant was awarded primary physical custody of the children. 

In August 2002, legal custody of the children was transferred from appellant to respondent.  Respondent’s child-support obligation was terminated under the custody transfer, and appellant also permanently waived her right to any further spousal maintenance.  The termination of respondent’s child-support and maintenance obligations was deemed retroactive to March 2002, and, thus, an overpayment to appellant in the amount of $1,764 resulted.

In January 2003, respondent moved the district court to establish ongoing child support and for the return of the above-referenced overpayment.  On July 16, 2003, the district court issued a temporary order directing appellant to pay $1,056 per month in “temporary child support” to respondent.  The order states that “[t]he parties supplied affidavits in argument and waived further argument on the issue of temporary child support” and that the district court based its decision on the affidavits and “all records in the file.”

In February 2004, appellant moved the district court to terminate or suspend her child-support obligation, claiming she had been terminated from her position with her current husband’s company and that she was essentially without assets.  Appellant presented no documentation of her income other than a letter stating that her employment had been terminated and a one-page “Financial Asset Questionnaire.”  Appellant’s termination letter was signed by her current husband, Scott Ritzer, and dated February 1, 2003—approximately two weeks after respondent filed his original motion for child support.  The one-sentence letter provided that “[e]ffective as of 2/1/2003 we are terminating your employment with S.J. Ritzer Excavating, Inc.”  The financial-asset questionnaire, dated August 22, 2003, was completed by hand, signed by appellant, and indicates that appellant’s only asset is a checking account with Bremer Bank with a total value of $50.  The form also indicates that appellant’s monthly income is zero.  A statement on the form indicates that it was to be returned to Wright County Human Services.

Respondent then submitted an affidavit pointing out appellant’s failure to provide evidence of her income and attached an affidavit of Scott Ritzer, dated July 23, 1996.  Ritzer’s affidavit states that his then-girlfriend, Jill Lohse (appellant), owns 75% of S.J. Ritzer Excavating, Inc..  Ritzer apparently submitted this affidavit in connection with his own dissolution and child-support proceedings. 

The district court heard oral arguments on appellant’s motion on March 15, 2004.  At oral argument, appellant’s counsel asserted that appellant

has been unemployed since February 2003; she lives now in Scottsdale, Arizona, and has for several months; her earnings for 2003 were a little over $6,600.00 a month, gross income for 2003.  While it is true that prior to [February 2003] she did work for her present husband, Mr. Ritzer’s company, she has not done that since February 2003.  [Respondent’s counsel] may, in fact, argue that she quit as a result of being served with a motion.  It is her contention that nothing could be further from the truth.


Appellant’s counsel also stated that appellant was “asking that any arrearages . . . be forgiven because at the time of [the district court’s] previous Order she was not employed.”

            In response to appellant’s arguments, counsel for respondent stated, “[T]here’s no documentation other than the one-page letter that [appellant] was fired,” and “There’s no documentation as to about how the business is doing, there’s no documentation as to what her income is or what efforts she’s made to find other jobs.”  Finally, respondent pointed out that, while appellant may have been terminated from S.J. Ritzer Excavating, there is reliable evidence that she was, at one time, the majority owner of that company.

            Appellant’s counsel, in a brief rebuttal, then stated, “It’s my client’s argument that her husband’s business is basically not doing well now.  It would be her testimony that she doesn’t own 75 percent of it.  But even if she did, 75 percent of a business that’s not doing well doesn’t mean anything.  She doesn’t have an income.” 

On March 25, 2004, the district court awarded respondent ongoing child support in the amount of $600 per month, beginning March 15, 2004; $7,392 in past support; and $1,764 for the overpayment that resulted from the district court’s original grant of child support.  This appeal follows.



District courts enjoy broad discretion in ordering modifications to child-support orders.  Putz v. Putz, 645 N.W.2d 343, 347 (Minn. 2002); Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).  A district court’s order regarding child support will only be reversed if the court “abused its broad discretion by reaching a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on the record.”  Putz, 645 N.W.2d at 347.

Ordinarily, a child-support obligor’s monthly net income is equal to his or her actual monthly gross income minus certain deductions.  Id. at 348; see Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5b (2002) (specifying deductions from gross income).  But when a child-support obligor “unjustifiably self-limits his or her income in bad faith, the obligor is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed and the court must calculate the support obligation on the basis of imputed income.”  Putz, 645 N.W.2d at 351.  Imputed income is defined as “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).

Appellant challenges the district court’s determination imputing a net income of $24,000 per year to her.  Specifically, appellant argues that the district court’s findings were insufficient to support an award of child support to respondent.  The district court, in its March 25, 2004 order, made the following relevant findings:

10. [Appellant] is currently unemployed.  [Appellant’s] previous employment was with S.J. Ritzer Excavating, Inc., a company owned by her current husband, Scott Joseph Ritzer.  From July of 2001 through June of 2002, [appellant’s] gross income . . . was $63,520.00.  [Appellant’s] 2001 W-2 indicated a gross income of $59,450.00, and a net income of $42,240.00.  From April of 2002 through March of 2003, [appellant’s] gross income . . . was $44,842.28.  [Appellant] was terminated from employment at S.J. Ritzer Excavating by a letter dated February 1, 2003 and signed by her current husband and President of the company, Scott Joseph Ritzer.  [Appellant] has in the past, and may at present, have an interest in the business, S.J. Ritzer Excavating.


