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Nelson v. Ecklar

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

August 30, 2019

SCOTT A. NELSON APPELLANT
v.
JENNIFER M. ECKLAR APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM KENTON FAMILY COURT HONORABLE DAWN M. GENTRY, JUDGE ACTION NO. 06-CI-00693

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANT: Carl E. Knochelmann, Jr. Covington, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Ryan M. Beck Florence, Kentucky

          BEFORE: DIXON, KRAMER, AND TAYLOR, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          DIXON, JUDGE:

         Scott A. Nelson appeals from an order entered by the Kenton Family Court on April 6, 2017, modifying his child support obligation. After careful review of the record, the briefs, and the law, we affirm.

         The parties were never married and are parents to one minor child, born in 2005. On March 10, 2006, Nelson petitioned for joint custody of the child. Temporary orders for custody and child support were subsequently entered by the family court. At the time of those orders, Nelson earned $2, 583.00, and Ecklar earned $2, 916.00 in gross monthly income. Nelson was ordered to pay $371.00 per month in child support.

         The parties later entered into a parenting agreement, which was incorporated into the nunc pro tunc agreed judgment of custody on October 21, 2008. This agreement stated, in part, "no child support shall be exchanged between the parents" and "[e]xpenses for fees for school, sports, social activities, day care, medical or dental co-pays and medical/dental insurance premiums shall be divided evenly." Furthermore, the parties agreed that Ecklar would provide health insurance for the child with the caveat that "[i]n the event one parent's employment provides medical or dental insurance for the benefit of [child], which is least expensive and provides similar or better benefits for [child] than the other parent's insurance, then in that case, that parent will provide medical or dental insurance." The parties agreed to share joint custody and equal timesharing with the child.

         In 2012, by agreed order, the parties modified their agreement regarding the child's expenses. Pursuant to section three of the agreed order, Nelson was responsible for "all reasonable expenses associated with the following needs of the minor child: shoes, coats, school clothing and formal outfits; all school lunches, school fees, school supplies, field trips and other school related expenses; birthday parties and social events attended by the minor child; and haircuts." "School clothing" was defined as "$200 worth of clothes for school every 6 months." The parties further agreed that Nelson would be responsible for 65% of uncovered health related expenses, health insurance premiums, and child care costs, and that Ecklar would be responsible for the remaining 35% of those expenses.

         On April 19, 2016, Ecklar filed a motion for the child to attend school in her district, for Nelson to pay child support, and to hold Nelson in contempt for failing to comply with the parties' prior agreement regarding the child's expenses. Ecklar later withdrew her motion regarding the child's school, and the family court ordered the parties to mediation. The parties were unable to reach an agreement regarding child support. Ecklar refiled her motion for child support on March 6, 2017, citing Nelson's failure to comply with the prior agreement of the parties and an increase in his income as grounds for modification of child support.

         At the hearing, Ecklar testified to an annual income of $35, 526.98. She also testified to receiving occasional bonuses based upon her work performance, which were reflected on her 2016 W-2, bringing her gross annual income to $38, 734.60. Her monthly income was $3, 227.88. Nelson agreed that his annual income in 2015 was $103, 078.00, or $8, 589.83 per month. Nelson further testified to paying yearly expenses for the child totaling $3, 835.00, or $319.58 per month, pursuant to the 2012 agreed order. Nelson also testified to funding a college savings account and furnishing an allowance to the child of $10.00 per week.

         Regarding the child's health insurance, Ecklar testified that the child had been covered by her plan through her employer since his birth. The cost of health insurance is $117.76 per month. Nelson did not testify to having a health insurance plan through his employer to which he could add the child but stated that the child could be covered by his fiancée's plan at no additional cost. Nelson further testified to providing dental and vision insurance for the child but did not provide documentation of those expenses.

         In its April 6, 2017, order, the family court found Ecklar's income to be $3, 227.88 per month and Nelson's monthly income to be $8, 589.83. Based upon these amounts, the court determined that Nelson contributes 73% of the combined income of the parties and Ecklar 27%. The court calculated the base amount of child support, pursuant to the child support guidelines in KRS[1] 403.212, to be $1, 084.00, making Nelson responsible for $791.32 per month and Ecklar responsible for $292.68 per month. The court found that Ecklar incurred the cost of the child's health insurance in the amount of $117.76 per month and ordered Nelson responsible for 73% of that expense, or $85.86 per month. The court acknowledged Nelson's provision of dental and vision insurance for the child, but with no documentation of those expenses, no credit was granted. Based upon the parties' shared parenting schedule, the family court deemed it inequitable to apply the child support guidelines and credited Nelson $292.68 against his total obligation. Therefore, Nelson's monthly obligation amounted to $584.60. Based upon this amount, the family court found the following:

There has been a change in circumstances since the August 14, 2012 Agreed Order which would warrant a change in child support. [Nelson] is earning more income which would result in a greater than 15% change to his child support obligation. Petitioner was paying approximately $319.58 ...

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