WEDMAN v. WEDMAN, S-11276 (Alaska 2-2-2005)

MARK L. WEDMAN, Appellant, v. RENEE J. WEDMAN, Appellee.

Supreme Court No. S-11276.Supreme Court of Alaska.
February 2, 2005.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Morgan Christen, Judge, Superior Court No. 3AN-92-5047 CI.

Mark L. Wedman, pro se, Anchorage.

No appearance by appellee.

Before: Bryner, Chief Justice, Matthews, Eastaugh, Fabe, and Carpeneti, Justices.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND JUDGMENT[fn*]I. INTRODUCTION

Mark Wedman appeals an order modifying his child support obligation. He argues that the calculation of the award was erroneous, that modification of the award violated his rights to procedural due process, that the ruling concerning the exchange of health care information was erroneous, and that the court’s determination concerning the parties’ respective responsibility for health care costs was erroneous. We affirm the superior court in all respects except one: We remand so that any tax credits may be considered when calculating adjusted income under Civil Rule 90.3.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

Renee and Mark Wedman were married in September 1982. They have four children together: Tiffany, born October 14, 1983; Sabrina, born January 31, 1985; and twin sons, Chad and Colby, born September 10, 1988. The parties separated in September 1991 and were divorced in August 1993.

Mark and Renee’s divorce was tried in June 1993. The superior court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law concerning child custody, child support, and division of marital property. The court incorporated Mark and Renee’s agreement to share physical and legal custody of their four children. The court ordered Mark to pay $1,501.09 per month in child support, but provided him a thirty-three and one-third percent visitation credit for the one month that he had physical custody. After the decree of divorce, Mark and Renee continued to litigate the exchange of photo albums, orthodontic work for one of their daughters, taxes on the children’s permanent fund dividends, and visitation with the children’s grandparents.

In April 1996 the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) proposed increasing Mark’s child support obligation to $1,854 per month, while retaining Mark’s thirty-three percent visitation credit. Mark cross-moved for modification of the order. He argued that Renee had intentionally withheld information about her income in order to increase child support payments and had filed false affidavits with the court. He also sought to have Renee pay forty percent of all of the children’s medical expenses retroactive to 1995.

Superior Court Judge Dan A. Hensley ruled that Renee was required to pay for forty percent of the children’s uncovered medical expenses beginning May 5, 1995. Pursuant to the parties’ agreement, the court held that Mark would be considered to have full custody of Tiffany effective August 8, 1997, and the court modified child support accordingly. The court refused to impute employment income to Renee due to insufficient evidence of such income and allowed Renee to deduct depreciation from her rental income, but held that Renee’s federal income tax refunds under the earned income credit should be considered when calculating her income.

The modified child support order was entered in June 1998. Mark was ordered to pay $974.41 per month beginning May 24, 1998. Mark was also allowed a thirty-three and one-third percent visitation credit during the one month each summer that Sabrina, Colby and Chad lived with him.

In December 2002 Renee filed a motion in superior court to modify the child support order by extending support for Sabrina pursuant to AS 25.24.170(a), which allows the continuation of support for an unmarried child pursuing a high school diploma or its equivalent.[fn1] Mark opposed the motion on mootness grounds, arguing that he would continue to make monthly support payments per the 1998 court order for the three children until Sabrina graduated from high school. He stated that he intended to move to modify support for Chad and Colby once Sabrina graduated from high school. In February 2003 Superior Court Judge Morgan Christen granted Renee’s order to continue support while Sabrina finished high school and informed the parties that the court would hold a hearing regarding modification of the support of Sabrina, Chad and Colby.

An evidentiary hearing was held before Master Andrew Brown on March 5 and 17, 2003. Both parties appeared pro se. On March 13, 2003 Mark moved separately for an order that Renee be required to continue to pay forty percent of Tiffany’s unreimbursed medical expenses.[fn2] Master Brown entered findings of fact on March 28, 2003. Included in the master’s report were the following findings: that Renee’s annual adjusted income under Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 90.3(a) was $26,140.94; that Mark’s annual adjusted income under Civil Rule 90.3(a) was $92,188.49; that Renee had produced no evidence to show that the $84,000 income cap set in Civil Rule 90.3(c)(2) should be exceeded in this case; that there was no evidence that Mark was late in paying child support; and that the parties consistently had trouble dealing with one another concerning the children’s health care decisions and costs.

