STATE, DEPT. OF REVENUE v. Pealatere, No. S-7507.

CourtSupreme Court of Alaska (US)
Writing for the CourtFABE, Justice.
Citation996 P.2d 84
Docket NumberNo. S-7507.
Decision Date11 February 2000
PartiesSTATE of Alaska, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT DIVISION, Appellant, v. Kathy A. PEALATERE, Appellee.

996 P.2d 84

STATE of Alaska, DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE, CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT DIVISION, Appellant,
v.
Kathy A. PEALATERE, Appellee

No. S-7507.

Supreme Court of Alaska.

February 11, 2000.


996 P.2d 85
Terisia K. Chleborad, Assistant Attorney General, Anchorage, and Bruce M. Botelho, Attorney General, Juneau, for Appellant

No appearance by Appellee.

Before MATTHEWS, Chief Justice, COMPTON, EASTAUGH, FABE, and BRYNER, Justices.

OPINION

FABE, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

In this appeal, the Alaska Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) challenges the superior court's denial of its motion for reimbursement of public assistance. The superior court found that because a non-custodial parent met her child support obligation by relinquishing her interest in a portion of the marital property, she is entitled to an offset against the amount sought by CSED. During the pendency of this appeal, we issued an opinion in State, CSED v. Green,1 holding that CSED possesses an independent statutory right under AS 25.27.120(a) to recoup the cost of public assistance payments from an obligor parent, even when the obligor has prepaid child support pursuant to an agreement executed at divorce.2 Because this case meets an exception that we considered when we announced our rule in Green, we affirm the superior court's decision to allow the child support offset. But we reverse the valuation of the offset because the lower court did not account for the custodial parent's share of the marital property.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Ralph and Kathy Pealatere married in 1969 and divorced on December 12, 1991. Their youngest son, Jason, was born on February 10, 1979. Under their divorce agreement, Ralph received primary physical custody of Jason, their only minor child at the time of divorce. The agreement provided that Kathy

shall not be required to pay monthly child support. Rather, KATHY has relinquished any and all claims to RALPH's tools in consideration of this waiver of monthly child support payments.

At the hearing on the divorce agreement, Judge Rene J. Gonzalez made an oral finding that the tools, valued at approximately $5,000, would offset Kathy's child support obligation of $50 per month. In its written findings, the superior court found that

[t]he income of [Kathy] would require her to pay the minimum of $50 per month for child support. The agreement of the parties regarding a waiver of that monthly payment obligation is supported by clear and convincing evidence and is therefore approved.

In January 1994 Ralph began receiving monthly grants of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Between January 1994 and June 1995, these grants were often as much as $821 per month. In 1995 CSED learned that Kathy earned an income in 1994 of $23,510.30 and filed motions both to increase Kathy's support obligation to $308 per month and to receive reimbursement of past and ongoing public assistance.

Judge Beverly W. Cutler increased Kathy's child support to $301.50 per month and ordered her to provide health insurance for Jason at a cost of $7.50 per month. The superior court, however, denied CSED's motion for reimbursement without prejudice, ruling that Kathy was entitled to a $5,000 offset against her support obligation of $50 per month because she had relinquished her interest in Ralph's tools. The court found that a credit of $2,750 from that offset remained as of October 1, 1995. CSED appealed.

On July 30, 1999, this court published an opinion in State, CSED v. Green.3 In Green we examined the scope of CSED's statutory right to public assistance recoupment in light of an agreement between the parents calling for the non-custodial parent to pay child support in one up-front lump sum. Because we thought our decision in Green might assist in

996 P.2d 86
our resolution of the instant case, we delayed our decision of this case and ordered the parties to file supplemental briefing. Only CSED filed a supplemental brief

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Whether the court-approved agreement to offset marital property against future child support payments was permissible under an exception to the rule in Green is a question of law we review de novo.4 "Under this standard, it is our duty to adopt the rule of law that is most persuasive in light of precedent, reason, and policy."5 We review modification of child support orders under an abuse of discretion standard.6 An abuse of discretion occurs when, based on our review of the whole record, we are left "with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made."7 We review the superior court's findings of fact under the clearly erroneous standard.8

B. The Superior Court Properly Offset Kathy's Interest in the Marital Property Against Kathy's Child Support Obligation.

CSED first argues that the trial court erred in finding that Kathy and Ralph agreed that Kathy would relinquish her interest in Ralph's tools in exchange for an offset against her child support obligation. CSED contends that Kathy provided "no evidence of any such purported agreement between the Pealateres ... at the time of the divorce proceedings" and that "[n]o agreement was ever produced." Despite these assertions, the record contains an agreement signed by Ralph, Kathy, and their counsel and filed with the superior court November 8, 1991. Furthermore, the superior court's decree specifically noted the existence of an agreement and incorporated it by reference. Therefore, CSED's argument that the superior court erred in finding an agreement between Ralph and Kathy is without merit.

