This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




County of Dodge, petitioner,


Christen M. Eckhoff,

n/k/a Christen M. Mealy, petitioner,



Troy W. Page,


Filed October 13, 1998

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Randall, Judge

Dodge County District Court

File No. F9-95-206

Christen M. Mealy, Route Three, Box Three, Dodge Center, MN 55927 (pro se respondent)

Scott Richardson, Richardson Law Office, 132 Third Avenue NW, Austin, MN 55912 (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Huspeni, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.



Appellant argues that the administrative law judge committed error when he ordered the child support obligation modification to be made retroactive to the notice of review, required appellant to pay the full dependent health insurance premium, and declined to address the issue of dependent income tax deduction. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


Appellant Troy W. Page and respondent Christen M. Eckhoff, n/k/a Christen M. Mealy (Mealy), were never married. They have one child, K.M.E., born October 26, 1991. By an order dated September 7, 1995, Page was required to pay temporary child support. The order provided that the amount of temporary support could be modified upon further court review without the necessity of establishing a substantial change of circumstances as required by statute. At the time of the September 1995 order, Page was incarcerated and obligated to pay for a federal ankle bracelet. As a result, his net income was reduced until November of 1995, when he was released from incarceration.

Mealy is married and has three other children not fathered by Page. Mealy obtained group medical insurance through her employer at $35.57 per month.

Dodge County Support and Recovery mailed a notice of administrative review to the parties on July 8, 1996, after receiving a letter from Mealy requesting a review. One year later, on July 3, 1997, Dodge County sent a notice of proposed order for modification. Dodge County was at fault for this delay.

A hearing was held on September 25, 1997. In an order dated October 28, 1997, the ALJ increased the amount of monthly child support and ordered the child support modification to be made retroactive to August 1, 1996, a month after the July 1996 notice of review. The ALJ also ordered Page to pay his share of daycare expenses and 100% of the medical and dental insurance at $35.57 per month. Finally, the ALJ ordered Page to pay 75% of K.M.E.'s unreimbursed medical and dental expenses.

In November 1997, Page moved for amended findings, a new trial, or hearing requesting modification of certain expenses detailed in the October 1997 order. In the amended findings dated January 29, 1998, the ALJ modified findings regarding daycare expenses, but declined to alter the conclusions regarding retroactive support, the health care premium, or the dependent tax deduction.


I. Retroactive Child Support

Statutory construction is a legal question reviewed de novo on appeal. Schumacher v. Ihrke, 469 N.W.2d 329, 332 (Minn. App. 1991).

Page argues that under Minn. Stat. § 518.5511, subd. 1 (Supp. 1997),[1] states that modification of child support may be made retroactive only to the date of the notice of proposed order for modification, which was sent on July 3, 1997. We agree.

All proceedings for modifying child and medical support orders are required to be conducted through an administrative process when a public authority is a party or provides services to a party to the proceedings. Minn. Stat. § 518.5511 subd. 1(b). Administrative proceedings may be initiated either by written request of a party or the public authority. Id., subd. 1(c), (d). Following the initiation of the administrative process,

the public authority shall, on the basis of all information available, complete and sign a proposed order and notice. The public authority shall attach a support order worksheet.

Id., subd. 2(a). This statute further states:

For the purposes of the administrative process, and notwithstanding any law or rule to the contrary, the service of the proposed order under this paragraph shall be deemed to have commenced a proceeding and the judge shall have jurisdiction over a contested administrative proceeding.


The notice of review was sent to both Mealy and Page almost one full year before Page received the notice of proposed order. This delay was due to an error by Dodge County. The ALJ, although troubled by the error, ordered the modified child support payments retroactive to August 1996, one month after the date of the notice of review (July 8, 1996), rather than retroactive to July 1997. Section 518.5511 allows for the ALJ's jurisdiction to extend back only to the commencement of the proceeding, which is indicated by the notice of proposed order. The notice of proposed order was sent on July 3, 1997.

We conclude that the ALJ erred in ordering modified child support retroactive to July 1996, a date a full year before the commencement of the proceeding. We reverse that part of the ALJ's decision and order that the modified child support payments are retroactive only to July 3, 1997.

II. Modified Child Support

The decision to modify a child support order lies in the discretion of the district court, and an appellate court will reverse only where it finds a clearly erroneous conclusion that is against the logic and facts on the record. Moylan v. Moylan, 384 N.W.2d 859, 864 (Minn. 1986). "Medical needs of minor children, including insurance coverage, are in the nature of child support." Korf v. Korf, 553 N.W.2d 706, 708 (Minn. App. 1996) (citations omitted).

Page argues that there are four children insured by Mealy's insurance policy and because K.M.E. is only one of the four, he should not be required to pay the full premium of $35.57 per month. Without providing any related findings of fact, the ALJ ordered Page to pay 100% of the mental and dental insurance expense for K.M.E., including the full premium.

The record contains no findings to support the ALJ's determination. If district court findings are inadequate, a remand is appropriate. See Stich v. Stich, 435 N.W.2d 52, 53 (Minn. 1989) (remanding where district court's findings were insufficient to permit review). We remand for further findings of fact regarding the breakdown of the insurance premium. The record is inconclusive either way. It is a fact easily ascertainable, and one that should not be in dispute. It is simple. If the medical premium appellant pays covers all four of Mealy's children, it must be pro-rated so that Page pays for K.M.E. only (just 25% of Mealy's premium). If the figure that Page now pays covers medical insurance only for his child, then nothing needs to be done. Respondent Mealy and the county should be able to ascertain the exact status of respondent's present husband's insurance coverage and report that truthfully and directly to the district court. This is not a difficult issue to get right.

III. Dependent Tax Deduction

Page argues that, although he is not the custodial parent, he is paying significant child support and should be allowed to claim his child as a dependent at least every other year. Page raised this issue during the September 25, 1997 hearing, but the ALJ did not rule on it. Page failed to convince the ALJ to order a change. The record does not support a finding that the ALJ abused his discretion in declining to award Page the tax deduction. We affirm on that issue.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

[1] The administrative child support process governed by Minn. Stat. § 518.5511 (1996) was recently found to be unconstitutional by this court because it violates the separation of powers required by the Minnesota Constitution. Holmberg v. Holmberg, 578 N.W.2d 817 (Minn. App. 1998), review granted (Minn. Aug. 18, 1998).