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K. Terry v. R. Terry (5/7/93), 851 P 2d 837
Notice: This is subject to formal correction
before publication in the Pacific Reporter.
Readers are requested to bring typographical
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THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA
KATHY TERRY, )
) Supreme Court File No. S-4866
Appellant, ) Superior Court File No.
) 4FA 90-2186 Civil
ROGER TERRY, ) O P I N I O N
Appellee. ) [No. 3950 - May 7, 1993]
Appeal from the Superior Court of the
State of Alaska, Fourth Judicial District,
Niesje J. Steinkruger, Judge.
Appearances: Kathy J. Keck and Carol
Daniel, Alaska Legal Services Corporation,
Fairbanks, Alaska, for Appellant. No
appearance for Roger Terry.
Before: Moore, Chief Justice,
Rabinowitz, Burke, Matthews and Compton,
Kathy Terry appeals her child support award of $500.00
per month. For the reasons stated below, we reverse
the award and remand for recalculation.
The standard of review applicable to a child support
award is abuse of discretion. An award will be set
aside only if we are "left with a `definite and firm
conviction that a mistake has been made.'" Richmond v.
Richmond, 779 P.2d 1211, 1216 (Alaska 1989) (quoting
Hunt v. Hunt, 698 P.2d 1168, 1172 (Alaska 1985)).
Ms. Terry contends that the trial court abused its
discretion by failing to disclose its calculations in
determining the child support award. "Without actual
findings or calculations, it is impossible for a party
to know whether or not the court may have erred in
making a specific factual finding, or may simply have
made a math error in its calculations." Ms. Terry
contends that the method the court said it was using
was correct, but that the calculations were wrong.
The trial court's approach was to average Mr. Terry's
income for the past seven years and deduct the average
of the taxes actually paid, FICA, and union dues.
Beyond this general description, the court does not
explain its calculations or detail the exact numbers it
used. In its findings of fact, the court states that
it "anticipated unemployment benefits to be less
because the Alaska extended benefit program is no
longer funded." Although the court does not say that
it was excluding unemployment benefits altogether, our
own calculations indicate that such an exclusion may
explain the $500 award.1
Regardless of whether prospective exclusion of
unemployment benefits is correct under Rule 90.3, this
court cannot review a trial court's actions when we
cannot determine exactly what the court did. We stated
recently that trial courts must make specific findings
under Rule 90.3. Renfro v. Renfro, ___ P.2d ___, Op.
No. 3939 (Alaska, March 26, 1993). Findings are
meaningless unless the calculations upon which they are
based are disclosed. Accordingly, we hold that the
trial court abused its discretion in failing to
disclose the actual numbers it used to calculate the
child support award.
We REVERSE the child support award of $500 and REMAND
to the trial court to redetermine the award, setting
forth the actual numbers and calculations used to make
1. In exhibits C and D of her memorandum in support of
reconsideration, Ms. Terry calculates the child support
obligation as being $655.39 and $703.35 per month
respectively. If the same methodology is employed, but
the unemployment benefits are excluded, the figures
would be $482.69 and $522.68 respectively. The average
of these two hypothetical figures is $502.68, close to
the $500.00 amount the court reached. Thus as far as
we can ascertain, the discrepancy between the court's
award of $500 and Ms. Terry's calculations may be due
to the court's exclusion of unemployment income.