Appeal from the District Court of Nelson County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Karen K. Braaten, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
N.D. Supreme CourtNuveen v. Nuveen,
This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]
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Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.
[¶1] Michiel Nuveen appealed from a district court judgment deviating upward from the Child Support Guidelines and ordering him to pay $3,620.00 per month in child support. We affirm. I.
[¶2] Michiel Nuveen and Elizabeth Nuveen were married in July of 1991. During the course of their marriage, they had three children together. A Partial Divorce Judgment was entered on October 16, 2007. As a part of that judgment, Elizabeth Nuveen was awarded primary physical custody of all three children. At the time of the Partial Divorce Judgment, the parties stipulated that Michiel Nuveen's income was higher than $12,500.00 per month, which is the highest income specified in the guidelines. Michiel Nuveen's child support was set at $4,250.00 per month, the highest guidelines monthly support amount.
[¶3] During the summer of 2010, one of the Nuveen children began residing with Michiel Nuveen with Elizabeth Nuveen's permission. Michiel Nuveen moved the district court to modify his child support to reflect the new living arrangement. Each party submitted income and budget information for the court's consideration. Based on this information and testimony at a hearing on the motion, the district court found Michiel Nuveen's monthly income was more than $42,000.00. Therefore, Michiel Nuveen's presumptive support pursuant to the guidelines would be $3,543.00 per month, calculated based on the $12,500.00 maximum income in the guidelines. The court found Elizabeth Nuveen's monthly income was $6,191.00. Therefore, Elizabeth Nuveen's presumptive support for the one child living with Michiel Nuveen based on the guidelines would be $1,087.00. The district court then subtracted Elizabeth Nuveen's presumptive support from Michiel Nuveen's presumptive support as required by statute, and determined Michiel Nuveen's presumptive support obligation to Elizabeth Nuveen was $2,456.00 per month.
[¶4] After making this calculation, the court again stated that Michiel Nuveen's income is greater than the maximum set out in the guidelines, and that "the Court must make further inquiry to determine an amount appropriate to the needs of the children and the ability of the parent to pay." The court noted that Elizabeth Nuveen's budget for items like entertainment seemed quite low, and that Elizabeth Nuveen was afraid if Michiel Nuveen just paid the presumptive amount, their children may have to forgo trips and camps they might otherwise be able to take. The court then stated:
This Court also recognizes that the parties' three minor children's needs are more expansive than the needs of a family with less substantial income. The children are used to a higher standard of living and there is no reason all three children cannot continue this standard of living subsequent to their parents' divorce, no matter with which parent they reside. The district court found an upward deviation of Michiel Nuveen's child support would be in the best interests of the children, and ordered Michiel Nuveen to pay $3,750.00 per month to Elizabeth Nuveen, a $1,294.00 deviation. In ordering this deviation, the court noted "Michiel's increased ability to pay child support" as well as "the more expansive needs of the children."
[¶5] Michiel Nuveen filed a Rule 59 Motion for a New Trial on Child Support Motion or in the Alternative for Amended Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order. In the motion, Michiel Nuveen asked the court to reconsider the deviation and to correct a mathematical error in calculating Elizabeth Nuveen's income. The district court denied Michiel Nuveen's motion as to the deviation, stating:
This Court, as required by law, made further inquiry as reflected in its Memorandum Decision to determine an amount appropriate to the needs of the children and the ability of the parent to pay. . . . Finally, based upon all of this the Court found that an upward deviation from the minimum guideline amount is in the best interests of the minor children in Elizabeth's custody and ordered Michiel to pay child support to Elizabeth of $3,750 per month for the two minor children in her custody, which is an upward deviation from the guideline child support amount for an obligor with a net monthly income of $12,500. The district court granted Michiel Nuveen's motion as to the mathematical error, adding $130.00 to Elizabeth Nuveen's obligation, and therefore reducing Michiel Nuveen's ultimate obligation after the ...