This week’s Round-Up includes four unpublished cases out of the Court of Appeals, though none were compelling enough to steal the show.  (Though the court’s opinion on private school tuition at least wins the featured image contest.)

Child Support Order for Private School Tuition Runs Afoul

Greco v. Albrecht-Greco, A13-1840 (Minn. Ct. App., July 21, 2014). A custody dispute turned into a child support appeal, Father moved to modify custody and have the parties’ child attend public school. In response to Father’s arguments that private school was too expensive, the District Court entered an Order denying Father’s motions and requiring (without any request by Mother) that Father be responsible for 50% of the child’s private school tuition. The Court of Appeals reversed Father’s obligation to pay for private school, holding that the district court lacked authority to modify Father’s child support obligation on its own authority, and in the absence of a motion from Mother.  See Rogers v. Rogers, 606 N.W.2d 724 (Minn. Ct. App. 2000)

More Findings Needed to Supervise Visitation

In re the Matter of: Schroeder v. Schroeder, A13-2053 (Minn. Ct. App., July 21, 2014). A very brief affirmance of an Order for Protection with a similarly cursory reversal of supervised parenting time.  Ex-Wife petitioned for an Order for Protection based on open-ended threats (“you’ll regret it” “things will not go well”) and aggressive behavior (pounding on a door) on the part of Ex-Husband.  The District Court granted the Order, as well as ordering that Ex-Husband’s parenting time be supervised, despite the absence of any finding that Ex-Husband committed domestic abuse against the child.

On appeal, the Appellate Court held that the record contained sufficient evidence to support the Order for Protection, but reversed the supervision of Ex-Husband’s parenting time where, “the district court explicitly found that [Ex-Husband] did not abuse [the child] and did not make any finding indicating why the [child’s] physical or emotional health would be endangered or his emotional development impaired by being in [Ex-Husband’s] care without supervision.”

Fraud, Duress, Coercion…Not Quite

In re the Marriage of Gamble v. Gamble, A13-2182 (Minn. Ct. App. July 21,2014). Wife appealed a District Court Order refusing to re-open the parties’ stipulated divorce decree for fraud, duress and coercion, or, alternatively, modifying Wife’s spousal maintenance obligation.  Wife alleged that Husband concealed income and assets (including income from a family trust) during their divorce, entitling her to either re-open the Decree or, at minimum, reduce her spousal maintenance obligation to Husband.  Wife also alleged that Husband had intimidated her into signing the stipulated decree, though Wife was specifically advised by her attorney not to sign the agreement. The District Court denied Wife’s motion, finding that Wife failed to submit sufficient evidence of either fraud or duress (for re-opening) or changed financial circumstances (to modify spousal maintenance).

The Court of Appeals agreed, deferring to the District Court’s findings that Wife’s allegations were not credible, and failed to satisfy the legal standard to reopen the decree or modify spousal maintenance.  Wife’s claims of intimidation and coercion were similarly unavailing where the conduct on which Wife based her claims occurred before the parties’ separation and after their divorce but not during the settlement negotiations.   Wife’s decision to ignore her attorney’s advice and proceed without counsel did not strengthen her arguments.

Out-of-State Move Moves Forward

In re the Marriage of Clark v. Clark, A13-224 (Minn. Ct. App. July 21, 2014). Father appealed a District Court Order permitting Mother to move out-of-state with the parties’ two children.  On appeal, Father argued that the lower Court applied an out-dated presumption in favor of allowing Mother to move out-of-state, and thus inappropriately applied the law.  See Auge v. Auge, 334 N.W.2d 393 (Minn. 1983); c.f. Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 3. (for more discussion, see my earlier post on out-of-state moves here).

Despite the District Court’s acknowledged concerns “about Mother’s dishonesty and the difficulties facing Father in his efforts to maintain his relationship with the children,” the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision, calling it a “very difficult case.”  After determining that the District Court applied the correct, legal standard, the Court of Appeals held that the lower Court appropriately permitted the move even though “none [of the best interest factors] was resoundingly in favor of either party, some favored neither, and some marginally favored one or the other.”

‘Til next week.

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