Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Sharon Marie Romig,
Daniel Robert Palodichuk,
Filed July 7, 1998
File No. F7-93-6872
Ronald B. Sieloff, Sieloff & Associates, P.A., 938 Minnesota Building, 46 East Fourth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Vance B. Grannis, III, Assistant County Attorney, Dakota County Government Center, 1560 West Highway 55, Hastings, MN 55033 (for respondent Dakota County)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Davies, Judge.
Appellant Daniel Robert Palodichuk challenges an order modifying child support. He argues that the administrative law judge (ALJ) (1) erroneously considered an issue that this court previously had decided, (2) incorrectly determined that income should be imputed, and (3) incorrectly set the imputed income. We reverse and remand.
Palodichuk appealed the decision to this court. In February 1997, we reversed the denial of Palodichuk's motion and remanded for further findings, holding that the ALJ did not make adequate findings to impute income or to determine the amount of the imputed income. In re Romig v. Palodichuk, No. C8-96-1556, unpub. op. at 4-5 (Minn. App. Feb. 18, 1997) (Palodichuk I). A remand hearing was ordered.
On remand, the ALJ in May 1997 found that Palodichuk's business venture is a bona fide career change designed to lead to an increase in income, and therefore did not impute income to him. Based on Palodichuk's actual income, the ALJ found that there had been a substantial change in circumstances, making the existing support order unreasonable or unfair. The ALJ suspended child support for January through April 1996 and reduced it from $457 per month to $150 per month beginning in May 1996. The ALJ also suspended Palodichuk's arrears payments and ordered him to appear for a review hearing on November 18, 1997, for the limited purpose of reviewing the need for continued temporary reduction of child support based on Palodichuk's actual income.
The review hearing was held before a different ALJ, who found that Palodichuk's business had neither restored the level of income he had earned in other jobs nor yielded as much income as he had anticipated. The ALJ concluded that Palodichuk had not made a bona fide career change and, therefore, was voluntarily underemployed. Based on an imputed level of income, the ALJ ordered Palodichuk to pay $457 per month child support and $19.50 per month for medical and dental insurance.
Palodichuk appeals the reappraisal of his career change, the imputation of his income, and the upward child support modification.
Palodichuk argues that the ALJ went beyond the scope of our Palodichuk I remand by deciding issues that were not before it. In Palodichuk I, this court ordered a remand hearing on the issue of imputation. That hearing was held and the issue decided in the May 1997 order, in which the ALJ concluded that Palodichuk had made a bona fide career change and that imputation of income was inappropriate. The May 1997 order limited the November review hearing to consideration of whether Palodichuk's actual income had changed since the time of the May 1997 order. Instead, the ALJ made findings of fact on imputed income and decided to impute income. In context of the continuing litigation, these issues had been determined conclusively in Palodichuk I and the associated May 1997 order on remand. The ALJ erred in reopening them. See Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subd. 2 (1996) (listing reasons for relieving a party from an order); Loo v. Loo, 520 N.W.2d 740, 743-744 (Minn. 1994) (once an adjudication on the merits has occurred, an issue should not be relitigated).
Moreover, while Palodichuk was prepared to present evidence of his actual current income at the November 1997 hearing, he was not prepared to relitigate the issue of whether the commencement of his business constituted a bona fide career change or to discuss his employment history for the purpose of imputing income. Palodichuk reasonably expected that the issue of imputation, which had been determined previously, would not be considered in November, and he was entitled to rely on that expectation.
Because we hold that the ALJ erred in considering matters beyond Palodichuk's actual income, we need not consider the issues of whether Palodichuk's employment status constitutes a bona fide career change or whether the ALJ correctly computed an imputed income. We remand for determination of Palodichuk's actual current income to decide whether the temporary reduction of child support should be continued or whether Palodichuk's child support obligation should be modified.
Reversed and remanded.