Judge Christen entered her final order in June 2003. She set Mark’s child support obligation for Sabrina, Chad, and Colby, from January 1 through May 31, 2003, at $1,879.19.[fn3]
Beginning June 1, 2003 Mark was ordered to pay $1,255.02 per month for the support of Chad and Colby. Mark’s support obligations were based, in part, on Renee’s primary physical custody of Sabrina, and on Chad and Colby spending 59.6% of the time with Renee and 40.4% with Mark.[fn4] Judge Christen made several other ancillary rulings: She denied Renee’s request to claim one of the twins as her dependent for income tax purposes, required support to be paid on the first of each month, found that there was good cause to not require immediate income withholding for Mark, denied Mark’s request for a continuation of an extended visitation credit, adopted a specific schedule for the parties to exchange health care information concerning the children, and denied Mark’s motion that Renee reimburse him for forty percent of Tiffany’s uncovered dental expenses.

Mark moved for reconsideration. He argued that neither party had moved to modify child support, that the court impermissibly and without due process modified child custody, that the order concerning the exchange of health care information was in error, and that numerous factual and legal errors had been made when calculating the parties’ child support obligations. Upon reconsideration, Judge Christen adjusted the amount of Mark’s health insurance deduction downwards by ten dollars per month, but found that the remainder of Mark’s arguments did not constitute grounds for reconsideration. Mark appeals.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

We generally review a superior court’s award of child support for abuse of discretion, setting an award aside only if we are “left with a `definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.'”[fn5] When considering whether the superior court applied an incorrect legal standard in making the award, we exercise our independent judgment.[fn6]

IV. DISCUSSION

A. The Superior Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion in Modifying the Child Support Order.
1. Procedural issues
a. Modification

Mark argues that the superior court abused its discretion by adjusting the entire support award for all of the children when the parties had only moved to extend support for Sabrina after her eighteenth birthday. Mark relies on State, Department ofRevenue, Child Support Enforcement Division v.McCormick,[fn7] arguing that the case stands for the proposition that “a motion to extend the duration of child support is not a motion to modify the original order.”[fn8]

Mark’s argument rests on the premise that no change in circumstances occurred that would warrant modification. But Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure 90.3 provides that “[a] material change of circumstances will be presumed if support as calculated under this rule is more than 15 percent greater or less than the outstanding support order.”[fn9] Here, the superior court determined that Civil Rule 90.3 required Mark to pay $1,889.44 per month for a period of six months and then $1,255.02 per month — more than twice the 1998 order of $941.41 per month. Thus, a material change of circumstances is presumed; Mark has failed to introduce any evidence that might rebut this presumption.

b. Due process

Mark alleges two violations of due process. First, he argues that the superior court abused its discretion by modifying the support award for Sabrina, Chad, and Colby when neither party had filed a motion to modify support and Renee had only asked the court to extend support for Sabrina while she finished high school. We disagree. “Procedural due process under the Alaska Constitution requires `notice and opportunity for hearing appropriate to the nature of the case.'”[fn10] Here, Mark informed the court that he planned to move to modify support in June 2003, was informed in February 2003 that the support order would be modified, and had the opportunity to produce evidence on his behalf. While we agree that courts should refrain from suasponte converting motions to extend support into motions to modify the entire award, we find no due process violation in this instance.

Second, Mark argues that he was not given sufficient notice of and opportunity to respond to the superior court’s findings regarding the physical custody of Sabrina. Master Brown found that Sabrina would be living primarily with Renee, but visiting with Mark. He estimated that Sabrina would spend 29.1% of her time with Mark, meaning that for the purposes of calculating child support Renee would have primary physical custody of Sabrina.[fn11]

We reject Mark’s argument that he did not have notice that Sabrina’s custody would impact his child support obligation.[fn12] Both parties were informed that hearings would be held regarding Sabrina’s support. Mark demonstrated his awareness that distinctions between types of custody affect support obligations in his opposition to Renee’s motion to modify the support order. Mark participated in the hearings, filed numerous briefs, and took advantage of the opportunity to submit evidence on his behalf. Master Brown asked both parties what percentage of time Sabrina would spend in their custody. He also specifically told Mark that “custody’s going to be based on the actual physical custody as of now.” Mark was clearly on notice that Sabrina’s physical custody would be at issue when determining child support and took advantage of the opportunity to submit evidence on his own behalf. In sum, there was no violation of due process.

