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State ex rel. Jarvela v. Burke

April 20, 2004

STATE OF MINNESOTA REGARDING THE PARTIES: GREGORY ALLEN JARVELA, PETITIONER, APPELLANT,
v.
PENNY BURKE, FORMERLY PENNY BROTHERTON, RESPONDENT.



St. Louis County District Court File No. FX-85-001216

Considered and decided by Stoneburner , Presiding Judge, Hudson , Judge, and Crippen , Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

The adjudicator must consider an obligor's subsequent children when modifying and extending a child support obligation indefinitely for adults statutorily defined as "children."

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Crippen, Judge*fn1

Reversed and remanded

OPINION

Appellant Gregory Jarvela makes numerous flawed arguments challenging the child support magistrate's determination that appellant's support obligation should continue indefinitely for his mentally and physically disabled adult son. But because the magistrate erroneously failed to consider appellant's subsequent children when ordering the indefinite support extension, we reverse and remand for reconsideration of that issue.

FACTS

The underlying facts are undisputed. In September 1984 respondent Penny Burke gave birth to D.B., a child with severe mental and physical disabilities. Though she was not married to appellant, he soon acknowledged that he was D.B.'s father and began paying child support to Burke.

Ten years later, in a hearing to determine appellant's child-support arrearage, the district court found that D.B. would be incapable of self-support pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 518.54 because of his condition. Although the court ordered an extension of appellant's child support obligations, the order was silent as to the duration of this "extension."

In 1996, the court reiterated appellant's child-support obligations but failed to readdress D.B.'s disabilities. Instead, the order merely stated that appellant's obligation would continue until D.B. reached the age of 20, if continually enrolled in secondary education, or otherwise until he turned 18, became emancipated, "or until further Order of the Court."

In January 2003, when D.B. was 18 years old but still enrolled in secondary education, respondent Burke moved for an extension of appellant's support obligation. A magistrate granted this motion, indefinitely continuing appellant's obligation based on a finding that D.B. was "incapable of self-support due to a physical or mental condition," and therefore remained a "child" under Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 2 (2002).

The magistrate noted in its order that appellant was the father of two children born after the 1996 child support order, and stated that these "subsequent children" may only be considered "as a defense to any motion to increase support" under Minn. Stat. ยง 518.551, subd. 5f (2002). Neither party requested a change in the amount of the obligation. Although the record does not expressly state that appellant's other children ...


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