Zarrett v. Zarrett, 970178

Decision Date05 March 1998
Docket NumberNo. 970178,970178
Citation1998 ND 49,574 N.W.2d 855
PartiesLinda Pauline ZARRETT, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Robert Warren ZARRETT, Defendant and Appellee. Civil
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Page 855

574 N.W.2d 855
1998 ND 49
Linda Pauline ZARRETT, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
Robert Warren ZARRETT, Defendant and Appellee.
Civil No. 970178.
Supreme Court of North Dakota.
March 5, 1998.

Page 856

Alisha L. Ankers (argued), of Johnson Law Office, Fargo, for plaintiff and appellant.

James R. Brothers (argued), of Wold Johnson, P.C., Fargo, for defendant and appellee.

NEUMANN, Justice.

¶1 Linda Zarrett appeals from an amended divorce judgment requiring Robert Zarrett to pay $1992 per month in child support. We reverse and remand.

¶2 When Robert and Linda married in 1983, Robert had previously been divorced. Robert and his first wife, Mary Ann, entered into a stipulation, which was incorporated into their divorce decree, for support of their two children. The relevant part of the decree provided:

"IT IS ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that [Robert] shall pay to [Mary Ann], as and for child support, the sum of $500.00 per month per child commencing on September 1, 1983. Said sum to continue until each child reaches 18 years of age or graduates from high school, whichever occurs last. Thereafter, [Robert] shall pay college expenses which include tuition, books, room and board for four (4) years of college and, thereafter, for up to four (4) years in graduate school. Said child support payments shall be payable on the first day of each month following September 1, 1983, and shall be payable through the Clerk of District Court, Cass County, North Dakota, as trustee for remittance to [Mary Ann]. [Robert] shall make and execute a written assignment of his salary.... Said assignment of wages shall be sufficient to meet the child support payments as provided herein."

¶3 Robert and Linda had two children, Diana, born in 1984, and David, born in 1987. When Robert and Linda divorced in 1990, they stipulated Linda would have custody of the children and Robert would pay $1200 monthly child support. The stipulated child

Page 857

support provisions of their divorce decree also provided:

"Robert specifically agrees that he will not bring a Motion to modify his child support payments to Linda for Diana and/or for David, and use as a basis for such a Motion to modify the fact that he is paying college expenses for his children from a prior marriage. Either Robert or Linda is free, subject to applicable North Dakota law, to bring on a Motion to review the child support payments made by Robert to Linda at any time and for any reason permitted by law, other than the fact that Robert is paying college expenses for his two children from a prior marriage."

¶4 In 1992 Linda moved for modification of child support. The court refused to modify support, concluding Linda had failed to show a significant change in the parties' financial circumstances.

¶5 In 1996 Linda sought the assistance of the Regional Child Support Enforcement Unit (the Unit) to increase Robert's child support obligation in accordance with the North Dakota child support guidelines. On February 4, 1997, the Unit moved to amend the divorce judgment to increase Robert's child support obligation to $1992 per month. In calculating Robert's support, the Unit had deducted $33,000 from his annual income for graduate school expenses paid for his daughter from his first marriage. Robert agreed $1992 was the proper amount of support for Diana and David. Linda, however, filed a brief in opposition, asserting the deduction for college expenses was not allowed under the child support guidelines. 1 She asserted a proper calculation, without the $33,000 deduction for graduate school expenses, resulted in a $2753 monthly child support obligation.

¶6 The court did not analyze whether a deduction for college payments was permissible under the guidelines, but held the 1990 and 1992 decisions were "the law of the case" and "res judicata" on the issue of deductibility of Robert's expenses for college and graduate school for the children of his first marriage. The court therefore allowed the deduction and amended the judgment to require Robert to pay $1992...

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16 cases
  • Zeller v. Zeller
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • February 21, 2002
    ...the parents prohibiting or limiting the power of the court to modify future child support is against public policy and invalid." Zarrett v. Zarrett, 1998 ND 49, ¶ 10, 574 N.W.2d 855. If divorcing parents may not validly limit the trial court's power to modify child support by agreement, it ......
  • Sweeney v. Sweeney, 20010129.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • December 20, 2002
    ...noncustodial parent, see, e.g., N.D.C.C. §§ 14-09-08.1, 14-09-24, and courts have moved strongly to enforce this duty. See, e.g., Zarrett v. Zarrett, 1998 ND 49, ¶ 10, 574 N.W.2d 855. The legislature has acted, seeking to ensure the visitation rights of noncustodial parents, N.D.C.C. §§ 14-......
  • Heinz v. Heinz, 20000298.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • August 29, 2001
    ...child support less than that required by the child support guidelines violate public policy and will not be enforced. See, e.g., Zarrett v. Zarrett, 1998 ND 49, ¶ 11, 574 N.W.2d 855; Smith v. Smith, 538 N.W.2d 222, 227 (N.D.1995); Rueckert v. Rueckert, 499 N.W.2d 863, 868 (N.D.1993). Here, ......
  • Donarski v. Donarski
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • June 30, 1998
    ... ... See Zarrett v. Zarrett, 1998 ND 49, p 14, 574 N.W.2d 855; see also N.D.C.C. 14-09-08.2(4). We explained the ... ...
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