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In re Kammueller

December 23, 2003

IN RE NANCY KAMMUELLER, PETITIONER, RESPONDENT, AND RAMSEY COUNTY, RESPONDENT, V. RONALD WILLIAM KAMMUELLER, APPELLANT.


Ramsey County District Court File No. F7971442

Considered and decided by Wright, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. An increase in a child-support obligor's parenting time is not a sufficient basis, standing alone, to require a downward deviation from the child-support guidelines.

2. Minn. Stat. §á518.54, subd. 8 (2002), which creates a presumption that the sole physical custodian of a minor child is not a child-support obligor, does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of either the United States or Minnesota constitutions because it makes rational distinctions based on substantive conduct and provides for the rebuttal of the presumption.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge

Affirmed; motion granted in part

OPINION

Appellant father argues that the district court abused its discretion when it failed to consider father's increased parenting time in denying father's motion to modify child support so as to decrease his monetary obligation. Father also argues that the presumption in Minn. Stat. §á518.54, subd. 8 (2002), that a parent with sole physical custody is not a child-support obligor violates the Equal Protection Clause of the constitutions of both Minnesota and the United States. Because the mere increase in parenting time is an insufficient basis to require the modification of a child-support obligation, and because Minn. Stat. §á518.54, subd. 8, does not suffer from a constitutional infirmity, we affirm.

FACTS

In their marriage-dissolution stipulation, appellant Ronald Kammueller and respondent Nancy Kammueller agreed that they would share joint legal custody of their two minor children and that the mother would have sole physical custody, subject to a parenting-time schedule that would allow the father to care for the children during part of each day and would give him total average weekly parenting time of 38%. The parties agreed that the father would pay monthly support of $338, an amount $100 less than that provided by the child-support guidelines. Without making findings to support a deviation from the child-support guidelines and without applying or mentioning a Hortis/Valento formula, the district court approved the parties' stipulation and incorporated it in a judgment of dissolution entered May 11, 1998.

Between September 10, 1999, and April 8, 2002, the district court amended the parenting-time provision of the judgment four times but did not modify the father's child-support obligation. In one order, the court noted a court services' recommendation that further adjustments in parenting time should be based on the concept of the children spending nearly equal time with each parent. In another order, made in response to the father's motion for a modification of child support, the court indicated that "the parties agreed that a Valento calculation would not apply to this type of parenting plan."

On October 3, 2002, the father again moved to modify child support, arguing that the mother should be treated as a child-support obligor because of the substantial amount of parenting time the father exercises and that the Hortis/Valento formula should be applied to determine the father's support obligation. A child support magistrate heard the motion and denied it.

Upon review of the magistrate's order, the district court also denied the father's motion to modify child support, finding:

When the parties have agreed that the Hortis/Valento calculation does not apply, where there is no affirmative agreement to apply Horits/Valento to child support and where there has been no substantial change in the custodial arrangements since the agreement, Hortis/Valento cannot be applied. There is neither a factual [n]or legal basis to justify a departure from the child support guidelines by applying Hortis/Valento formula to child support.

The father appeals, contending that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to modify the father's support obligation and that the presumption in Minn. Stat. ยงรก518.54, subd. 8 (2002), that the mother is not a child-support obligor when the father has the care of the children 67% of the ...


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