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Eklund v. Eklund

538 N.W.2d 182 (1995)

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Eklund v. Eklund

North Dakota Supreme Court

538 N.W.2d 182 (1995)

Facts

In 1988, Kendal J. Eklund (plaintiff) and Linda L. Eklund (defendant) divorced. Kendal was ordered to pay $300 per month in child support for each of their two children. In 1990, the oldest child turned 18 years old, and Kendal was no longer obligated to support him. Linda petitioned the trial court to increase the monthly obligation Kendal owed for their second child. The petition was denied on the ground that Linda was unable to show a significant change of circumstances. In 1992, the Minot Regional Child Support Enforcement Unit (unit) petitioned the trial court to increase Kendal’s monthly obligation and argued that a significant change of circumstances was not required. The petition was denied on the ground that such a showing was required and because the unit did not comply with some of the procedures required by statute. North Dakota’s Department of Human Services (department) then promulgated new child-support guidelines. The new guidelines utilized an obligor model, under which the amount of child support owed was determined by the obligor’s income, and it provided that a significant change of circumstances was not required to modify a child-support obligation. The state’s Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules (committee) objected to the new guidelines. The committee claimed that the guidelines should utilize an income-shares model, under which the amount of support the obligor owes is determined by considering the income of both parents. The committee reasoned that the income-shares model was best because it ensures that the duty of support falls on both parents, it is fairer and less adversarial, it is supported by public opinion, and it serves the best interests of the child. The department responded that NDCC 14-09-09.7 authorized it to develop child-support guidelines and did not mandate the income-shares model. Further, the department reasoned that the income-shares model was too complicated and led to increased litigation and that adopting the income-shares model was contrary to the intention of the legislature. Following the adoption of the new guidelines, the unit petitioned the court again to increase Kendal’s child-support obligation to $572 per month, which was the appropriate amount pursuant to the new guidelines. The trial court, finding that the department’s new guidelines controlled, granted the request. Kendal appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Meschke, J.)

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