This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).






Patricia L. Rooney, petitioner,





Michael T. Rooney,





Christ’s Household of Faith,

third-party respondent,





Ramsey County,



Filed January 16, 2007

Affirmed in part as modified, reversed in part, and remanded

Kalitowski, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. F1-87-23807


Joseph F. Schmidt, The Kenosha – Suite 4, 1204 Harmon Place, Minneapolis, MN 55403 (for appellant)


Christopher D. Johnson, Rebecca A. Chaffee, Best & Flanagan LLP, 225 South Sixth Street, Suite 4000, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent Christ’s Household of Faith)


Michael T. Rooney, 825 Marshall Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (pro se respondent)



Susan E. Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mitchell L. Rothman, Amy A. Anderson, Assistant County Attorneys, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for intervenor)


            Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant Patricia L. Rooney challenges the district court’s order, which, following a remand from this court (1) determined that Michael T. Rooney had no direct obligation to pay support; (2) modified child support retroactively and prospectively; (3) vacated maintenance retroactively and prospectively; and (4) terminated income withholding, and reinstated Michael Rooney’s driving privileges.  We affirm in part as modified, reverse in part, and remand.


This is the third appeal to this court involving respondent Michael Rooney’s maintenance and child support obligations, neither of which has been modified since they were established in 1988.  See Rooney v. Rooney, 478 N.W.2d 545 (Minn. App. 1991) [hereinafter Rooney I]; Rooney v. Rooney, 669 N.W.2d 362 (Minn. App. 2003) [hereinafter Rooney II].  The relevant facts explaining the long complicated history of this matter are detailed in Rooney II

On appeal, this court reviews a district court’s decision setting child support under an abuse of discretion standard.  Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).  A district court has “broad discretion” in setting child support, and we will not reverse an exercise of that discretion absent a “clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on record.”  Id. at 50.  Similarly, appellate courts review a district court’s maintenance award under an abuse of discretion standard.  Dobrin v. Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d 199, 202 (Minn. 1997).  A district court abuses its discretion regarding maintenance if its findings of fact are unsupported by the record or if it improperly applies the law.  Dobrin, 569 N.W.2d at 202 (citing Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988)).  “A trial court’s duty on remand is to execute the mandate of the remanding court strictly according to its terms.”  Duffey v. Duffey, 432 N.W.2d 473, 476 (Minn. App. 1988) (citing Halverson v. Village of Deerwood, 322 N.W.2d 761, 766 (Minn. 1982)).


The district court order under review states that “[Michael Rooney’s] spousal maintenance obligation to petitioner is VACATED as of August, 1990 because it was based upon an imputation of income which, if enforced, would violate [Michael Rooney’s] First Amendment right to worship as he sees fit.”  The order does not contain constitutional analysis explaining this conclusion.  Moreover, this conclusion is contrary to this court’s decision in Rooney II

            In Rooney II this court provided a constitutional analysis of the withholding statute that applies to both child support and spousal maintenance.  Rooney II, 669 N.W.2d at 367-72.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.6111 (2002).  We determined that the application of the withholding statute (for both child support and spousal maintenance) to Christ’s Household of Faith (CHOF) was constitutional.  Id. at 367.  Rooney II did not analyze whether application of the withholding statute to Michael Rooney would violate his First Amendment rights, because the statute was not being applied to Michael Rooney.  Rather, in the Establishment Clause analysis in Rooney II, we stated that “[i]t is undisputed that this case involves a state action, the imposition on CHOF of the withholding obligation, that has a secular purpose, securing the payment of Rooney’s support and maintenance obligations, that is religiously neutral.”  Id. at 368 (emphasis added).

Here, requiring Michael Rooney to take responsibility for his maintenance obligation to Patricia Rooney is adhering to a law of general application.  And in Michael Rooney’s case, application of the law does not even incidentally infringe on his religious practices.  He has not modified any of his religious practices and is not being required to do so.  Rather, as explained in Rooney II, based on the benefit conferred on CHOF by Michael Rooney’s labor, CHOF is being held responsible for payment of Michael Rooney’s spousal maintenance obligation.  Id. at 369-70.  In addition, in Rooney II we specifically determined that applying Minn. Stat. § 518.6111 did not impose unduly on CHOF’s right to religious freedom.  Id. at 369.  We thus conclude that the legal conclusion that Michael Rooney’s First Amendment rights would be violated if maintenance obligations were imposed is clearly erroneous.


