This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







In re the Marriage of:
Tara Adrianne Ronayne, petitioner,


Daniel John Ronayne,


Filed December 27, 2005


Wright, Judge


Dakota County District Court

File No. F7-03-12674



Allen H. Gibas, Allen H. Gibas, P.A., 1422 West Lake Street, Suite 320, Minneapolis, MN  55408 (for appellant)


Michael R. Paul, Cundy & Paul, L.L.C., 1125 Wells Fargo Plaza, 7900 Xerxes Avenue South, Bloomington, MN  55431 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Wright, Judge.


U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




            Appellant-father challenges the district court’s order directing him to pay child-care expenses pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 518.551 (2004) and its denial of his motion to dismiss the parties’ parenting-time expeditor.  We affirm.


Appellant Daniel Ronayne and respondent Tara Rother were married on August 28, 1993.  Their marriage was dissolved by judgment and decree entered on August 26, 2003.  The parties share joint legal custody of their two minor children.  The dissolution decree granted Rother sole physical custody of the children.  At the time of the dissolution decree, Rother was providing care for the children during the week and working part time on the weekend.  Ronayne was employed full time.

In their stipulated dissolution decree, the parties agreed that Ronayne would pay spousal maintenance until June 2004, Ronayne would pay monthly child support of $1,206, and the issue of child-care expense reimbursement would be reserved until after the spousal maintenance obligation ended.  The parties also agreed to use a parenting-time expeditor to resolve any parenting-time disputes.

The children were placed in daycare in November 2003 when Rother began working full time.  After attempting to resolve the issue of child-care expense reimbursement through their parenting-time expeditor, Rother filed a motion seeking Ronayne’s contribution to child-care expenses.  Rother sought both prospective contribution and reimbursement for expenses incurred beginning in June 2004.  Ronayne contested the motion, arguing that ordering him to contribute to child-care expenses would not be in the best interests of the children.  He also sought removal of the parenting-time expeditor.  Following a hearing in October 2004, the district court ordered Ronayne to pay child-care expenses prospectively, pursuant to the statutory formula set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.551 (2004), and granted Rother’s request for reimbursement of expenses incurred from the date that spousal maintenance terminated.  The district court also denied Ronayne’s request to dismiss the parenting-time expeditor.  This appeal followed.


In a dissolution proceeding, a district court has broad discretion to provide for the support of the parties’ children.  Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).  We review a district court’s determination of child support for an abuse of discretion.  Ver Kuilen v. Ver Kuilen, 578 N.W.2d 790, 792 (Minn. App. 1998).  A district court abuses its discretion when it sets support in a manner that is against logic and the facts on record or misapplies the law.  Rutten, 347 N.W. 2d at 50 (stating that setting support in manner against logic and facts on record is abuse of discretion); Ver Kuilen, 578 N.W.2d at 792 (stating that improper application of law is abuse of discretion).


            Ronayne argues that the district court abused its discretion by ordering him to contribute to child-care expenses.  As noted above, the issue of child-care expenses was reserved in the dissolution decree. 

            When the parties reserve an issue of support in their dissolution judgment and decree, the district court treats a motion on the reserved issue as a motion to establish support.  See, e.g., Eustathiades v. Bowman, 695 N.W.2d 395, 398 (Minn. App. 2005) (“[W]hen child support is reserved in a judgment and decree, a subsequent request for child support is generally treated as an initial establishment of child support rather than a modification of child support.”).  To establish child support, the district court applies the guidelines set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) (2004).  See Mulroy v. Mulroy, 354 N.W.2d 66, 69 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding that establishing child support pursuant to reservation does not require showing of changed circumstances); Aumock v. Aumock, 410 N.W.2d 420, 422 (Minn. App. 1987) (same).  Even when child support has been stipulated in a decree or ordered under the guidelines, other expenses related to the child, such as medical-care or child-care costs, may be considered separately from basic child support.  See Maschoff v. Leiding, 696 N.W.2d 834, 839 (Minn. App. 2005).  This is evident in the legislature’s distinction between child-care expenses and child support in Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b).  Indeed, the formula for setting a parent’s contribution to child-care costs takes into account other child support exchanged between the parties. 

