This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat.§ 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In Re the Marriage of:

Janice M. Mikolai,

n/k/a Janice M. Mahaffey, petitioner,



Thomas J. Mikolai,


Filed May 13, 1997

Affirmed in part, Reversed in Part, and Remanded

Kalitowski, Judge

Dakota County District Court

File No. 539676

Vicki Miller Luoma, Luoma Law Office, 303 Concorde Place, Burnsville, MN 55337 (for Appellant)

Perry M. Smith, Sisam & Associates, P.A., 6600 France Avenue South, Suite 360, Minneapolis, MN 55435-1804 (for Respondent)

Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.[*]



Appellant Janice M. Mikolai challenges the district court's decisions denying her requests for: (1) retroactive child support cost of living adjustments; (2) spousal maintenance arrearages; (3) strict compliance with the life insurance provision of the decree; (4) compensation for medical expenses and medical insurance premiums; and (5) automatic income withholding. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.



A district court has broad discretion on child support matters, and this court will not reverse the district court's decision unless it is clearly erroneous. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). Construction of a statute is a question of law that this court reviews de novo. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985).

The district court denied appellant's motion for retroactive cost of living adjustments to the child support because it determined that appellant failed to comply with the procedures in Minn. Stat. § 518.641 (1996). Appellant argues that she should not be required to follow the procedures set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.641. We agree. The cost of living clause appellant is seeking to enforce is not based on the statute; rather the clause was part of the dissolution decree entered into two years before the enactment of Minn. Stat. § 518.641, which provides for automatic annual cost of living adjustments based on the consumer price index.

The district court also denied appellant's request for retroactive cost of living adjustments because it determined appellant was barred by laches and the statute of limitations. Initially, we note that the equitable doctrine of laches is not applicable to child support. See Ryan v. Ryan, 300 Minn. 244, 251 n.2, 219 N.W.2d 912, 916 n.2 (1974) (equitable defenses are not available in an action for support arrearages); Vitalis v. Vitalis, 363 N.W.2d 57, 59-60 (Minn. App. 1985) (collection of child support cannot be precluded by the doctrine of laches). With regard to the district court's ruling that appellant's action for retroactive child support is barred by the statute of limitations, we note that neither the district court nor the parties addressed the application of Minn. Stat. § 548.091 (1996), regarding the automatic creation of a judgment for child support arrearages, the docketing of a judgment for child support arrearages, and the survival of such a judgment. See 1988 Minn. Laws ch. 593, § 11 (enacting provisions regarding support arrearages); 1990 Minn. Laws ch. 568, art. 2, § 89 (regarding retroactive application of Minn. Stat. § 548.091, subd. 1a). We therefore remand this issue to the district court for such proceedings as the district court deems appropriate and necessary to address this statute's effect on appellant's request for child support arrearages.


A district court's ruling on spousal maintenance will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion. O'Brien v. O'Brien, 343 N.W.2d 850, 852 (Minn. 1984). The underlying findings of fact must be affirmed if not clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.

The district court found respondent paid off his maintenance arrearages when he quitclaimed the parties' homestead to appellant, and, in addition, any action to collect the alleged maintenance arrearages is time-barred. Under case law,

divorce decrees calling for support payments in the future are entitled to enforcement by the party to whom the support was awarded, provided that each installment of support payments shall be treated independently and separately and recovery allowed only for those payments which accrue within 10 years from the date of the commencement of the action.

Dent v. Casaga, 296 Minn. 292, 297, 208 N.W.2d 734, 737 (Minn. 1973). Here, appellant did not seek a judgment for maintenance arrearages until almost 14 years after the last payment was due. Therefore, under Dent, appellant's attempt to recover the allegedly unpaid maintenance is barred, and we need not address appellant's argument that the district court erred in finding respondent paid the arrearages. In affirming the district court's determination that appellant's request for maintenance arrearages is time-barred, while remanding appellant's request for child support arrearages, we recognize that maintenance payments are treated differently than child support payments under Minn. Stat. § 548.091.


Appellant challenges the district court's refusal to require that respondent strictly comply with the decree's life insurance provisions. Because the required insurance was intended to provide support for the child and the amount in effect was almost double the amount required by the decree, we conclude any district court error in requiring only "substantial compliance" with the decree's insurance provisions is harmless. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 61 (harmless error to be ignored).


Appellant argues that, because respondent was required to provide medical and dental insurance for the child but did not do so, the district court erred in not ordering respondent to compensate her for medical expenses and insurance premiums she incurred on the child's behalf. See Minn. Stat. § 518.171, subd. 8(a) (1996) (an obligor who fails to maintain medical or dental insurance for the benefit of the children as ordered is liable to the obligee for any medical or dental expenses, including insurance premiums paid by the obligee). Because appellant did not provide evidence of either the actual amount of uninsured medical expenses she incurred on the child's behalf or the actual amounts she paid to obtain insurance for the child, we conclude the district court did not clearly err in denying appellant's requests for reimbursement. Cf. Tuthill v. Tuthill, 399 N.W.2d 230, 232 (Minn. App. 1987) (obligor "cannot complain" where his failure to provide adequate documentation led, in part, to denial of his motion to reduce maintenance); Taflin v. Taflin, 366 N.W.2d 315, 319 (Minn. App. 1985) (support obligor "will not be heard to complain" about district court's denial of his motion to reduce support where obligor failed to provide appellate court with a reviewable record).


Appellant argues the district court erred in denying her motion for automatic wage withholding for future child support. We disagree. Under both Minn. Stat. § 518.611, subd. 2 (1996) (income withholding), and Minn. Stat. § 518.613 (automatic wage withholding), the district court did not err in refusing to order automatic wage withholding because the evidence indicates respondent has been paying child support on a consistent basis for many years.


In conclusion, we affirm the district court's decisions denying appellant's requests for spousal maintenance arrearages, strict compliance with the life insurance provision of the decree, and automatic wage withholding. We reverse the district court's decision concerning appellant's request for child support arrearages and remand for such further proceedings consistent with this opinion as the district court deems necessary.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

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