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Minyard v. Lindseth

Supreme Court of North Dakota

July 5, 2019

Alaina Lenore Minyard, Plaintiff and Appellee
v.
Matthew Ray Lindseth, Defendant and Appellant

          Appeal from the District Court of Cavalier County, Northeast Judicial District, the Honorable Anthony S. Benson, Judge.

          Amanda J. Engen, Devils Lake, North Dakota, for plaintiff and appellee.

          Jessica D. Jensen (argued), Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and Patti J. Jensen, East Grand Forks, Minnesota, for defendant and appellant.

          OPINION

          Tufte, Justice.

         [¶1] Matthew Lindseth appeals an amended judgment ordering him to pay Alaina Minyard $1, 216 per month in child support. We affirm, concluding the district court did not err in determining Lindseth's income for child support purposes.

         I

         [¶2] Lindseth and Minyard have two children together. Minyard is a nurse and Lindseth is a self-employed farmer. In September 2016, Minyard sued Lindseth to determine primary residential responsibility and child support.

         [¶3] The district court entered interim orders relating to primary residential responsibility and child support. The court awarded Minyard primary residential responsibility until the end of the 2017 school year and established Lindseth's monthly child support obligation at $353. The parties had equal residential responsibility for the summer of 2017, and Minyard owed Lindseth $1, 050 in monthly child support. After an August 2017 trial, the court awarded Minyard primary residential responsibility. The parties stipulated that the issue of child support would be continued to a later date. In January 2018, the court entered an interim order establishing Lindseth's monthly child support obligation at $850 beginning in December 2017.

         [¶4] The district court tried the issue of child support in March 2018. At trial, Lindseth submitted his tax returns from 2012 to 2016 showing he earned an average annual income of $10, 034. In its order following trial, the court found Lindseth's tax returns did not accurately reflect his income for child support purposes. The court found Lindseth's average annual income was $72, 075 on the basis of the testimony of a certified public accountant and Lindseth's balance sheets showing an annual increase in net worth from 2012 to 2017. After taking deductions, the court found Lindseth's monthly net income was $4, 277, resulting in a monthly child support obligation of $1, 216. The court entered an amended judgment establishing Lindseth's monthly child support obligation at $1, 216 from September 2016 through May 2017, and from September 2017 onward. Lindseth owed $85 per month from June 2017 through August 2017 when the parties shared residential responsibility.

         II

         [¶5] Lindseth argues the district court erred in calculating his income for child support purposes.

         [¶6] This Court's standard of review for child support decisions 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. The district court errs as a matter of law if it fails to comply ...

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