2. Calculation of child support

Mark raises several points of error regarding the superiorcourt’s calculation of his child support obligation. He argues that the superior court abused its discretion by failing to include Renee’s earned income credit as part of her income; that the superior court calculated Mark’s adjusted gross income erroneously; that the superior court erred by discontinuing Mark’s visitation credit; and that the superior court calculated Mark’s support credit erroneously.

a. Renee’s earned income credit

Mark argues that the superior court abused its discretion when it failed to include Renee’s earned income credit as part of her income. When calculating a support award, the court determines the parent’s annual income minus several deductions, including: “mandatory deductions such as federal income tax, Social Security tax or the equivalent contribution to an alternate plan established by a public employer, [and] medicare tax.”[fn13]
One of the goals of the rules governing the determination of the parties’ income is to obtain a realistic picture of a parent’s actual income.[fn14] Because Rule 90.3(a) allows deductions for the parties’ federal tax liabilities, it follows that any tax credits that directly offset a parent’s tax liability — or that may even constitute a credit resulting in a payment to the taxpayer — should be considered when calculating income under Rule 90.3.[fn15] If these credits are not included, then the obligee party’s adjusted income will appear to be lower than it actually is, resulting in a greater financial obligation for the obligor parent in cases of shared physical custody.

When calculating a party’s adjusted income under Rule 90.3, courts should include in their calculations any tax credits received by a parent. We note also that while in some cases, where the adjusted income of the obligee is not used in the support calculation (as was the case with Sabrina) under Rule 90.3, failure to consider the obligee’s tax credits will usually be harmless. But when the parties share primary physical custody, as is the situation with Chad and Colby, the obligee’s adjusted income is used in the calculation of support, and failure to include tax credits will usually not be harmless.[fn16]
Accordingly, we must remand to the superior court to determine how Renee’s earned income credit affects Mark’s support obligation.

b. Mark’s deductions to his adjusted income

Mark contends that the superior court and Master Brown made several erroneous rulings when determining his adjusted income.[fn17] These contentions are moot because the superior court declined to exceed the $84,000 income cap set forth in Civil Rule 90.3(c)(2). Mark’s support payments were, therefore, calculated based on an adjusted income of $84,000. Even if Mark’s contentions were correct, his adjusted income would still exceed $84,000.[fn18] We therefore decline to address the merits of these claims.

c. The visitation credit

Mark argues that the superior court abused its discretion when it did not continue the visitation credit that Mark had been receiving. Because visitation credits are not appropriate for shared custody arrangements, we reject Mark’s argument.

In 1993 Superior Court Judge Joan Katz ordered that Mark receive a onethird deduction in his child support payments for the one month that he had physical custody of the children. In 1998 Mark asked Judge Hensley to modify the support order to reflect the fact that he had sole custody of Tiffany and that he and Renee shared physical custody of Sabrina, Chad, and Colby. Judge Hensley allowed the change based on the change in Tiffany’s custody, but denied Mark’s request that “the court make an additional adjustment by exercising its discretion to vary the actual percentage of custody for each child.” Instead, Judge Hensley allowed Mark his extended visitation credit of one-third the monthly payment for one month out of the year.

Master Brown recommended that the credit be discontinued because “[t]he computation of support under Civil Rule 90.3(b) done . . . for June 1, 2003 forward takes into account the time that each party will spend with the twins. It factors in Mr. Wedman’s having the children for one-half of the summer.” The superior court adopted the master’s recommendation. Essentially, the superior court did what Mark asked Judge Hensley to do in 1998 — calculate child support using the percentage of time that the children were in the physical custody of each parent pursuant to the court order.

This is the proper method to calculate each party’s support obligation when they share physical custody of the children. Under Civil Rule 90.3(b), the financial obligations of parents who share physical custody are generally determined by calculating the annual amount each parent would owe the other assuming that the other had primary custody and multiplying that number by the percentage of time the parent has primary physical custody of the children per court order.[fn19] A visitation credit is inappropriate when the court calculates the support award using this calculation, as it did here.[fn20]
Continuing Mark’s visitation credit is, therefore, improper. We find no error on this point.

