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Palmquist v. Devens

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 26, 2017

Jeremiah John Palmquist, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
Stephanie Elizabeth Devens, Respondent, Joanne Mary Devens, Respondent.

         Blue Earth County District Court File No. 07-FA-14-3679

          Jacob M. Birkholz, Birkholz & Associates, LLC, Mankato, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Stephanie Elizabeth Devens, Rock Hill, South Carolina (pro se respondent)

          Meghan Maes, Julia Craig, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., Mankato, Minnesota (for respondent Joanne Mary Devens).

          Considered and decided by Reilly, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Reyes, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         When a district court awards a father, mother, and grandmother joint physical custody of a child, the presumptively appropriate guideline basic support obligation is calculated based on the parents' combined parental income for child support (PICS) under Minn. Stat. § 518A.35, subd. 1(b) (2016), and not the parents' individual PICS under Minn. Stat. § 518A.35, subd. 1(c) (2016).

          OPINION

          HALBROOKS, Judge.

         Appellant-father challenges the district court's decision to deny his motion to modify child support, arguing that the district court erred as a matter of law by concluding that father's child is not "in the custody of" father for purposes of Minn. Stat. § 518A.35, subd. 1(c). We reverse and remand for recalculation of father's child-support obligation using father and mother's combined parental incomes under Minn. Stat. § 518A.35, subd. 1(b).

         FACTS

         Appellant Jeremiah John Palmquist (father) and respondent Stephanie Elizabeth Devens (mother) have one child together, L.D.P. Father and mother never married, but father established paternity through genetic testing. L.D.P. lives with respondent maternal grandmother Joanne Mary Devens (grandmother). Father and grandmother live in Minnesota. Mother, who has a nonjoint child also living with grandmother, lives in another state. Father and mother pay child support to grandmother.

         In 2014, father, mother, and grandmother reached an agreement on custody and parenting time. Father prepared a proposed stipulated order incorporating the facts and terms of the parties' agreement. In 2015, the district court adopted this stipulated order. The stipulated order provides that it is in L.D.P.'s best interests that father, mother, and grandmother "be granted joint legal custody" and that it is in L.D.P.'s best interests that father, mother, and grandmother "be granted joint physical custody, subject to the parties' rights to reasonable parenting time." The stipulated order provides that father, mother, and grandmother are awarded joint legal and joint physical custody of L.D.P. and that L.D.P.'s "primary residence" is with grandmother. The stipulated order also includes father's current child-support obligation, which was calculated using father and mother's combined parental incomes and by applying a parenting-expense adjustment.

         In 2016, father moved to modify parenting time, primary residence, and child support. The parties stipulated to increasing father's parenting time to at least 45.1% for purposes of calculating child support and to keeping L.D.P.'s primary residence with grandmother, but disagreed on father's new child-support obligation, given the increase in his parenting time. The district court adopted the stipulation to increase father's parenting time but reserved father's motion to modify child support.

         At the hearing on father's motion, father argued that he is entitled to a reduction in his child-support obligation due to the increase in his parenting time. Grandmother opposed the motion. The district court denied father's motion, concluding that father's current child-support obligation is not unreasonable and unfair. The district court explained that father's current child-support obligation should have been calculated using father's individual parental income under Minn. Stat. § 518A.35, subd. 1(c), rather than combined incomes under Minn. Stat. § 518A.35, subd. 1(b), because L.D.P. is not "in the custody of" father. The district court reasoned that L.D.P. is not in the custody of father because "[L.D.P.'s] primary residence is with Grandmother and Father has parenting time with the child less than 50 percent of the time." The district court calculated father's child- support obligation based on his increased parenting time using father's individual parental income and determined that it did not result in "a calculated support obligation . . . that is at least 20 percent and at least $75 per month lower than the ...


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