Doyle v. Gianlorenzi
In Doyle v. Gianlorenzi, A-13-0773 (Minn. Ct. App.Mar.3, 2014), the court addressed the mandatory requirement for using a parenting consultant as well as reduction of child support when a child is emancipated.
The District Court Properly Decided the Parenting Issues Although the Parties’ Agreement Called for a Parenting Consultant to Decide Disputes
When the parties divorced, they had agreed that any conflicts regarding custody and the parenting schedule would be submitted to a parenting consult that both agreed on and that they would thus resolve these issues without going to court. The parties subsequently disputed Sunday night parenting time, their vacation schedule, and the mother’s allegedly disparaging comments toward the father, and the parties’ visitation schedule. At this point, the mother was unable to afford to pay her share of the parenting consultant. The father sought to empower the parenting consultant to make decisions without the mother’s participation, but the district court refused to do so and instead decided the issues.
The court relied on Minnesota Statute 518.145, subd.2 (5), which provides for reopening a judgment “if it is no longer equitable that the judgment or decree or order should have prospective application.” Although the mother had not made a formal motion for relief of the motion, she had explained that the dispute stemmed from her inability to pay the parenting consultant. Because the mother was pro se (without a lawyer), the court had a duty to provide reasonable accommodations provided there was no prejudice to the opposing party. The court found no prejudice from the mother’s informal request, and, in fact, the husband’s lawyer had said that the court should rule on the parenting issues. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting the mother relief from the agreement providing for use of the parenting consultant. The court held that it would be inequitable to require the parties to use the parenting consultant if that meant that only one parent, the father, would be able to make an argument to the parenting consultant. The-tie Minnesota Court of Appeals then affirmed the district court’s decision on parenting time, finding the district had the best interests of the child in mind in its resolution.
The Order Reducing Child Support Was Reversed and Remanded for Findings of Fact
The father asked the district court to reduce the child support obligation for his twenty year old daughter, as she was not a minor anymore and was living in a local mental health treatment facility. He asked the court modify the child-support obligation retroactively, going back to the date she was emancipated. The father argued that the mother was not paying for the child, so he should not owe any child support. The mother did not respond with any proof that she was providing any financial support for her daughter, with the result that the district court that the daughter was emancipated and ordered that the father’s child support for her end effective August 2, 2012.
On appeal, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed because the district court did not make any factual findings as how it selected the effective date of the child-support modification.