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In re Brys

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 19, 2013

In re the Matter of: Karen Brys n/k/a Karen Warn, petitioner, Respondent,
v.
Timothy Peterson, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Connolly, Judge Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-PA-FA-000047882

Jeremy P. Knutson, Knutson Law Office, LLC, Mendota Heights, Minnesota (for appellant)

Karen Warn, Owatonna, Minnesota (pro se respondent)

Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Cleary, Judge.

CONNOLLY, Judge

Appellant, a child-support obligor for the parties' child, argues that the child support magistrate (CSM) deviated from the child-support obligation guidelines without making the findings that are required under the law. Because the findings are insufficient, we reverse and remand for entry of the guideline child-support obligation.

FACTS

Respondent Karen Brys, n/k/a Karen Warn, and appellant Timothy Peterson are the parents of ten-year-old J.B., who lives with respondent. Because respondent has no earned income, appellant is the sole obligor for J.B.'s child support. In 2010, appellant's child-support obligation was set at $1, 910.

In 2012, appellant moved to have his child-support obligation reduced to $1, 461, the guideline support amount for $11, 540, his average gross monthly income from 2009 through the first half of 2012.[1] The CSM found that appellant's monthly income was actually $11, 117 and that the guideline obligation for that amount is $1, 410, "clearly 20% and $75 less than [the] amount currently ordered, $1, 910."[2] The CSM nevertheless denied appellant's motion to reduce his obligation to the guideline amount on the ground that appellant had not shown the obligation was unreasonable and unfair.

But any child-support order that is at least 20% and at least $75 per month higher than the guideline amount is rebuttably presumed to be unreasonable and unfair. Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, subd. 2(b) (2010). Appellant sought district-court review of the CSM's decision.

The district court concluded that the CSM's holding "that [appellant] had to . . . make an affirmative showing that the existing order is unreasonable and unfair . . . ignores the clear mandate of Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, subd. 2(b)" and remanded for the CSM "to address the issue of the rebuttable presumption under Minn. Stat. § 518A.39, subd. 2(b)."

On remand, the CSM replaced the finding that "The existing child support order is not unreasonable and/or unfair" with a finding that:

The presumption that the existing child support order is unreasonable and/or unfair has been rebutted. Only one parent in this case has the ability to contribute to the support of the child. [Appellant] has sufficient funds and sufficient discretionary income ...

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