4. Credit for support paid

Mark argues that the superior court erroneously gave Mark a $718.17 credit for support payments already made when the credit really should have been $722.95, a difference of $4.78. Since Mark had previously made a payment of $974.41, which was intended to cover his obligation from December 24, 2002 through January 24, 2003, he was entitled to a partial credit for that payment. Mark argues that the proper way to calculate the credit would have been to determine Mark’s daily obligation for that particular month period (by dividing the obligation amount by the number of days in that particular month). The superior court calculated the average daily amount that Mark would owe by dividing the annual amount owed by 365. Because child support is generally supposed to be paid in twelve equal monthly installments[fn21] the average daily amount owed cannot be determined by dividing the obligation amount by the number of days in one particular month as that would result in different daily amounts depending on the month. The superior court did not err in its calculation of the support credit.

B. The Superior Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion in Ordering the Exchange of Medical Information.

Mark claims that the superior court’s order regarding the exchange of the children’s medical bills constituted an abuse of discretion because it is impossible to comply with and because it imposes more stringent schedule requirements than Alaska Civil Rule 90.3(d)(2), which governs the schedule that parties must adhere to when paying their children’s medical expenses as required by a child support award.[fn22] The superior court ruled that the parties must use the following method to exchange information concerning the children’s medical bills: (1) Within fifteen days after incurring a medical bill for Sabrina or the twins, either party should mail a copy of the invoice from the medical provider’s office, (2) if the party fails to do this, the other party will not be liable for any costs not covered by insurance, (3) if the letter is timely mailed, then when either party receives a letter from their insurance company explaining coverage or non-coverage they shall mail a copy to the other party, and (4) within thirty days of either party’s receipt of notice from an insurer concerning which costs are not being covered, the parties shall be responsible for their typical share of unreimbursed medical expenses (Renee 40% and Mark 60% per the 1998 support order). Mark raises three objections to this procedure.

First, Mark claims that compliance with the superior court’s order is impossible because there is no way to prove when certain bills and explanations of benefits are received by either party and because a bill from the provider is not always provided on the date of service. It is true that there is no way to determine the exact date that Mark or Renee receive communications from a medical provider or insurer. But this only makes proving a breach of the order difficult. It does not prevent compliance. The order, which requires a party to mail a copy of the bill once a debt is incurred, requires a party to send a copy of the bill once payment is due (not necessarily the date of service, but when the amount owed to the provider is determined). In the event that a party makes a payment in the form of a co-pay at the time of service, he or she should request documentation of payment from the medical provider which the party should then send to the other party. Mark’s argument that compliance with the court order is impossible is unfounded.

Mark also contends that Master Brown’s refusal to consider evidence showing Mark’s “impeccable record” of reimbursement requests led Master Brown to erroneously conclude that the parties could not exchange medical expense information. Mark maintains that it was clear error for the superior court to adopt this finding. Mark testified extensively before Master Brown regarding his method of exchanging medical information with Renee, and there is no evidence that the master refused to consider Mark’s evidence that he provided Renee with all information concerning the children’s medical bills.

Finally, Mark argues that the court abused its discretion by setting a schedule for the exchange of medical information that is more demanding than the time limits imposed by Civil Rule 90.3(d)(2). Civil Rule 90.3(d)(2) requires a party to reimburse the other party for his or her share of the uncovered expenses “within 30 days of receipt of the bill for the health care, payment verification, and, if applicable, a health insurance statement indicating what portion of the cost is uncovered.” The schedule set by the superior court mirrors Rule 90.3(d)(2), but also requires the parties to send a copy of the medical bill within fifteen days of receipt. We decline to find that a superior court necessarily abuses its discretion by requiring parties to comply with obligations in addition to those set forth in Rule 90.3 when the facts of a particular case warrant such additional requirements.[fn23]

The schedule set by the superior court is quite detailed, but the master believed that such a schedule was necessary because “it is clear that the parties have been unable to amicably and/or easily deal with each other in the exchange of information as to medical expenses incurred for children.” This finding is abundantly supported by the record and the parties’ own allegations. Given the minimal obligations imposed by the superior court’s order and the parties’ history of disagreement over the exchange of certain medical information, we hold that the superior court did not abuse its discretion in setting the schedule concerning the parties’ exchange of medical information.

C. The Superior Court Did Not Err in Ruling that Renee Was Not Responsible for Tiffany’s Dental Expenses.

Renee was obligated to pay forty percent of Tiffany’s unreimbursed medical expenses and Mark was obligated to pay sixty percent of those expenses until Tiffany reached the age of eighteen. After Tiffany turned eighteen she had several corrective procedures to fix a tooth that she had broken when she was seven; the out-ofpocket cost of the procedures exceeded $6,000. Mark paid for the procedures and asked that the superior court order Renee to reimburse him for forty percent of his expenses. The superior court denied Mark’s request. Mark maintains that Renee should be responsible for forty percent of the expense.

