Appeal from the District Court of Sargent County, Southeast Judicial District, the Honorable Mikal Simonson, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Crothers, Justice.
N.D. Supreme CourtCrandall v. Crandall,
This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]
[Download as WordPerfect] Concurring & dissenting opinion filed.
AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.
Opinion of the Court by Crothers,
[¶1] Chad Crandall appeals and Heidi Crandall cross appeals from a divorce judgment distributing the parties' marital property, awarding Chad Crandall primary residential responsibility for the parties' three minor children and ordering Chad Crandall to pay Heidi Crandall $680 per month in child support for the three children. We affirm the district court's property distribution but reverse the court's child support decision and remand for further proceedings.
[¶2] The parties were married in 1995 and have three children together. In July 2009, Heidi Crandall brought this divorce action against Chad Crandall. At the time of a September 2010 trial, Chad Crandall was 43 years old and worked for Bobcat in Gwinner, and Heidi Crandall was 37 and operated a day-care facility in Gwinner. After trial, the district court awarded Chad Crandall primary residential responsibility for the parties' three children and also ordered him to pay Heidi Crandall $680 per month in child support beginning on December 10, 2010, finding that "[c]onsidering the child support guidelines for both parents and the amount of time the children will be with each parent, the Court concludes that Chad [Crandall] shall pay child support to Heidi [Crandall] in the amount of $680 per month." The court also distributed the parties' marital property, stating that after taking "away the value of Chad [Crandall's] 401(k) he is awarded personal property of $44,244.99 and Heidi [Crandall] is awarded property of $42,701.00. The debt awarded to Heidi [Crandall] is $51,681.48 and the debt awarded to Chad [Crandall] is $46,978.98. The Court finds that this is a fair and equitable distribution." The district court denied Chad Crandall's motion to stay his payment of child support pending appeal.
[¶3] Chad Crandall argues the district court erred in not requiring Heidi Crandall to pay him child support and by instead ordering him to pay her child support. He asserts the child support guidelines do not contemplate requiring the custodial parent to pay the non-custodial parent child support, and he contends the court failed to adequately explain its methodology for ordering him to pay Heidi Crandall child support. Heidi Crandall responds that N.D. Admin. Code § 75-02-04.1-09(2)(j) allows for a deviation from the child support guidelines based on "[t]he reduced ability of the obligor to pay child support due to a situation, over which the obligor has little or no control, which requires the obligor to incur a continued or fixed expense for other than subsistence needs, work expenses, or daily living expenses, and which is not otherwise described in this subsection." She argues the court exercised its discretion in awarding her child support after making a finding the award was based on a consideration of the child support guidelines and the amount of time each parent will spend with the children.
[¶4] In Buchholz v. Buchholz, we described the standards of review for child support determinations:
"Child support determinations involve questions of law which are subject to the de novo standard of review, findings of fact which are subject to the clearly erroneous standard of review, and may, in some limited areas, be matters of discretion subject to the abuse of discretion standard of review. A court errs as a matter of law when it fails to comply with the requirements of the Guidelines. 'A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, if no evidence exists to support it, or if, on the entire record, we are left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.' When a district court may do something, it is generally a matter of discretion. A district court abuses its discretion when it acts arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably. A district court errs as a matter of law when it fails to make required findings or required findings are not intelligible. "As a matter of law, the district court must clearly set forth how it arrived at the amount of income and level of support. 'A proper finding of net income is essential to a determination of the correct amount of child support under the guidelines.' N.D. Admin. Code § 75-02-04.1-02(10) requires 'a child support order include a statement of the obligor's net income and "how that net income was determined."' 'A mere recitation that the guidelines have been considered in arriving at the amount of a ...