The court shall review the work-related and education-related child care costs paid and shall allocate the costs to each parent in proportion to each parent’s net income, as determined under this subdivision, after the transfer of child support and spousal maintenance, unless the allocation would be substantially unfair to either parent. 


Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) (emphasis added).

            Applying the statutory formula in Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b), the district court ordered Ronayne to pay Rother $283.50 per month prospectively based on three days per week of child care.  Ronayne argues that the district court erred because (1) the district court did not correctly determine the parties’ net income; (2) the district court’s findings of fact are not sufficiently detailed; and (3) the award is unfair.  We address each of Ronayne’s arguments in turn.

            The district court’s findings of fact address each party’s net income, the exchange of child support, the costs of child care, and the proportional allocation.  Based on the net-income calculations described in its order, the district court concluded that each party is responsible for 50 percent of the child-care expenses.  Our review of the record establishes that the district court’s calculations were logical and based on paystubs and withholding information submitted by the parties.

Ronayne also argues that the district court’s findings of fact lack sufficient detail.  We disagree.  The district court addressed the factors that the legislature determined are relevant in allocating child-care expenses under Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b).  No additional detail was needed to satisfy the statutory requirement and make a fair allocation.  See generally Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(i) (2004) (noting that when district court does not deviate from statutory formula, its findings need only address obligor’s income and any other significant factors affecting determination).  As described above, the district court’s findings satisfy this requirement.

            Ronayne maintains that the obligation to contribute to child-care expenses is substantially unfair.  Reimbursement or support for child-care expenses is presumed to be unfair when the payment would place the parent below the poverty line.  Minn. Stat.§ 518.551, subd. 5(b).  We have found substantial unfairness, for example, when an obligor’s sole source of income was $633 per month in social security disability benefits and child-care payments would have brought the obligor below the poverty line.  In re Ramsey County ex rel. Pierce County, Wis., 645 N.W.2d 747, 752-53 (Minn. App. 2002).  Ronayne’s income is not similarly marginal and the court-ordered child-care obligation does not reduce his income to the poverty line.  Rather, Ronayne argues that the obligation to contribute to child-care expenses would impair his ability to provide for the children when they are in his care.  In support of his claim, Ronayne maintains that he might have to forego his cell phone, cable-television service, and water-softener rental if ordered to pay for half of the child care.  We agree with the district court’s determination that these deprivations do not rise to the level of substantial unfairness.  Accordingly, the district court’s imposition of an obligation to pay monthly child-care expenses as calculated according to Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b), is not an abuse of discretion.


Ronayne argues that the district court abused its discretion in ordering him to reimburse Rother $1,750.13 for child-care expenses retroactive to June 2004.  A district court has broad discretion in setting a child-support obligation.  Korf v. Korf, 553 N.W.2d 706, 708 (Minn. App. 1996).  Retroactive child support may be awarded following the commencement of a dissolution action under section 518, but generally a district court may not set a child-support obligation based on expenses incurred prior to the commencement of that action.  Id. at 709-11. 

The retroactive award in this case did not cover child-care expenses incurred before the 2003 dissolution judgment and decree.  Rather, it is based on child-care expenses arising from the date when Ronayne’s obligation to pay spousal maintenance terminated in June 2004.  This is the point at which the parties’ stipulation provides that Rother could bring a motion for child-care-expense contribution.  Rother initially scheduled the motion for July 2004.  Because the parties were attempting to resolve this dispute with assistance from the parenting-time expeditor, the motion did not proceed until September 2004.  Ronayne had encouraged Rother to submit the child-care issue to the expeditor in order to save them the time and expense of litigation.  The district court found that, because Ronayne misrepresented his intentions regarding the use of the parenting-time expeditor, Rother was entitled to the retroactive reimbursement.  The district court’s rationale for the retroactive award is supported by affidavits from Rother and the parenting-time expeditor.  Accordingly, the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting this award.


Ronayne also challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the parties’ parenting-time expeditor.  A parenting-time expeditor may be removed upon motion of a party for good cause shown.  Minn. Stat. § 518.1751, subd. 5a (2004).  We review the district court’s refusal to remove a parenting-time expeditor using an abuse-of-discretion standard.  Cf. In re Welfare of J.G.W. and J.L.W., 429 N.W.2d 284, 286-87 (Minn. App. 1988) (observing that this standard applies to refusal to remove child’s psychotherapist), aff’d, 433 N.W.2d 885 (Minn. 1989).

