Schmidt v. Schmidt
444 N.W.2d 367 (ND 1989)

Facts:

  • Father and Mother were divorced on July 13, 1984 and had three boys from the marriage.
  • By stipulation, Father and Mother agreed that Mother would receive custody of the three boys and receive $375 monthly child support.
  • On June 3, 1988, Father made a motion to modify the child custody and support provisions in the divorce decree.
    • Father requested custody of the oldest, David, and that all three boys be permitted to reside with him during the summer months.
    • The motion further requested that child support obligations be modified accordingly.

History:
The trial court gave Father custody of David, permitted all three boys to live with Father during the summer months, and reduced the child support to $250 and reduced further to $125 during the summer months.

  • Mother appealed the custody change and denial of attorney fees.
  • Father appealed the amount of child support.

Issue:
The proper method for determining the amount of child support owed.

Holding:
“We affirm the change of custody and denial of attorney fees and reverse and remand on child support.”

Reasoning:

  • The South Dakota guidelines provided that “the child support obligation shall be established in accordance with the obligor’s net income and number of children affected.”
    • Here, the trial court (improperly) canceled out one child with each parent, leaving Mother with an additional child. The court then considered Father’s child support for one child under the guidelines.
  • The trial court should have calculated the obligation by comparing the amount of child support Father would be required to pay for two children under the guidelines against the amount of child support Mother would pay for one child.
    • Thus, under the guidelines, Father’s obligation for two children with his net monthly income of $1,250 would be between $360 to $390 monthly. Mother’s obligation for one child with her net monthly income of $1,582 would be at least $330 monthly. Subtracting the difference, Father would owe child support of approximately $30 to $60 monthly.

Rule: Child support obligations shall be established in accordance with the obligor’s net income and number of kids affected, unless specific findings permit deviation from the guidelines.