Carver County District Court File No. F28924922
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Willis, Judge
Appellant-father failed to pay child support for more than ten years. The district court granted respondent-mother judgment for the child-support arrears but stayed entry of judgment as long as appellant-father remained current in his child-support payments. When, through discovery, respondent-mother learned that appellant-father had inherited more than enough money to satisfy the judgment, she moved to vacate the stay. The district court granted her motion, and judgment was entered. Appellant-father challenges the entry of judgment, arguing that the district court should have made findings of fact under Minn. Stat. §á518.145, subd. 2 (2002), to support a reopening of a judgment, order, or proceeding under Minn. Stat. ch. 518. We affirm the entry of judgment.
Appellant Dennis Jay Goldberg and respondent Teresa Joan Goldberg were married in 1971. They had two children: a son born in 1979 and a daughter born in 1987. The parties' marriage was dissolved in March 1989, and appellant was ordered to pay child support of $530 per week as long as both children were under age 18 and $265 per week thereafter until the daughter reached age 18. In the fall of 1989, appellant stopped making his child-support payments.
In October 2000, appellant moved the district court for an order decreasing his monthly child-support and child-support-arrears payments on the grounds that (1) he had substantially decreased earnings because of the closure of the businesses that he owned at the time of the dissolution and (2) respondent had substantially decreased needs because her annual salary exceeded $100,000. Respondent opposed the motion. In March 2001, a child-support magistrate (CSM) (1) granted appellant's motion and decreased his child-support obligation to $261 per month; (2) ordered judgment for respondent in the amount of $213,728, representing the amount of child-support arrears; and (3) stayed entry of judgment as long as appellant paid $261 per month in child support and an additional $52 (20% of $261) per month toward the arrears.
Respondent sought review of the CSM's order in district court and asked the court to vacate the stay or order appellant not to dispose of any assets he received thereafter that could be used to pay the judgment. In April 2001, the district court denied respondent's motion, reasoning that (1) the judgment was very large and would be difficult for appellant to satisfy; (2) if appellant remained current in his child-support payments, the judgment would be stayed for up to four years, in light of the daughter's age; (3)áappellant would thus have four years to prepare for entry of the judgment; (4) if appellant failed to remain current in his payments, the stay could be lifted; and (5)áappellant could be sanctioned if he attempted to improperly dispose of assets that could be used to satisfy the judgment.
In June 2001, appellant's father died. Respondent sought discovery regarding appellant's inheritance, if any, and the district court ordered appellant not to dispose of any assets that he received from his father's estate and to comply with respondent's discovery requests. Soon thereafter, appellant moved for an order excusing him from responding to any discovery requests until the district court decided whether the CSM's March 2001 judgment and the district court's April 2001 order "should be set aside and re-opened." The district court denied appellant's motion and ordered appellant to comply with all discovery requests.
In a March 2002 deposition, appellant stated that his father died without an estate because he had transferred the bulk of his property to a trust, of which appellant was not a beneficiary. But appellant admitted that his father had, before his death, placed $1.5 million in an account for himself, appellant, and appellant's brother. The account was closed, and the balance was placed in a second account for appellant and his brother. Appellant's brother later took his share of the balance, and at the time of the deposition, appellant's share was more than $700,000.
In June 2002, respondent moved under Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 to vacate the stay of entry of judgment. The district court reasoned that it had, in April 2001, denied respondent's motion to vacate the stay because appellant would have had difficulty satisfying the judgment and that appellant now had control of assets of more than $700,000. Concluding that neither Minn. Stat. §á518.145 (2002) nor Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 prohibited it from vacating the stay, the district court granted respondent's motion and ordered entry of the judgment. This appeal follows.
Appellant argues that vacating a stay of entry of judgment in a child-support matter is the same as reopening a judgment, order, or proceeding under Minn. Stat. ch. 518, which governs marriage dissolution. See Minn. Stat. §á518.145, subd. 2 (2002) (providing grounds for "relieving a party" from a judgment, order, or proceeding under chapter 518). Because, appellant contends, the district court did not make findings of fact on the grounds for reopening such a proceeding provided by Minn. Stat. §á518.145, subd. 2, the district court abused its discretion by vacating the stay and this court should remand for the necessary findings. Respondent counters that under Minn. Stat. §á518.145, ...