This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of:
Charity S. Maggert, n/k/a/ Charity
Beltrami County District Court
File No. F1-99-129
Wayne D. Bohn,
Ronald S. Cayko, Fuller, Wallner, Cayko, & Pederson, LTD, 514 America Avenue Northwest, P.O. Box 880, Bemidji, MN 56619 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal in this child-support-modification dispute, pro se appellant-father argues that the district court failed to make adequate findings to support its deviation from the child-support guidelines. We affirm.
Appellant Wayne Bohn and respondent Charity Maggert are the parents of a minor daughter born October 24, 1996. The parties were never married, and appellant and respondent were granted joint legal custody. Respondent was awarded sole physical custody subject to appellant’s parenting time. In March 2005, due to his pending graduation from law school, appellant sought a temporary reduction in child support to enable him to study full-time for the Minnesota Bar Exam. On April 24, 2005, the child support magistrate (CSM) reduced appellant’s child support obligation to $64 per month, but ordered that amount to increase to $274 per month in August 2005. The April 24 order also set a review hearing for August 8, 2005.
Appellant failed to appear at the August 2005 review hearing, and the CSM increased appellant’s child support obligation to $589 per month. The order also mandated that the child support obligation be retroactive to May 2005, when appellant had begun working for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwa Legal Department. A second review hearing was scheduled for November 14, 2005.
After a continuance, the second review hearing was held on November 28, 2005. The CSM determined that appellant’s guideline support obligation should be $865 per month, but granted appellant a downward deviation to $792 per month after finding that it would be in the child’s best interests due to appellant’s large student loan debt, which was incurred to increase his earning ability. The CSM also reapportioned uninsured medical and dental expenses, with appellant responsible for 72% and respondent 28% of such costs. Finally, the parties were ordered to alternate claiming the child as a tax dependency deduction, on an annual basis.
Appellant sought review of the CSM’s order by the district court. The district court affirmed the order in all respects on February 9, 2006. This appeal followed.
D E C I S I O N
reviews a district court’s order confirming a CSM’s decision on child support
under an abuse-of-discretion standard. Ludwigson
v. Ludwigson, 642 N.W.2d
441, 445-46 (
guidelines are presumptively applicable in every child-support case. Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(i) (2004). If the district “court deviates from the
guidelines, the court shall make written findings giving the amount of support
calculated under the guidelines, the reasons for the deviation, and shall
specifically address the criteria in [Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(c) (2004)]
and how the deviation serves the best interest of the child.”
(1) all earnings, income, and resources of the parents, including real and personal property . . . ;
(2) the financial needs and resources, physical and emotional condition, and educational needs of the child . . . to be supported;
(3) the standard of living the children would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved, but recognizing that the parents now have separate households;
(4) which parent receives the income taxation dependency exemption and what financial benefit the parent receives from it;
(5) the parents’ debts [reasonably incurred for support of the child]; and
(6) the obligor’s receipt of public assistance under the AFDC program . . . .
Appellant argues that the CSM failed to make adequate findings to support the downward deviation from the child-support guidelines. Specifically, appellant contends that the CSM made no findings on the record regarding the “needs” of the child or the effect of the tax deduction, but rather confined specific findings to matters relating to the parents’ income and expenses.
is not always necessary to separate the children’s needs from the custodial
parent’s needs when deviating from the guidelines.” Marden
v. Marden, 546 N.W.2d 25, 29 (
The [appellant] has two student loans in the total amount of $70,567.34 which he used to attend law school. The payment term for the loans is 30 years at 2.875 percent interest; and the monthly payment amount is $293.00. The [appellant’s] student loan was incurred for his education which was necessary for the generation of income as an attorney. It is fair and equitable to allow a deduction in the [appellant’s] net income for child support purposes for the repayment of his student loan for 18 months, after which the [appellant’s] child support obligation shall automatically increase to the full amount.
The CSM also detailed appellant’s income and living expenses. The CSM found appellant’s monthly living expenses to be $918, and noted that appellant plans on buying a house in the near future, which will increase his monthly expenses. The CSM further noted that appellant has “monthly payments for his student loan, attorney fees, delinquent taxes and credit cards in the amount of $967.00,” and has “allotted himself $200.00 per month for recreational expenses in addition to the funds spent during parenting times with [his daughter].”
In considering respondent’s financial situation, the CSM found that respondent “receives an average net monthly income from wages of $1,172.00.” The CSM also found that respondent’s “monthly living expenses are $2,366.00 for a household of 2 adults and 2 children. The [respondent’s] spouse contributes to the household expenses. The [respondent] does not have work or education-related child care expenses.” Although no specific finding was made in regard to the child’s expenses, the downward deviation was premised on appellant’s substantial student loan debt, which will ultimately increase appellant’s earning potential, thereby providing a benefit to the minor child. Because the financial needs of the parents were specifically considered in granting the downward deviation, we conclude that the CSM made sufficient findings regarding the requirement that the “needs” of the child be considered. See Marden, 546 N.W.2d at 29.
Appellant also contends that the CSM’s findings were inadequate to support the downward deviation because the CSM never addressed the issue of what benefit the parents received from the tax deduction. See Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(c)(4). We disagree. The CSM found that “[i]t is fair and equitable that the dependent tax deduction should be alternated between the parties, if the [appellant] is current in his child support obligations.” Although the CSM did not make a specific finding as to what benefit each party gains by claiming the child as a dependent for tax purposes, the benefit of claiming a child as a deduction for tax purposes is clear by its very nature. The CSM made findings in reaching its decision to deviate from the child support guidelines and the findings are supported by the record.