11.    [Appellant’s] monthly expenses are unknown.


12. [Appellant] is voluntarily underemployed.  She has the capability of earning a net monthly income of at least $2,000.00.  The court imputes to [appellant] a net monthly income of $2,000.00.  The guideline child support obligation for this income is $600.00 per month.  A reasonable sum for [appellant] to pay to Respondent as child support is $600.00 per month.


Appellant relies on Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52 (Minn. 1989), in support of her argument that the district court’s findings lack the requisite amount of detail to support an award of child support.  In Stich, a maintenance case, the supreme court remanded for further findings where the district court made no specific findings regarding the parties’ separate expenses or appellant’s financial ability to provide maintenance.  Id. at 53.  Appellant’s claim is unavailing.

Here, the district court did make specific findings regarding appellant’s income and her ability to pay child support.  The district court found that appellant had gross income of $63,520 from July 2001 to June 2002 and $44,842.28 from April 2002 to March 2003.  See Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 474 (Minn. App. 2000) (stating that the party challenging a district court’s findings must show that, despite the broad discretion this court gives to factual findings and credibility determinations made by the district court, the record still requires the definite and firm conviction that a mistake was made). 

While the district court had little documentation on appellant’s present financial status, and its findings imputing income to appellant are slim, this was the direct result of appellant’s failure to submit the necessary evidence to support her claims.  See Eisenschenk v. Eisenschenk, 668 N.W.2d 235, 243 (Minn. App. 2003) (stating that “[o]n appeal, a party cannot complain about a district court’s failure to rule in her favor when one of the reasons it did not do so is because that party failed to provide the district court” with the necessary evidence), review denied (Minn. Nov. 25, 2003). 

In making its determination, the district court relied on the parties’ representations at oral argument and the evidence presented, which included the parties’ affidavits and appellant’s last available W-2 from 2001.  From this evidence, the district court imputed net income of $24,000 to appellant.  See Darcy v. Darcy, 455 N.W.2d 518, 522 (Minn. App. 1990) (stating that a court may consider an obligor’s prior income to determine the obligor’s current ability to pay support).  Considering appellant’s most recent documented earnings, the curious and unexplained circumstances surrounding the termination of her employment, and the lack of any other substantive financial information presented by appellant, we conclude that the district court’s imputation of income and grant of child support does not clearly go against all logic and the facts in the record.  See Putz, 645 N.W.2d at 347; see also Robert v. Zygmunt, 652 N.W.2d 537, 544 (Minn. App. 2002) (stating that credibility determinations in family-law matters are left to the fact-finders because they are in the best position to make such assessments).  


This court reviews a district court’s past-support determinations under an abuse-of-discretion standard.  LaChapelle v. Mitten, 607 N.W.2d 151, 166 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. May 16, 2000).  Appellant argues that the district court’s award of $1,764—for the overpayment of child support and maintenance that resulted from the transfer of custody of the children in August 2002—is not supported by its findings or the facts in the record.  The district court found that (1) “[r]espondent overpaid child support to [appellant];” (2) “[i]n March of 2002, [r]espondent overpaid $588.00 and in May of 2002, [r]espondent overpaid $911.00,” and (3) “[t]he total overpayment of child support is $1,499.”  The district court also determined that “[r]espondent overpaid spousal maintenance to [appellant] in May of 2002 in the amount of $265.00.”  These findings are particular and are based on documents from the Wright County Human Services Agency, submitted by respondent in his affidavit to the district court.  Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s award of $1,764 to respondent.

Appellant next argues that the district court erred in awarding past support in the amount of $7,392 ($1,056 per month) to respondent.  The temporary order states that “[t]he parties supplied affidavits in argument and waived further argument on the issue of temporary child support.”  As noted above, appellant’s affidavit opposing respondent’s original request for support included minimal evidence of her earning capacity or financial situation.  And appellant submitted no further evidence to this court in support of her claims.  See Eisenschenk, 668 N.W.2d at 244 (affirming a district court’s child-support award where “appellant did not show that the district court abused its discretion in attributing income to her or that it clearly erred in determining the amount of income to be attributed to her”).  Respondent, on the other hand, submitted appellant’s 2001 W-2 indicating gross income of $59,450 and net income of $42,240.  Accordingly, we cannot conclude, on this record, that the district court’s award of past support was an abuse of discretion.


            Finally, appellant, for the first time in her appellate brief to this court, states that her current husband has filed for divorce and that she is now receiving public assistance in Arizona.[1]  Because this claim was not raised with the district court, we decline to consider it here for the first time on appeal.  Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (this court generally will not consider matters not argued and considered by the district court).


[1] If these assertions are indeed true, they can be fleshed out in a subsequent modification hearing before the district court.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.64 (2002).