Thompson, et al. v. JohnsonAnnotate this Case
Heather Thompson appeals from a district court judgment modifying Christopher Johnson’s child support obligation and ordering her to repay overpayments of child support. In November 2015, Thompson was awarded primary residential responsibility of the minor child and Johnson was ordered to pay $314 a month in child support. Thompson successfully moved the district court to vacate the judgment, and a new trial was held in May 2017. Following the new trial, the court noted that “Johnson had $4,003,495 in assets, overall equity of $1,224,533, and crops in storage of $691,895.” Because Johnson’s significant assets were not consistent with the average losses reflected in his tax returns, the court determined Johnson’s tax returns did not accurately reflect his income for child support purposes. Using Johnson’s personal expenses and monthly budget to determine Johnson’s in-kind income, the court found Johnson had a gross annual income of $171,560.66 and a net annual income of $113,916. In September 2017, the court entered an amended judgment requiring Johnson to pay child support in the amount of $1,280 per month and $38,989 in back child support. Johnson appealed. On appeal, the North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court “failed to impute Johnson’s income or adequately explain how using his personal expenses and monthly budget satisfied the child support guidelines . . . [and] erred as a matter of law by failing to calculate Johnson’s child support obligation according to the child support guidelines.” The matter was then remanded for a recalculation of child support. Based upon its determination that Johnson was underemployed, the court imputed Johnson’s income pursuant to N.D. Admin. Code 75-02-04.1-07. The district court denied Thompson’s motion to vacate the judgment and declined to reconsider its decision. Thompson filed an appeal before the court ruled on the potential overpayment of child support. Rather than explain its findings on remand, the Supreme Court found the district court jumped directly to the conclusion Johnson was underemployed. The district court's judgment was again reversed and the matter remanded for recalculation of the child support obligation.