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Rathbun v. Rathbun

Supreme Court of North Dakota

February 16, 2017

Melissa S. Rathbun, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Samuel R. Rathbun, Defendant and Appellant and State of North Dakota, Real Party in Interest

         Appeal from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Joshua B. Rustad, Judge.

          Thomas J. Corcoran, for plaintiff and appellee; submitted on brief.

          Theresa L. Kellington, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          CROTHERS, JUSTICE.

         [¶ 1] Samuel Rathbun appeals a district court order modifying his child and spousal support obligations. Samuel argues the district court erred by not modifying his child support. The district court's order and judgment is reversed and this case is remanded with instructions that it calculate child support consistent with the child support guidelines and this decision.

         I

         [¶ 2] Samuel and Melissa Rathbun have two minor children from their marriage. The parties divorced in 2014. The divorce judgment ordered Samuel Rathbun to pay $3, 543 per month in child support based on his annual net income of $151, 952. The judgment further ordered Samuel Rathbun to pay rehabilitative spousal support payments to Melissa Rathbun in the amount of $3, 500 per month for 60 months and then $2, 500 per month for 24 months.

         [¶ 3] At the time of the judgment Samuel Rathbun was employed in the oil field as a consultant with gross annual earnings of approximately $250, 000. In August 2015 Samuel Rathbun lost his job due to the downturn in the oil business. Samuel Rathbun tried without success to obtain new employment. Because he lost his job and was unable to find employment, he filed a motion to amend the judgment to reduce his child support obligation and eliminate his spousal support obligation.

         [¶ 4] After a hearing, the district court entered an order suspending his spousal support obligation for 12 months but ordered his child support obligation to remain in full force and effect at $3, 543 per month. Samuel Rathbun appeals.

         II

         [¶ 5] Samuel Rathbun argues the district court erred by not reducing his child support obligation. This Court's review of child support calculations is well established:

"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 if it does not comply with the requirements of the child support guidelines. As a matter of law, the district court must clearly set forth how it arrived at the amount of income and level of support."

Bye v. Robinette, 2015 ND 276, ¶ 4, 871 N.W.2d 432 (quoting Krueger v. Krueger, 2011 ND 134, ¶ 19, 800 N.W.2d 296).

         [¶ 6] The district court found Samuel Rathbun was unemployed and made the following findings and conclusions regarding ...


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