Minn. Stat. §480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Steven Michael Preuss,
Otter Tail County District Court
File No. F194680
Schan E. Sorkness, 114 East Washington Avenue, Fergus Falls, MN 56537 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Appellant Steven Michael Preuss (father) challenges the administrative law judge's decision ordering him to pay child support. We reverse.
Three years later, mother moved for modification of child support, claiming that she was entitled to receive child support because the child had been living with her since October 1996. An administrative law judge (ALJ) granted mother's motion for child support, in effect amending the original judgment and decree, which reserved child support. The ALJ also pointed out that "there has been no formal change in the parties' dissolution decree with respect to physical custody." This appeal followed.
Generally, "de facto changes in custody do not operate to relieve child support obligations." Taflin v. Taflin, 366 N.W.2d 315, 319 (Minn. App. 1985). Minnesota courts frown upon private modification and continue to adhere to the principle that:
[A] judgment of divorce providing for support payments in the future is a final judgment. This rule is subject to the right of a party to seek modification of the decree, but until such modification has been ordered, the decree is entitled to enforcement as originally entered.
Taflin, 366 N.W.2d at 319 (quoting Dent v. Casaga, 296 Minn. 292, 296, 208 N.W.2d 734, 737 (1973)). This doctrine demonstrates regard for the custodial parent who is under an obligation to provide for the child's continuing costs. Lindberg v. Lindberg, 379 N.W.2d 575, 577 (Minn. App. 1985), aff'd, 384 N.W.2d 442 (Minn. 1986). Nevertheless, in some instances providing a home, care, and support for a child, satisfies an obligor's duty to pay child support. Minn. Stat. § 518.57, subd. 3 (1996). Mother, however, is not claiming that she should be relieved of her obligation to pay. On the contrary, she argues that she is entitled to receive child support from father, who is the custodial parent of record, because the child now lives with her.
A custodial parent is under an obligation to pay all long-term expenses regardless of where the child is residing. Gordon v. Gordon, 356 N.W.2d 436, 437 (Minn. App. 1984); see also Lindberg, 379 N.W.2d at 577 (holding father is not relieved of child support obligation simply because he provided for daily needs of the children and when custody award was never modified).
Here, father was awarded sole physical custody and is, thus, under an obligation to be prepared to pay all long-term expenses for the child. In light of the ALJ's findings on the parties' income and expenses we decline to affirm a support obligation that jeopardizes father's ability, and legal obligation, to pay all long term expenses. Furthermore, no action was taken in the district court to modify or change custody when the child went to live with mother. Father is thus not obligated to pay.