may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Allan Hatfield, petitioner,
Filed November 24, 1998
Mower County District Court
File No. F1-93-0261
Shain Hatfield, 703 N. LaSalle, P.O. Box 41, Spencer, WI 55912 (respondent pro se)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Harten, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.[*]
Appellant, a child support obligee parent, challenges the ALJ's use of a workweek of 38 rather than 40 hours in computing respondent's net monthly income and the determinations that respondent is not required to contribute to either work-related childcare costs or the children's unreimbursed medical and dental expenses. We affirm.
Following a hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that appellant's average net monthly income from his jobs as a self-employed painter and a maintenance worker is $2,216 and that his monthly expenses for himself, the two children, and his current wife are $2,403. Appellant's mother provides after-school care for the children; the ALJ found that appellant's work-related childcare cost, after the statutory 25% deduction, is about $112.50 monthly. Respondent testified that she works an average of 76 hours per two-week pay period, works some overtime, and receives quarterly bonuses. Her hourly wage was $8.50, but she testified that it will drop to $7.75 when she changes from the night shift to the day shift. The ALJ found that respondent's average net monthly income is $913 and her own monthly expenses are $780.
The ALJ ordered respondent to pay guideline child support of $256 per month plus 28% of her net quarterly bonuses and to provide medical and dental insurance for the children; appellant was made liable for 100% of their unreimbursed medical and dental expenses. The ALJ found that respondent's statutory childcare payment would be $22.50 monthly and that "[b]ased on [respondent's] marginal income and the ability of [appellant] to meet the child care costs," it was appropriate that respondent not contribute.
Appellant's motion for amended findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order was denied. On appeal, he argues that the ALJ's determination of respondent's income lacked a reasonable basis in fact and that the ALJ abused discretion in not requiring respondent to contribute to either the work-related childcare costs or the children's unreimbursed medical and dental expenses.
The trial court has broad discretion to provide for the support of the parties' children. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). We will not reverse the trial court's decision on child support unless that decision was clearly erroneous. See id. at 51.
1. Computation of Respondent's Income
An appellate court 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). Respondent testified that she worked an average of 76 hours every two weeks and submitted paycheck stubs showing this. The ALJ determined her income on the basis of 38 hours a week with "voluntary and sporadic" overtime hours. There is a reasonable basis in fact to support the ALJ's determination of respondent's income.
2. Childcare Costs
The ALJ found that work-related childcare costs are $112.50 monthly, that after paying child support respondent has only 20% of the parties' combined net monthly incomes, that respondent's share of the childcare costs would be $22.50, and that because respondent's income is marginal and appellant is able to meet the childcare costs, it was appropriate not to allocate childcare costs to respondent.
Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5, (1996) provides that a court shall allocate childcare costs in proportion to net income unless the allocation is substantially unfair and that substantial unfairness is presumed if net income after allocation is below the federal poverty guidelines. The ALJ made no explicit finding that allocation of childcare costs to respondent would be substantially unfair or that respondent's income if she paid childcare costs would be below the federal poverty guidelines. Appellant argues that, absent such findings, the ALJ erred in not allocating childcare costs.
We see no error. The statutory "presumption of substantial unfairness" is not exclusive; the statute does not say that substantial unfairness exists only when the obligor's income falls below the poverty guidelines. Moreover, a finding of substantial unfairness can be inferred from the ALJ's reference to respondent's "marginal income" and the finding that her expenses already exceed her income by almost 20%.
3. Unreimbursed Medical and Dental Expenses
After finding that respondent can get medical and dental coverage for the children for $75.78 monthly while coverage would cost appellant $300 monthly, the ALJ ordered respondent to maintain coverage and appellant to pay 100% of their unreimbursed medical and dental expenses.
Appellant argues that respondent should be liable for 50% of the unreimbursed expenses, relying on Minn. Stat. § 518.171, subd. 1(c) (1996), which provides:
If * * * the court finds that the obligor has the financial ability to contribute to the payment of these [unreimbursed] medical or dental expenses, the court shall require the obligor to be liable for all or a portion of the medical or dental expenses of the child not covered by the required health or dental plan.
The ALJ found that after respondent pays $256 in child support and $75.78 for insurance, her monthly income is $657, and her expenses are $780. But the ALJ did not explicitly find that respondent does not have the ability to contribute to payment of the children's unreimbursed medical expenses.
Appellant claims that because there was no finding of respondent's inability to pay, the ALJ erred in not requiring her to pay 50%. Such a finding of inability to pay could be readily inferred from the ALJ's finding that respondent's expenses exceed her net monthly income by $123.
We see no abuse of discretion in the ALJ's determination of respondent's income or in the orders relative to childcare costs and unreimbursed medical and dental expenses.
[*]Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
$657 for respondent + $2,216 for appellant = $3,129; $657 is 20% of $3,129.
We note the de minimis nature of appellant's arguments. If the ALJ had used 40 hours instead of 38, appellant would receive about $14 monthly in additional child support; if respondent were required to contribute to childcare costs, appellant would receive $22.50 monthly.