Because these health insurance charges were incurred after Renee’s obligation to pay for forty percent of Tiffany’s uncovered medical expenses ended and because there was no longer a support order in effect for Tiffany, Renee is not legally responsible for any of these expenses.[fn24]

D. The Superior Court Did Not Abuse Its Discretion in Stating that Joint Legal Custody May No Longer be Appropriate.

Mark argues that the superior court abused its discretion when it “threatened to change custody as a sanction against further litigation of the parties.” We disagree. Mark claims that by threatening to impose a harsh punishment (the loss of joint custody) if he brought future litigation, the superior court effectively chilled his right to seek judicial redress of any future child support grievances. Master Brown’s report stated:

The parties’ history of litigation and all the issues brought up in this proceeding clearly show that joint legal custody is not working and is not readily appropriate. Even though most of this proceeding dealt with financial issues, they all relate to the children. . . . At this time the joint legal custody will remain in effect, but if the parties’ rancorous history of litigation continues, then the court may have to consider modifying custody or appointing a Guardian ad Litem at the parties’ expense to represent the children’s best interests as to possibly ending the joint legal custody and dealing with child-related issues.

Judge Christen stated that she would entertain a motion to change custody from joint legal to sole legal if Mark and Renee are persistently unable to cooperate with one another when medical decisions that affect the children arise.

These comments were entered not as a threat to punish Mark but rather in response to the parties’ frequent inability to cooperate in the children’s best interest. While the Alaska Legislature has expressed a preference for joint legal custody of a child regardless of the physical custody status,[fn25] a change from joint legal custody to sole legal custody may be appropriate where the court finds that the parties are unable to cooperate and communicate in the children’s best interests.[fn26]

V. CONCLUSION

We AFFIRM the decision of the superior court in all respects, but one; we REMAND so that the superior court may consider Renee’s earned income tax credit when calculating her adjusted income under Civil Rule 90.3.

[fn*] Entered pursuant to Alaska Appellate Rule 214.

[fn1] Alaska Statute 25.24.170(a) provides in pertinent part:

[A]ny time after judgment the court, upon motion of either party, may set aside, alter, or modify so much of the judgment as may provide for . . . the care, nurture, and education of unmarried 18-year-old children of the marriage while they are actively pursuing a high school diploma or an equivalent level of technical or vocational training and living as dependents with a parent, guardian, or designee of the parent or guardian.

[fn2] Tiffany suffered an injury in 1991 that necessitated a lengthy dental procedure.

[fn3] This amount was arrived at after crediting Mark for health insurance payments.

[fn4] See generally Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(a)-(b); infra note 16.

[fn5] Terry v. Terry, 851 P.2d 837, 837 (Alaska 1993) (quotingRichmond v. Richmond, 779 P.2d 1211, 1216 (Alaska 1989)).

[fn6] Koller v. Reft, 71 P.3d 800, 804 (Alaska 2003).

[fn7] 3 P.3d 930 (Alaska 2000).

[fn8] In McCormick, CSED moved to increase the child support award, alleging a change in circumstances warranting such a change, and sought to extend the duration of the support order past the child’s eighteenth birthday. Id. at 930. We were presented with the question of whether courts could add post-majority support without a showing of changed circumstances.Id. at 931. We answered in the affirmative and held that no showing of changed circumstances was necessary to extend support past the age of majority because an order “providing for post-majority support does not modify any provision of the original order. . . . barring an affirmative provision in the original support order or in an incorporated agreement establishing that the issue of post-majority support was expressly considered and decided.” Id.

[fn9] Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(h)(1).

[fn10] Wright v. Black, 856 P.2d 477, 480 (Alaska 1993) (quoting Aguchak v. Montgomery Ward Co., 520 P.2d 1352, 1356
(Alaska 1974)).

[fn11] “A parent has primary physical custody (or primary custody) of children for purposes of this rule if the children reside with the other parent for a period specified in the custody order of less than 30 percent of the year.” Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(f)(2).

