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In re Doll

March 22, 2005

IN RE SHEILA MARIE DOLL, RESPONDENT,
COUNTY OF STEARNS, RESPONDENT,
v.
JOSEPH JEROME BARNELL, APPELLANT,
STATE OF MINNESOTA, BY ITS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, INTERVENOR.
IN RE SUSAN D'ANN STRANDMARK, RESPONDENT,
v.
RANDALL JAMES STARR, APPELLANT, ANOKA COUNTY, RESPONDENT.



Stearns County District Court File No. F5-00-388. Anoka County District Court File No. F7-97-51337.

Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge,*fn2 and Crippen, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Minnesota's child-support guidelines codified at Minn. Stat. § 518.551 (2004) do not violate the United States Constitution's clauses respecting supremacy, equal protection, or due process.

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

Affirmed; motion denied

Crippen, Judge*fn1

OPINION

In these consolidated child-support disputes, appellants Joseph Barnell and Randall Starr argue that Minnesota's child-support guidelines violate the United States Constitution's Supremacy, Due Process, and Equal Protection Clauses. Appellant Barnell also argues that the district court (1) abused its discretion in setting his child-support obligation at an excessive amount absent a finding that he was voluntarily unemployed or underemployed and in denying reduction of his medical support obligation, and (2) made child-support findings unsupported by the evidence. We affirm the district court order upholding the constitutionality of the guidelines because appellants have not clearly demonstrated constitutional defects, and the order suspending Barnell's child-support obligation because he may seek his requested relief in the district court.

FACTS

Doll v. Barnell

Appellant Joseph Barnell and respondent Sheila Doll are the parents of a seven-year-old boy. Unmarried, they entered into a declaration of parentage two days after the child was born. In 2000, when Doll applied for Title IV-D services, Barnell was adjudicated the father and ordered to pay child support beginning March 1. The child resided with Doll. The order, pursuant to the parties' stipulation, included findings that Barnell was employed at CDI Corporation, earning a net monthly income of $3,133, and that Doll worked two or three part-time temporary jobs with no medical coverage and a net monthly income of $751. Barnell was ordered to pay $783 monthly child support, contribute $89 monthly for childcare, pay 81% of the child's uninsured medical expenses, and obtain medical insurance for the child.

In 2003, Barnell was living in Nebraska with his wife and two other children when their home and his home-office were struck by a tornado. In August, Barnell moved to modify his child-support obligation to $0, modify the childcare order to $0, and change the responsible party for medical and dental insurance to Doll. Alternatively, Barnell requested that the court set support and medical and dental obligations "without reference to the percentage guidelines set out in Minn. Stat. § 518.551" and declare the child-support guidelines unconstitutional. His supporting affidavit indicated that his contract of employment with CDI had ended three years earlier and, since then, he had been self-employed or temporarily employed.*fn3 Although his motion asked for the reduction of child support to $0, his affidavit stated that a temporary suspension due to the tornado would be reasonable.

By order dated September 30, 2003, the child support expedited process matter was referred to the district court. The court denied Barnell's motions to modify and to declare the guidelines unconstitutional and suspended his child-support obligation for three months.

Strandmark v. Starr

Appellant Randall Starr and respondent Susan Strandmark are the parents of a nine-year-old boy. Two and one-half years after the child's birth, Starr was adjudicated the child's father and, based on an oral stipulation of the parties, he was ordered to pay temporary monthly child support. Strandmark received sole physical custody of the child. Starr obtained a downward modification two years later due to a reduction in his net monthly income. At that time "the parties agreed and the court ordered that [Starr] would pay child support of $630 per month . . . [which] was an upward deviation from the presumptive child support guidelines." "The basis for the deviation was a compromise between the parties of issues relating to the calculation of [Starr's] net monthly income." The parties also agreed that Strandmark would maintain medical and dental insurance, and Starr would contribute to insurance and childcare costs.*fn4

About two years later, Starr moved to modify his obligation*fn5 and declare the guidelines unconstitutional. On November 7, 2003, the court concluded that Starr had not demonstrated a substantial change making the child-support order unreasonable or unfair, but that there had been a substantial change making the existing medical support order unreasonable and unfair. On November 21, the court denied the motion to declare the guidelines unconstitutional and subsequently filed a memorandum of law. Starr appealed from the order denying his motion to declare the guidelines unconstitutional.

This court granted R-KIDS' request for leave to file an amicus brief and the Minnesota Attorney General's motion to intervene, and denied a motion to dismiss. Barnell moved to strike Stearns ...


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