may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
In re the Marriage of:
Sheila Bolduc, petitioner,
File No. F696288
Harry D. Hohman, Wojtalewicz, Hohman & Schoep, 139 North Miles Street, P.O. Box 123, Appleton, MN 56208-0123
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Short, Judge.
On appeal from a marital dissolution judgment, appellant Sheila Bolduc challenges the district court's allocation of child care costs and division of marital property. We affirm.
In 1996, appellant's net monthly income from employment was $773.25. According to her 1996 tax returns, she qualified for $3,867 in federal earned income, state working family, and state and federal dependent care expense credits. Appellant received payment for these credits, plus $606, which resulted from withholding by her employer, in the form of a tax refund in 1997. The district court included the entire tax refund in appellant's income and concluded that her net monthly income was $1,146.
Respondent Sean Bolduc's net monthly income was $2,020. The district court ordered respondent to pay $505 per month for child support pursuant to the guidelines and $94.50 per month for child care. The district court awarded appellant $200 per month in maintenance for two years or until she completes a medical coding educational program, whichever occurs first. The court also awarded appellant $500 for attorney fees in a temporary order and an additional $500 for attorney fees in the dissolution judgment.
Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b) provides:
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. * * * The cost of child care for purposes of this paragraph is 75 percent of the actual cost paid for child care, to reflect the approximate value of state and federal tax credits available to the custodial parent.
Appellant argues that the district court erred by including in her income the payment she received for earned income, working family, and dependent care credits. Generally, for purposes of determining child support, "[i]ncome tax refunds may be considered in calculating net income in the year in which they are received." Koury v. Koury, 410 N.W.2d 31, 32 (Minn. App. 1987). "Net income is properly calculated based upon monies available to the tax payer," so "tax refunds constitute income in the year received." Dinwiddie v. Dinwiddie, 379 N.W.2d 227, 229 (Minn. App. 1985). The earned income, working family, and dependent care expense credits paid to appellant in the form of a tax refund constituted income available to appellant, so excluding them from appellant's income would have artificially lowered her income.
Appellant, however, argues that the legislature could not have intended earned income, working family, and dependent care credits to be included in income for purposes of Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b). Appellant argues that including the credits in income would negate their benefit and also would result in the custodial parent assuming a disproportionate share of child care expenses. Appellant's argument is contrary to the plain language of Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b). The statutory language shows an intent to proportionately allocate child care costs between parents based on each parent's income. The statute recognizes that, as a result of tax credits available to the custodial parent, the actual cost of child care is approximately 75% of the amount paid to the child care provider. Therefore, the statute directs that the amount to be allocated between the parents is 75% of the actual cost paid for child care.
Appellant suggests that Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b), should be construed to contain an exception for low-income persons. Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b), however, does not contain an exception for low-income persons. Instead, the statute allows the district court to deviate from the statutory formula for allocating child care costs when "the allocation would be substantially unfair to either parent." Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b). The district court did not find that the statutory allocation would be substantially unfair to appellant.
The district court properly included in appellant's income the payment she received for the earned income, working family, and dependent care expense credits. The court also properly included the balance of the tax refund. The district court did not err in allocating child care costs pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(b).
Appellant argues that the district court erred by not dividing the parties' marital property equally. Appellant was awarded the home worth $12,500, subject to a $5,540 mortgage. The $6,960 in equity in the home was divided equally between the parties by awarding respondent a $3,480 lien against the home, payable when the home is sold. Each party was awarded $7,000 worth of personal property. Appellant was ordered to pay a $3,164 car loan, and a $1,927.48 Visa bill. Respondent was ordered to pay debts totaling $1,841. The net value of the property awarded to appellant was $5,388.52, and the net value of property awarded to respondent was $8,639.
The dissolution judgment does not require appellant to sell the home. Consequently, the present value of the $3,480 lien payment that respondent may receive in the future is unknown and could be significantly less than $3,480. Also, appellant is not required to pay any interest on the lien amount, which means that appellant may use the home equity awarded to respondent to reduce her housing costs. Finally, the district court found that appellant did not have the education or employment experience to maintain a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage and awarded her $200 per month in temporary maintenance to enable her to attend school. Under these circumstances, the unequal division of property was not an abuse of discretion.
 Respondent states that he believes the majority of the Visa debt was incurred after the parties' separation and that the $7,000 in personal property awarded appellant does not include the value of the vehicle awarded to appellant. But the district court found that the $7,000 included the value of the vehicle and that the Visa debt was a marital debt. The parties did not provide a transcript.