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Long v. Creighton

November 04, 2003

LORIE J. LONG, F/K/A LORIE J. CREIGHTON, PETITIONER, APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL J. CREIGHTON, RESPONDENT.



Hennepin County District Court File No. DC 213170

Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Toussaint, Chief Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2(d)(2) (2002), permits a modification of child support to be retroactive to a date prior to service of the notice of motion for modification if the district court expressly finds that the party seeking modification was a recipient of public assistance based on need during the period for which retroactive modification is sought.

A stepparent has no legal duty to provide support for his or her stepchildren and it is an abuse of discretion for the district court to make a stepparent responsible for the expenses of his or her stepchildren.

3. Child-support guidelines are not to be mechanically applied, and a parent who provides the sole support for children of the same marriage in two homes is entitled to an appropriate downward deviation of guideline child support in recognition of the support provided to the children of the same marriage living in that parent's home.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stoneburner, Judge

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

OPINION

Appellant-mother Lorie J. Long challenges the district court's suspension of respondent-father Michael J. Creighton's child-support obligation for the parties' three children in Long's custody, which the district court made retroactive to the date Creighton began receiving public assistance. Long also challenges the district court's order requiring her to pay guideline support for one child transferred by agreement of the parties to Creighton's temporary custody. The record supports the district court's findings regarding Creighton's income and expenses, and therefore, we affirm the district court's determination that Creighton was entitled to a suspension of his child-support obligation. Because the district court specifically found that Creighton received need-based public assistance during the period for which he sought retroactive modification of child support, we affirm the district court's order making the modification retroactive to the date Creighton began receiving support. But the district court abused its discretion by requiring Long to pay guideline support for the child temporarily transferred to Creighton's custody because that determination is based, in part, on a finding that Long's current spouse has an obligation to support the children in Long's custody. And the district court failed to consider that Long provides sole support for the two children in her custody. Because Long's current spouse does not have an obligation to support Long's children from her marriage to Creighton, and Long is entitled to a downward deviation from her guideline support obligation for one child in recognition of her sole support of the two children in her custody, we reverse and remand for a redetermination of Long's support obligation for the child in Creighton's custody.

FACTS

Appellant Lorie J. Long had custody of the three children of her marriage to respondent Michael J. Creighton from their separation in 1996 until November 1, 2002, when she agreed that the oldest child could temporarily live with Creighton. Creighton has been engaged in an ongoing attempt since his child-support obligation was established in 1996 to reduce his obligation and have child-support arrearages forgiven.

By notice of motion and motion served on Long on November 8, 2002, Creighton sought a change of custody of the oldest child*fn1 and a modification of child support to reflect that change, as well as modification of his support obligation retroactive to April 2001, based on his receipt of need-based general assistance. The parties appeared pro se at the hearing on Creighton's motions that took place in January 2003. Creighton's child-support obligation was last determined in January 2000 when he was employed by Target with a net monthly income of $1,341. With COLA adjustments, his obligation was $487 per month at the time of the hearing.

A child-support officer testified that Creighton received general assistance retroactive to April 2001. She also testified that his child-support arrearages through December 2002 totaled $9,123.26, and that if the district court suspended Creighton's child-support obligation retroactive to April 2001, Creighton would have overpaid child-support and could request that Long repay the support that she had received.*fn2

Creighton testified that he had been receiving general assistance since April 2000. He denied having worked in the 90 days prior to the hearing. Creighton testified that he was "doctor ordered not to work. I just had major surgery... September 30 through October 10." The district court directed Creighton to provide a notarized statement from his ...


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