Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:
Lynn Louise O'Keefe, petitioner,
Thomas S. O'Keefe,
Filed April 14, 1998
Hennepin County District Court
File No. DC119036
Michael D. Dittberner, Kissoon, Clugg, Linder & Dittberner, Ltd., 3205 West 76th Street, Edina, MN 55435-5244 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Foley, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.**
*Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
**Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
Appellant contests the district court's decision that annual debt cancellation was a dependable source of future income for child support purposes. We affirm.
When appellant Thomas S. O'Keefe was hired by Hamilton Investments in 1994, he received an $80,000 "sign-on bonus," structured as a loan to be forgiven in four annual installments if he remained an employee during that period. Appellant received a $12,400 bonus, again structured as a loan to be forgiven in three annual installments, when Principal Financial purchased Hamilton in 1994. In 1995, Principal canceled $27,472 of appellant's debt and reported that amount as taxable income on appellant's W-2 statement. In 1996, Principal canceled another $20,404 of the debt. In July 1996, appellant ended his employment with Principal and was required to repay the balance of the debts.
Respondent Lynn L. Sloat, appellant's former wife, moved to modify the parties' child support arrangement in January 1995. In June 1996, the district court increased appellant's child support obligation based on his increased income, including the value of the canceled debt. Appellant sought review of the district court's decision.
On appeal, this court held that the district court abused its discretion by including the bonus in its calculation of appellant's income without first determining that it provided a dependable source of income for appellant and remanded to the district court for consideration of that limited issue. Sloat v. O'Keefe, Nos. C1-96-1608, C9-96-2053 (Minn. App. Apr. 22, 1997). On remand, the district court found that the bonus provided appellant with a dependable source of income. This appeal followed.
"`Income' means any form of periodic payment to an individual." Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 6 (Supp. 1997). "[B]onuses are forms of periodic payment and therefore income." Novak v. Novak, 406 N.W.2d 64, 68 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. July 22, 1987). To be included in calculation of future income, a bonus must "provide a dependable source of income." Lynch v. Lynch, 411 N.W.2d 263, 266 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Oct. 30, 1987); see also Desrosier v. Desrosier, 551 N.W.2d 507, 509 (Minn. App. 1996) (bonuses constitute income if "they have been a dependable form of periodic payment"). We will not reverse a trial court's determination of net income used to calculate child support if it has a reasonable basis in fact. Strauch v. Strauch, 401 N.W.2d 444, 448 (Minn. App. 1987).
Appellant contends that the bonus did not provide him with "income." But
[t]he discharge of indebtedness, in whole or in part, may result in the realization of income. If, for example, an individual performs services for a creditor, who in consideration thereof cancels the debt, the debtor realizes income in the amount of the debt as compensation for his services.
Treas. Reg. § 1.61-12(a) (1997). Appellant realized "income" each year when Principal canceled a portion of his debt in consideration of his continued employment. This income was periodic and dependable because, with every year of continued service, appellant "earned" cancellation of a portion of the debt.
The fact that appellant received the bonuses in 1994 does not prevent that income from being available in the future because the actual financial benefit to appellant accrued each year following the bonus when Principal forgave a portion of the debt. The district court did not err by determining that the annual cancellation of appellant's debt constituted a dependable source of future income.
Appellant requests that this case be remanded so the district court can recalculate his child support obligation using the net value of the canceled debt. But in its June 1996 order, the district court subtracted federal, state, and social security expenses from appellant's gross income (which included the value of canceled debt) and based appellant's child support obligation on the resulting average net monthly income. Because the district court has already done what appellant desires, his request is denied.