This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. §480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




Anoka County,


Kimberly A. Countryman,



Bernard E. Countryman,


Filed July 27, 1999

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Randall, Judge

Anoka County District Court

File No. FX-97-12841

Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, Janice M. Allen, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka County Government Center, 2100 Third Avenue, 7th Floor, Anoka, MN 55303-2265 (for respondent Anoka County)

George C. Riggs, George C. Riggs & Associates, 888 Highway 10 Northeast, Blaine, MN 55434 (for respondent Kimberly A. Countryman)

Alan J. Albrecht, Albrecht & Associates, Ltd., 7066 Brooklyn Boulevard, Brooklyn Center, MN 55429 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Davies, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant-father Bernard Countryman challenges the administrative law judge's (ALJ's) order setting his monthly support obligation at $413 and refusing to hold respondent-mother Kimberly Countryman liable for reimbursement of public assistance benefits. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


Since the parties' separation, mother has had physical custody of the parties' minor children and received public assistance for the children. Father did not provide support and the county, as assignee of mother's right to support, filed an administrative action against father seeking reimbursement for the public assistance provided the children.

Initially, the ALJ found father employed part-time, imputed income to him, and set his temporary monthly support obligation. The ALJ also scheduled a review hearing and ordered father to bring to that hearing documentation of his job search efforts, income, and alleged physical disabilities. Father did not bring the requested information to the hearing. After the hearing, the ALJ found father worked part-time but could work full time. The ALJ also found father incurred reasonable monthly expenses of $1,190, set another temporary support obligation, and scheduled a second review hearing.

Before the second review hearing, father moved the ALJ to hold mother jointly responsible for repayment of public assistance furnished the children. After the hearing,

the ALJ found father (a) receives an average net monthly income of $614 from part-time employment; (b) was voluntarily underemployed; (c) should have additional income of $446 imputed to him (for total net monthly income of $1060); and (d) had reasonable monthly expenses which had not changed since the second temporary order. The ALJ raised father's monthly support obligation from $186 to $413 and denied father's motion to make mother jointly liable for reimbursement of public assistance benefits.


Child support decisions are generally discretionary with a district court and will not be altered on appeal unless the decision is "'against logic and the facts on record.'" Moylan v. Moylan, 384 N.W.2d 859, 864 (Minn. 1986) (quoting Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984)). This standard applies to support-modification decisions made by an ALJ. Lee v. Lee, 459 N.W.2d 365, 368-69 (Minn. App. 1990) (concluding that district court standards of review apply on appeal of orders issued by ALJs), review denied (Minn. Oct. 18, 1990).[1] But the decision still has to comport with law and with logic. In its order setting the amount of support at $413, the ALJ made the following relevant findings of fact:

10. [Father] is currently subject to a temporary child support obligation of $186 per month based upon the prior order dated July 1, 1998. Pursuant to that order, [father's] child support obligation is reviewable nunc pro tunc to January 1, 1998.

11. At the time of the prior order [father] had an average net monthly income of $664 and reasonable monthly expenses of $1,190.

* * * *

26. [Father's] total net monthly income based upon his actual earnings plus imputed half-time income would be $1,060.

27. [Father's] monthly living expenses have not changed since the last hearing.

(Emphasis added.)

The ALJ next provided the following relevant conclusions of law:

2. There has been a substantial change in circumstances, which renders the existing order unreasonable and unfair.

* * * *

4. This amount of support [$413 per month] represents a fair contribution by [father], fairly reflects the needs and financial circumstances of all parties and is based upon a consideration of the factors set out in Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subdivision 5(a) - (k), including a rebuttable presumption that the guidelines shall be applied.

5. [Father] has the ability to pay this amount of child support.

The ALJ's findings show that, even considering father's imputed income, (which he disputes) his net monthly income is $1060. That is $130 less than his reasonable monthly expenses, as found by the ALJ. The ALJ decision did not go on to explain how someone with a monthly deficit of record of $130 could have his child support raised from $186 a month to $413 a month.

Thus, we reject the ALJ's conclusion of law number 5, which states that appellant has the ability to pay this amount of child support. That conclusion is negated by the ALJ's findings of fact numbers 11, 26, and 27.

We reverse the order requiring father to pay $413 per month. The ALJ's prior temporary order requiring father to pay support of $186 per month remains in place. Noting that the prior order of $186 per month is only temporary (but on the state of the record appears reasonable since he cannot even theoretically pay that much), we remand to the ALJ for a determination of child support that is reasonable and consistent with the record and the findings.

Because mother's receipt of public assistance for the children was conditioned on her inability to meet her own expenses, we affirm the ALJ's decision refusing to hold mother jointly liable for reimbursement of public assistance. Holding otherwise would be contrary to the purpose of Minn. Stat. § 256.87, subd. 1, (1998), which provides that an action for reimbursement may be brought against a parent who "has had the ability to pay" support. See Ver Kuilen v. Ver Kuilen, 578 N.W.2d 790, 792 (Minn. App. 1998) (holding parent's reimbursement obligation is set based on parent's ability to pay when benefits were furnished).

Because we are reversing and remanding on child support, we need not address the other issues father raised on appeal. On remand, whether to reopen the record is discretionary with the decision maker.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

[1] We note the supreme court ruled the administrative child support statute, Minn. Stat. § 518.5511 (1996), unconstitutional but, in doing so, also held that the administrative process would be used until July 1, 1999. Holmberg v. Holmberg, 588 N.W.2d 720, 726-27 (Minn. 1999).