This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







Carson Miles Erickson,






Veronica Ann Erickson,




Filed June 13, 2006

Affirmed; motion denied
Crippen, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. DC 276289



Daniel S. McGrath, Steingart, McGrath & Moore, P.A., 3300 Edinborough Way, Suite 601, Edina, MN 55435-5692 (for respondent)


Veronica A. Erickson, 9526 Grey Widgeon Place, Eden Prairie, MN 55347-2745 (pro se appellant)


            Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Wright, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Veronica Erickson challenges a Hortis/Valento child-support determination whereby respondent Carson Erickson has a net monthly support payment of only $93.63 for two children for whom appellant provides most of the parental care.  Because the district court correctly applied Hortis/Valento by limiting its application to children of whom the parents share joint custody, we affirm.


            The parties had three children during their marriage:  A in 1989; E in 1991; and K in 1995.  In a 2002 dissolution judgment, the district court awarded the parties joint legal and physical custody of the children pursuant to a marital termination agreement.  The court ordered respondent to pay appellant $1,440.31 in monthly child support. 

            In 2004 the parties agreed to a judgment modification providing that respondent would have sole physical custody of E, and respondent moved for a modification of his child-support obligation.  Using the financial and custody-time information provided by the parties and the statutory child-support guidelines, the district court found that appellant’s net monthly income is $3,749.80 and that her guidelines support obligation for E is $937.45.  The court used the Hortis/Valento formula to calculate the parties’ support obligations for A and K, determining that appellant’s obligation is $157.49 and respondent’s obligation is $1,188.57.  Using respondent’s net support payment for A and K, $1,031.08, and subtracting appellant’s support obligation for E, the district court modified respondent’s child-support obligation and ordered him to pay appellant $93.63 monthly. 


When considering a motion to modify a child-support obligation, the district court must determine whether a change in circumstances warrants modification of the obligation.  Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(a) (2004); Long v. Creighton, 670 N.W.2d 621, 626 (Minn. App. 2003).  The court has broad discretion to modify a child-support obligation.  In re Ramsey County ex rel. Pierce County, Wis., 645 N.W.2d 747, 750 (Minn. App. 2002).  We are not to reverse the district court’s determination regarding child-support modification unless it is against logic and the facts on the record.  Id.  Appellant did not provide this court with any transcripts on appeal, so our review is limited to determining whether the findings support the district court’s conclusions of law.”  Bormann v. Bormann, 644 N.W.2d 478, 481 (Minn. App. 2002).

Appellant first argues that E’s custody change was not a substantial change in circumstances and that the district court abused its discretion by modifying respondent’s total child-support payment.  Without transcripts, we defer to the district court’s finding of a substantial change in circumstances.  See id.  And because this finding supports modification, we can find no abuse of discretion.

 Appellant next argues that the district court abused its discretion by treating A and E differently, arguing that the division of parenting time for these two children varies very little.  But appellant’s assertions about the amount of time that A and E spend with respondent are unsupported by the limited record presented to this court, and we must again defer to the district court’s findings. 

The district court used the proper guideline formula to determine appellant’s support obligation with respect to E because respondent is her sole physical custodian.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(a), (b) (2004); cf. Rogers v. Rogers, 622 N.W.2d 813, 821 (Minn. 2001) (holding that using the Hortis/Valento formula in a situation involving sole physical custody is a deviation from the guidelines).  The court also used the proper Hortis/Valento calculation to determine the parties’ obligations respecting joint parental custody of A and K and to offset respondent’s net obligation by the amount of appellant’s support for E.  See Schlichting v. Paulus, 632 N.W.2d 790, 792–93 (Minn. App. 2001) (holding that the Hortis/Valento formula is the presumptively appropriate method for calculating support obligations when parents have joint physical custody).  There is no abuse of discretion in the court’s calculations, which are supported by its findings of fact.

Appellant also argues that the district court abused its discretion by using the custody labels determined in the judgment and supported by agreements of the parties, contending that the court should have acted on the “reality of the situation” to determine respondent’s child-support obligation.  But the custody status of the children determines the method to be used to calculate the parties’ support obligations.  See Rogers, 622 N.W.2d 819-20.  Parties who have stipulated to a physical-custody arrangement that the district court adopts are bound by the custody label.  Nolte v. Mehrens, 648 N.W.2d 727, 730 (Minn. App. 2002) (citing Ayers v. Ayers, 508 N.W.2d 515, 520 (Minn. 1993)).  “[T]he dispositive factor in determining whether the arrangement establishes sole physical custody for one parent or joint physical custody for both parents . . . is the district court’s description of the physical-custody arrangement.”  Id.  It is not necessary for a reviewing court to consider a conflict between the parenting-time allocation and the designated custody arrangement.  Id. n.3.   

Appellant cites Tweeton v. Tweeton, 560 N.W.2d 746 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. May 28, 1997), to support her argument that the custody labels should not be dispositive.  But Tweeton did not disturb a Hortis/Valento application; to the contrary, the case upheld such a calculation when based on an equal parenting-time allocation that conflicted with a sole-custody designation.  Id. at 747-48. Moreover, legislative amendments to the child-support statute and subsequent caselaw suggest that the substance-over-form approach in Tweeton may now be inappropriate. Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 8 (2004) (providing that person designated as sole physical custodian is presumed not to be an obligor for child-support purposes); Rogers, 622 N.W.2d at 820; Nolte, 648 N.W.2d at 730.  The district court did not abuse its discretion by using the custody labels agreed to by the parties in its calculation of respondent’s child-support obligation.

            Respondent filed a motion with this court for attorney fees under Minn. Stat. § 549.211 (2004).  Because we conclude that there was no bad faith on appellant’s part with respect to this appeal, the motion is denied.

Affirmed; motion denied.

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