This opinion will be unpublished and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:

John Temujin Guckin, petitioner,



Denise Joan Ganje,

f/k/a Denise Joan Guckin,


Filed November 24, 1998


Foley, Judge[*]

Ramsey County District Court

File No. F6-94-39

John Temujin Guckin, 177 E. Larpenteur Ave., Maplewood, MN 55117 (pro se appellant)

Joan H. Lucas, 700 St. Paul Building, 6 West 5th St., St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Foley, Judge.


FOLEY, Judge

Appellant father challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to modify child support. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm. Appellant also alleges he was denied due process. Because we conclude appellant was not prejudiced, we also affirm on that issue.


The marriage of appellant John Guckin and respondent Denise Ganje was dissolved on November 23, 1994. Respondent was granted custody of their minor child. The original dissolution judgment and decree ordered appellant to pay child support.

Appellant was subsequently involved in two car accidents. The first left him medically disqualified from his full-time job as a bus driver. Appellant claims that the second car accident left him unable to work at all. Additionally, the child has since been diagnosed with autism.

Appellant alleges that there have been substantial changes in circumstances warranting a modification in child support. The court denied appellant's first motion to modify support in July 1997, and the referee again denied appellant's motion to modify support on April 15, 1998. This appeal followed.


Modification of child support is within the trial court's discretion and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Hennessy v. Stelton, 302 Minn. 550, 550, 224 N.W.2d 926, 927 (1974); Kuronen v. Kuronen, 499 N.W.2d 51, 53 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. June 22, 1993).

I. Substantial Change in Circumstances

A child support award may be modified if the court finds there is a substantial change of circumstances that makes the terms of the award unreasonable and unfair. Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2 (Supp. 1997). A substantial change in either a child's needs or a party's earnings or needs supports modification. Id.

Appellant challenges each finding of the court order. His arguments can be categorized into those that assert he has had a substantial decrease in income due to his disability and those that assert the child has increased needs since being diagnosed with autism.

Decreased Income

Appellant claims he is physically unable to work due to injuries he sustained from two car accidents. Upon review of the letters appellant submitted from various physicians, the referee found that the documentation did not show that appellant is physically unable to work, but demonstrated that appellant is not able to work as a bus or taxi driver.

Upon examination of the record, we conclude the referee did not abuse her discretion. Several letters that appellant submitted were from years ago and preceded a previous court order in which the court denied appellant's motion to modify child support. Of the letters submitted after that court order, the referee examined three. One stated that appellant would be unable to work for an undetermined amount of time, which would be determined by his orthopedic surgeon. Another letter stated that appellant could no longer drive a bus, but could return to work as a taxi driver. The final letter indicated that appellant was incapable of working as a taxi driver until at least July 1998. There is no evidence in the record to show that appellant would be physically unable to work after July 1998.

Appellant also argues that the court improperly found his income to be greater than the income he actually earns. To prove his income, appellant submitted his 1996 and 1997 income tax returns. Unlike respondent, who provided detailed, itemized monthly expenses with supporting documentation, appellant submitted only his tax returns. Appellant makes unsupported assertions with regard to his expenses. As such, the court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that appellant was not indigent.

Increased Needs of Child

Appellant claims that his child's needs have increased since being diagnosed with autism. Appellant argues that he has been able to provide the required flexibility to respond to situations when the child's school calls and requests parental assistance. Also, appellant claims that he takes the child to all necessary appointments. Appellant reasons that these factors limit his earning potential and necessarily affect his ability to pay child support at the current level.

It seems reasonable that a child who has been diagnosed with autism would likely incur greater expenses than those originally contemplated by the original judgment and decree; however, because there is no evidence in the record to demonstrate the change in time commitment or expense to care for the child, appellant has failed to meet his burden of showing a substantial change in circumstances.

II. Denial of Due Process

"Pro se litigants are generally held to the same standards as attorneys." Heinsch v. Lot 27, Block 1 For's Beach, 399 N.W.2d 107, 109 (Minn. App. 1987). While the courts may provide some latitude to pro se litigants, bending of all rules and requirements or disruption of trial schedules is not permitted. Liptak v. State ex rel. City of New Hope, 340 N.W.2d 366, 367 (Minn. App. 1983).

Appellant claims that he was not permitted to respond to certain portions of the hearing and complains of ex parte communications between respondent's attorney and the referee. Appellant also claims that the court denied him due process by not construing his pleadings liberally.

Upon review of the record, it appears that appellant was allowed to respond at all appropriate times and the ex parte communications to which appellant refers concerned primarily scheduling issues, not substantive matters of the case. Further, this court granted appellant an extension to submit his brief for this appeal. Although appellant claims he was denied due process, he fails to demonstrate how he was prejudiced.


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