[fn12] Mark states that “there was no notice that a ruling would be made on the custody of Sabrina” and because of that he “was not allotted the opportunity at the hearing to argue the legal points regarding the principle of flexibility afforded under Alaska Family Law and the parties[‘] Child Custody Agreement.” But the superior court did not order a change in the parties’ custody agreement over Sabrina — in fact its ruling mirrored the 1998 ruling that Sabrina was in Renee’s primary physical custody — nor was such a change ever recommended by the master. Thus we consider only Mark’s argument that he did not know that the master would make factual findings regarding Sabrina’s physical custody and that those findings might impact the support award.

[fn13] Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(a)(1)(A).

[fn14] See Zimm v. Zimm, 837 P.2d 118, 123 (Alaska 1992) (upholding superior court’s decision to include deposit into business fund as part of father’s income for purposes of calculating child support even though amount could be deducted from individual income for federal tax purposes).

[fn15] The superior court had earlier ruled correctly that Renee’s federal income tax earned income credit might result in a refund that “should be considered . . . income.” However, Renee’s earned income credits were not subsequently included in the master’s income calculations, and the superior court accepted those calculations over Mark’s objections.

[fn16] See Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(b). The general framework for determining support awards in cases of shared physical custody requires (1) determining what each parent would owe if the other parent had primary custody under Civil Rule 90.3(a), (2) multiplying that amount by the percentage of time that the other parent will have physical custody, (3) classifying the parent with the larger figure as the obligor, (4) taking the difference between both parents’ hypothetical Rule 90.3(a) payments, and (5) multiplying that difference by 1.5. Id. Subject to several exceptions, the final product is the obligor’s support obligation. Id.

[fn17] Mark believes that he should have been allowed to deduct the tax amount he would have paid if he were “married filing separately” and did not have a dependent tax deduction for his child with his current wife. He also argues that he should have been allowed to deduct his professional engineering licensing dues.

[fn18] Under Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(c)(2), if a parent has an adjusted annual income that exceeds $84,000, the court may

make an additional award only if it is just and proper, taking into account the needs of the children, the standard of living of the children and the extent to which that standard should be reflective of the supporting parent’s ability to pay.

The difference between the hypothetical tax that Mark proposed ($26,591.87) and the figure the master used as a deduction ($19,825.20) is $6,766.67. The licensing dues not deducted were $137.50. The deduction of this additional amount of $6,904.17 would not bring Mark’s yearly income (under the court’s calculation $92,188.49) under the $84,000 income cap ($92,188.49 — $6,904.17 = $85,284.32). Thus, even had Mark’s hypothetical tax been used and had the professional dues been deducted, his adjusted income for the purposes of calculating support under Rule 90.3 would be the same.

[fn19] Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(b)(1)-(3). See supra note 16.

[fn20] See Rowen v. Rowen, 963 P.2d 249, 255 (Alaska 1998);see generally Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(a)-(b).

[fn21] Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(b)(4).

[fn22] Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(d)(2) states in pertinent part:

Uncovered Health Care Expenses. . . . A party shall reimburse the other party for his or her share of the uncovered expenses within 30 days of receipt of the bill for the health care, payment verification, and, if applicable, a health insurance statement indicating what portion of the cost is uncovered.

[fn23] In ruling on Mark’s motion for reconsideration, Judge Christen stated “it may be correct that Master Brown’s proposed mechanism for exchanging information for health coverage reimbursement between the parties is unusually detailed, or even cumbersome. That is the product of an attempt to set out a clear procedure in a case where the parties have been unusually contentious, unable to cooperate and repeatedly before the court on child support issues for more than a decade.”

[fn24] See, e.g., Cedergreen v. Cedergreen, 811 P.2d 784, 789
(Alaska 1991) (striking $89 from award of child support expenses as medical expenses were incurred one day after child turned eighteen and support order had not been extended). Mark had originally conceded as much in a letter to Renee dated August 8, 2002. He wrote: “you are not legally responsible for any of these expenses and no reimbursement requests will be forthcoming nor expected since Tiffany has reached the age of majority.”

[fn25] “The legislature finds that it is . . . in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing. . . . [I]t is the intent of the legislature that both parents have the opportunity to guide and nurture their child and to meet the needs of the child on an equal footing beyond the considerations of support or actual custody.” Ch. 88, § 1(a), SLA 1982. But see McClain v. McClain,716 P.2d 381, 385-86 (Alaska 1986) (parents’ failure to agree on important decisions regarding child may indicate that joint legal custody is not in best interests of child).

[fn26] Farrell v. Farrell, 819 P.2d 896, 899-900 (Alaska 1991) (test for evaluating propriety of joint custody is whether or not parties can cooperate and communicate regarding children).