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Waggoner v. Foster (11/9/95), 904 P 2d 1234
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THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF ALASKA
JACQUELINE ANN WAGGONER, )
) Supreme Court File No. S-6522
Appellant, ) Superior Court File No.
) 4FA-89-1840 Civil
STEVEN J. FOSTER, ) O P I N I O N
Appellee. ) [No. 4280 - November 9, 1995]
Appeal from the Superior Court of the State
of Alaska, Fourth Judicial District,
Richard D. Savell, Judge.
Appearances: Fleur L. Roberts, Law Offices
of Fleur L. Roberts, Fairbanks, for
Appellant. Patrick T. Brown, Law Offices of
Patrick T. Brown, Fairbanks, for Appellee.
Before: Moore, Chief Justice, Rabinowitz,
Matthews, Compton and Eastaugh, Justices.
Jacqueline Ann Waggoner appeals the superior court's
denial of her motion to modify the parties' divorce decree. We
Steven Foster and Jacqueline Ann Waggoner were divorced
in November 1990. At that time they agreed Steven could claim
their five children as dependents for income tax purposes. This
term was not included in the court's findings of fact, due to an
oversight by Steven's attorney.
Steven claimed the children as dependents from 1990 to
1994. After Jacqueline protested, Steven moved to modify the
divorce decree to make the dependency claim in his favor
explicit. In granting his request, the court noted that "this
issue was part of the negotiated settlement, omitted from the
[f]indings by error, and honored by the parties since their
Jacqueline moved for a further modification, claiming a
change of circumstances. Jacqueline argued that at the time of
the divorce, when she received welfare benefits and Steven earned
in excess of $50,000 annually, it was in the children's best
interest to allow Steven to claim the children as dependents.
See Alaska R. Civ. P. 90.3(a). However, by 1994 Jacqueline had
taxable income and no longer received welfare benefits. As a
result, Jacqueline maintained that "[b]y awarding [her] the
benefit of the tax deduction, the children's welfare would be
directly enhanced by the greater saving to [Jacqueline's]
household." The court denied Jacqueline's motion, stating only
that the matter was governed by its earlier modification order in
We have held that in making child support
determinations under Civil Rule 90.3, the trial court must
provide "[a]dequate findings of fact . . . so that a reviewing
court may clearly understand the grounds on which the lower court
reached its decision." Wright v. Gregorio, 855 P.2d 772, 773
(Alaska 1993). Here the court failed to provide such findings.
The court denied Jacqueline's motion to modify without addressing
her assertion that it was no longer in the children's best
interest to allow Steven to claim them as dependents. While it
might have been appropriate to modify the decree to reflect the
parties' actual agreement, it was also incumbent on the court to
consider whether circumstances affecting the best interests of
the children had changed over the intervening four years.
The superior court's judgment is REVERSED and the case
is REMANDED for findings regarding whether the existence of
changed circumstances affecting the best interests of the
children mandates reallocation of the dependency exemptions. If
necessary, the court should also recalculate the parties' child
support obligations, as mandated by Civil Rule 90.3. See id. at