Legal Memorandum: Motion for Modification of Support Obligations

Issue: Whether a motion to modify support obligations is an appropriate remedy for a failure to respond to discovery

Area of Law: Family Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Modification of support obligations; Failure to respond to discovery
Jurisdiction: Federal, Minnesota
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Minn. R. Civ. P. 37.02(b)
Date: 05/01/2010

Decisions on motions to modify support obligations, where one party has not cooperated with discovery, can be a useful remedy.  In Nelsen v. Nelsen, No. A04-641 (Minn. Ct. App. Feb. 1, 2005), for example, the court of appeals considered whether the district court had abused its discretion in denying the former husband’s motion to modify his spousal maintenance obligation because he did not comply with discovery requirements regarding income he received.  Id.  If a party fails to provide or permit discovery in such cases, the court explained, the district court has the authority to impose sanctions, including those that operate as a final judgment on the merits, such as entering a default judgment or dismissal with prejudice.  Id. (citing Minn. R. Civ. P. 37.02(b)). 

In Nelsen, a court order required the former husband to fully cooperate with his former wife’s discovery requests and supply all information she requested in accordance with the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure in a timely and efficient manner.  Id.  The district court found, however, that Mr. Nelsen had failed to provide all relevant information regarding his income and employment.  Accordingly, the trial court’s denial of his motion to modify his support obligation was a sanction imposed due to his conduct during the pendency of the motion.  Id.  “[W]e . . . recognize the authority of the district court to impose appropriate sanctions under circumstances such as those present in this case,” the appellate court stated.  Id. (citing Peters v. Peters, 374 N.W.2d 335, 337 (Minn. […]

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