CSED next argues that the agreement between Kathy and Ralph does not limit its right to reimbursement under AS 25.27.120(a).9 We addressed the scope of CSED's recoupment right in Green and held that AS 25.27.120(a) gives CSED an independent right to recoup the cost of public assistance payments from an obligor parent.10 CSED's right persists even when that parent has prepaid child support pursuant to an agreement executed at divorce. But we...

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9 practice notes
  • Christopher D. v. Krislyn D., Supreme Court Nos. S-16586/16626
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • September 21, 2018
    ...the interim order—from the date of separation until December 1, 1995."); State, Dep’t of Revenue, Child Support Enf’t Div. v. Pealatere , 996 P.2d 84, 88 (Alaska 2000) ("The trial court, however, failed to calculate the amount of back child support from the date of separation."); Ogard v. O......
  • Christopher D. v. Krislyn D., Supreme Court No. S-16586
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • September 21, 2018
    ...the interim order — from the date of separation until December 1, 1995."); State, Dep't of Revenue, Child Support Enf't Div. v. Pealatere, 996 P.2d 84, 88 (Alaska 2000) ("The trial court, however, failed to calculate the amount of back child support from the date of separation."); Ogard v. ......
  • Schuyler v. Briner, No. S-9460.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • December 8, 2000
    ...considering material beyond the pleadings—e.g., affidavits." Id. 3. See id. 4. Id. 5. See State, Dep't of Revenue, CSED v. Pealatere, 996 P.2d 84, 86 (Alaska 6. Id. (quotation omitted). 7. Harrington v. Jordan, 984 P.2d 1, 3 (Alaska 1999). 8. Id. 9. See C.R.B. v. C.C., 959 P.2d 375, 379 (Al......
  • Schuyler v. Briner, 5339
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • December 1, 2000
    ...material beyond the pleadings -- e.g., affidavits." Id. (FN3). See Id. (FN4). Id. (FN5). See State, Dep't of Revenue, CSED v. Pealatere, 996 P.2d 84, 86 (Alaska (FN6). Id. (quotation omitted). (FN7). Harrington v. Jordan, 984 P.2d 1, 3 (Alaska 1999). (FN8). Id. (FN9). See C.R.B. v. C.C., 95......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Christopher D. v. Krislyn D., Supreme Court Nos. S-16586/16626
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • September 21, 2018
    ...the interim order—from the date of separation until December 1, 1995."); State, Dep’t of Revenue, Child Support Enf’t Div. v. Pealatere , 996 P.2d 84, 88 (Alaska 2000) ("The trial court, however, failed to calculate the amount of back child support from the date of separation."); Ogard v. O......
  • Christopher D. v. Krislyn D., Supreme Court No. S-16586
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • September 21, 2018
    ...the interim order — from the date of separation until December 1, 1995."); State, Dep't of Revenue, Child Support Enf't Div. v. Pealatere, 996 P.2d 84, 88 (Alaska 2000) ("The trial court, however, failed to calculate the amount of back child support from the date of separation."); Ogard v. ......
  • Schuyler v. Briner, No. S-9460.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • December 8, 2000
    ...considering material beyond the pleadings—e.g., affidavits." Id. 3. See id. 4. Id. 5. See State, Dep't of Revenue, CSED v. Pealatere, 996 P.2d 84, 86 (Alaska 6. Id. (quotation omitted). 7. Harrington v. Jordan, 984 P.2d 1, 3 (Alaska 1999). 8. Id. 9. See C.R.B. v. C.C., 959 P.2d 375, 379 (Al......
  • Schuyler v. Briner, 5339
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • December 1, 2000
    ...material beyond the pleadings -- e.g., affidavits." Id. (FN3). See Id. (FN4). Id. (FN5). See State, Dep't of Revenue, CSED v. Pealatere, 996 P.2d 84, 86 (Alaska (FN6). Id. (quotation omitted). (FN7). Harrington v. Jordan, 984 P.2d 1, 3 (Alaska 1999). (FN8). Id. (FN9). See C.R.B. v. C.C., 95......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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