In January 2004, Ronayne initiated discussions about using a parenting-time expeditor to address issues arising after the divorce.  The parties met with the parenting-time expeditor, Ann McNattin, for the first time in April 2004.  McNattin was recommended by Rother’s attorney, and Ronayne interviewed McNattin before agreeing to use her services.  The parties asked McNattin to address issues regarding clothing expenses for the children, the parenting-time schedule, and child-care enrollment.  In May 2004, McNattin issued a decision regarding the children’s clothing and weekend parenting time.

After Rother scheduled a hearing on the motion for contribution to child-care expenses, the parties agreed to submit this issue to McNattin.  The parties’ attorneys participated in a conference call with McNattin on July 23, 2004, during which they sought a nonbinding recommendation.  In August 2004, McNattin recommended placing the children in daycare four days per week with each parent paying 50 percent of the costs.  Ronayne rejected McNattin’s recommendation.

In his motion for removal of the parenting-time expeditor, Ronayne alleged that McNattin was gender biased, could not act independently from Rother, and was acting against the best interests of the children.  In her affidavit, McNattin described her interaction with the parties and provided a detailed rationale for her recommendations, which were based on maintaining a stable schedule, keeping the children in structured activities that they enjoyed, and encouraging both parents to take responsibility for basic clothing purchases.  Ronayne failed to submit any evidence of good cause for McNattin’s removal other than his disagreement with her decisions.  Absent substantive evidence of good cause, we defer to the district court’s credibility determination as to McNattin’s performance as a parenting-time expeditor.

Ronayne also maintains that the district court’s refusal to consider rebuttal evidence addressing McNattin’s affidavit was erroneous.  At the October hearing, the parties agreed that the record on this matter would remain open until November 12, 2004.  Ronayne’s submission in response to McNattin’s affidavit was dated November 16, 2004, and filed on November 18, 2004.  Ronayne argues that he was not aware that McNattin would submit an affidavit in the case.  But Ronayne and his attorney were present when the district court advised that it would consider an affidavit from McNattin.  Enlargement of deadlines is within the discretion of the district court.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 6.02.  And we have held that the district court has discretion to ignore late affidavits when there is no justification for their late submission.  Axford v. Axford, 402 N.W.2d 143, 145 (Minn. App. 1987).  On these facts, the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to consider the rebuttal materials.


            Ronayne challenges the district court’s credibility determinations, arguing that they are undermined by inconsistencies in the affidavits submitted by Rother and the expeditor.  We give deference to a fact-finder’s determinations of witness credibility.  Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988).  Conflicts in the evidence presented by affidavit are properly resolved by the district court.  Straus v. Straus, 254 Minn. 234, 235, 94 N.W.2d 679, 680 (1959).  On appeal, we view evidence presented by affidavit in the light most favorable to the district court’s decision.  Id. 

A primary area of contention, for example, is whether the children ordinarily were in daycare three days per week, as Ronayne asserted, or four days per week, as Rother asserted.  The district court ordered Ronayne to contribute prospectively to child-care costs for only three days.  Ronayne’s contention that the district court resolved all credibility determinations against Ronayne is not supported by the record.  Nor is there any basis to conclude that Ronayne was unduly prejudiced by credibility determinations that were resolved in favor of Rother.  Applying the requisite standard of review, we will not disturb the district court’s ruling based on a challenge to its credibility determinations.


            Ronayne finally argues that the district court applied statutory presumptions in a manner that produced a gender-biased result.  When parties have agreed by stipulation to certain custodial designations, they are bound by the legal implications of those designations.  Ayers v. Ayers, 508 N.W.2d 515, 520 (Minn. 1993).  The parties stipulated in their dissolution decree that Rother would have sole physical custody.  Based on the parties’ stipulated custodial designation, the district court appropriately applied the statutory guidelines and presumptions.  The district court’s determination that each party is responsible for 50 percent of the daycare costs is a proper application of the statutory mandates in Minn. Stat. § 518.551 (2004), not evidence of gender bias.  Accordingly, we affirm.