            The district court order states that “[t]he court looks anew at the custody situation to calculate CHOF’s obligation since 1990.”  We are unable to find a legal basis for this statement.  The district court did not make any reference to a child support modification motion.  Thus, there was no basis for a discretionary decision to modify child support for a period going back to 1990.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(d)(1) (stating that a support modification “may be made retroactive only with respect to any period during which the petitioning party has pending a motion for modification,” and listing exceptions, none of which applies here).  We reject CHOF’s contention that retroactive modification was appropriate because Patricia Rooney committed fraud on the court.  The district court did not make any reference to fraud on the court in its order.  We conclude that modification of child support for any period prior to the date that an appropriate modification motion was before the court constitutes an abuse of discretion.


            The district court order includes, as required by Rooney II, a recalculation of maintenance and child support arrearages.  But the recalculation impermissibly diverges from the Rooney II remand instructions by failing to take into account the value of Michael Rooney’s services to CHOF.  Because omitting this essential component was error, we remand to the district court for a recalculation of child support and maintenance arrearages.

With regard to child support arrearages, based on the evidentiary hearing of November 2-3, 2004, and the case file, we remand to the district court to calculate Michael Rooney’s child support arrearages that must be paid by CHOF to Patricia Rooney.  The district court shall consider the evidence contained in the record to determine for each year the value of Michael Rooney’s services and, based on the age of each child, the guideline child support arrearages owed.  Going back to 1990 the district court may use evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing to determine the value of Michael Rooney’s services to CHOF.  The district court has the discretion to base its determination on CHOF’s valuation of Rooney’s services, the estimate presented at the hearing by Patricia Rooney’s expert, or the estimated earning capacity of Michael Rooney as established in the original judgment and decree.

We note that the evidence at the evidentiary hearing confirmed the extremely modest standard of living that the couple maintained during their marriage and that Michael Rooney continues to maintain.  Thus, although the Rooney II remand directed the district court to take into account CHOF’s in-kind disbursements to Michael Rooney, on this remand the district court need not include the de minimis disbursements or “benevolences” that Rooney receives from CHOF.  And we reject respondent Ramsey County’s argument that the district court erred by not including as a disbursement to Michael Rooney, money that CHOF pays to support Michael Rooney’s current wife and minor children.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b)(1) (stating that for the purposes of child support and maintenance, net income does not include the income of the obligor’s spouse).

With regard to maintenance arrearages, the district court shall calculate the spousal maintenance arrearages owed to Patricia Rooney using the amount of $250 per month ordered in the dissolution judgment in 1988, and taking into account appropriate cost of living adjustments.  Because spousal maintenance was never modified, CHOF is responsible for paying spousal maintenance arrearages, as calculated by the district court, from August 20, 1990, to either the date that there was an appropriate modification motion before the court or the date of the district court’s order.

In addition, contrary to the analysis in the district court’s order, the court should not consider any changes in Patricia Rooney’s financial position over the years in calculating the arrearages.  It is inappropriate to allow an obligor to benefit from Patricia Rooney’s extraordinary efforts to support her children, which were made necessary by the fact that she did not receive the child support and spousal maintenance ordered by the district court.  Absent a timely motion for modification of maintenance, after the fact consideration of Patricia Rooney’s change in circumstances, such as the additional income she had from a second job, would impermissibly reward support obligors for failing to comply with their obligations. 


Based on the evidence provided at the evidentiary hearing, including the parties’ standard of living during their marriage, we affirm the district court’s termination of future maintenance.  But because the district court failed to base the effective date for termination of maintenance on the date of a maintenance modification motion, we modify the effective date to either the date of the district court’s order or, if appropriate, the date that a maintenance modification order was pending before the court.

Because Michael Rooney’s maintenance obligation has ended and his child support obligation ended when his youngest child graduated from high school in June of 2005, CHOF is obligated to pay only child support and spousal maintenance arrearages.  Therefore, we affirm the district court’s decision terminating income withholding and reinstating Michael Rooney’s driving privileges.  Additionally, because the parties do not dispute the set-off number of $35,946.35 that the district court calculated in its determination of the amount of the child support obligation that has been satisfied as of March 31, 2005, we affirm that amount.


In conclusion, we reverse the district court’s calculation of child support arrearages.  We remand to the district court to calculate arrearages based on the child support guidelines, using the record to determine the value of Michael Rooney’s services to CHOF from August 20, 1990, to June 2005.  We also reverse the district court’s termination of spousal maintenance arrearages and we remand for a calculation of arrearages from August 20, 1990.

            Consistent with the analysis in Rooney II, the district court shall order CHOF, on behalf of Michael Rooney, to pay to Patricia Rooney the amount that the district court calculates in child support and spousal maintenance arrearages, subtracting amounts that have already been paid.  And finally we affirm the district court’s reinstatement of Michael Rooney’s driving privileges and the termination of withholding obligations.

            Affirmed in part as modified, reversed in part, and remanded.