This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:
Mark A. Green, petitioner,
Angelique M. Green,
County of Dakota, intervenor,
George and Mabel Beaumaster, intervenors,
David A. Jaehne, Guardian ad Litem,
Filed May 23, 2000
Dakota County District Court
File No. F59616055
Elizabeth Anderson Holt, Holt and Anderson, Ltd., 14665 Galaxie Avenue, Suite 110, P.O. Box 240194, Apple Valley, MN 55124 (for respondent Mark Green)
David L. Brehmer, 5001 West 80th Street, Suite 745, Bloomington, MN 55437 (for respondent Angelique Green)
James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, James M. Crow, Assistant County Attorney, Dakota County Judicial Center, 1560 West Highway 55, Hastings, MN 55033 (for respondent County)
George and Mabel Beaumaster, 8525 208th Street West, P.O. Box 118, Lakeville, MN 55044 (pro se appellants)
David A. Jaehne, 60 East Marie Avenue, Suite 109, West St. Paul, MN 55118 (respondent guardian ad litem)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Willis, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge. *
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Pro se appellants George and Mabel Beaumaster argue that they were improperly excluded from a custody proceeding regarding their grandchildren, that the district court erred by altering their previously established visitation rights as a result of that proceeding, and that the district court’s conclusions were not adequately supported by its factual findings. We affirm in part and reverse in part.
In January 1997, respondent Mark Green petitioned for the dissolution of his marriage with respondent Angelique Green. The parties had three children: M.G., born in 1990; N.G., born in 1993; and S.G., born in 1995. Mother’s parents, appellants George and Mabel Beaumaster, were granted intervenor status in the proceeding in June 1998.
In July 1998, the district court entered judgment reflecting an agreement of the parties by which (1) the Beaumasters and mother were granted joint legal and physical custody of M.G., (2) mother and father were granted joint legal custody of N.G. and S.G., and (3) father was granted physical custody of N.G. and S.G. A biweekly visitation schedule was established by which the Beaumasters were granted visitation with N.G. and S.G. on every other Thursday evening through Friday afternoon. Additionally, all of mother’s visitation time with N.G. and S.G. was to be supervised by the Beaumasters. The Beaumasters’ attorney withdrew as counsel of record at the conclusion of this proceeding.
In September 1998, the Beaumasters and mother moved the district court to vacate the July 1998 judgment. The Beaumasters’ new counsel claimed to have “discovered” a psychological report regarding father in the file of the Beaumasters’ former attorney. In October 1998, the district court denied the Beaumasters’ motion in full but granted mother’s motion in part, setting aside that portion of the judgment and decree that awarded physical custody of N.G. and S.G. to father, and ordering that physical custody be determined at a trial to be held in November 1998.
The Beaumasters then moved to intervene in the custody proceeding. But the district court found that their concerns were resolved in those portions of the July 1998 judgment that remained in effect and refused to allow the Beaumasters to participate as intervenors in the custody proceeding. This court affirmed the denial of the Beaumasters’ motion to vacate and their exclusion from the custody proceeding in Green v. Green, No. C1-98-2021, 1999 WL 508385 (Minn. App. July 20, 1999).
In November 1998, after four days of testimony in the custody proceeding, the district court issued an “interim visitation order” that reduced the Beaumasters’ visitation with N.G. and S.G. to four hours per week, to be supervised at the Children’s Safety Center (“CSC”).
In April 1999, the district court issued findings of fact and an order granting sole legal and physical custody of N.G. and S.G. to father and further reduced the Beaumasters’ visitation rights to two hours per week to be supervised at the CSC. The district court’s July 1999 amended judgment and decree incorporated by reference the April 1999 order’s visitation determinations. The Beaumasters now appeal from the July 1999 judgment.
The Beaumasters allege that they were improperly excluded from the custody proceedings held by the district court after the court set aside those portions of the July 1998 judgment that determined the custody of N.G. and S.G. between their father and mother. But in Green, 1999 WL 508385, at *2, this court affirmed the district court’s decision to exclude the Beaumasters from those custody proceedings. Our previous resolution of this issue is res judicata and therefore we will not re-examine it. See Hellerstedt v. Hellerstedt, 409 N.W.2d 65, 67 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Sept. 30, 1987); Moberg v. Moberg, 374 N.W.2d 332, 335 (Minn. App. 1985), review denied (Minn. Dec. 13, 1985).
The Beaumasters also argue that because they were not parties to the custody proceedings before the district court, the court did not have jurisdiction to reduce their visitation rights from those established in July 1998. This court is not bound by a district court’s legal conclusions and thus will make its own determination on jurisdictional questions. Becker County Welfare Dep’t v. Bellcourt, 453 N.W.2d 543, 544 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. May 23, 1990).
“Jurisdiction of the subject-matter” means, not only authority to hear and determine a particular class of actions, but authority to hear and determine the particular questions the court assumes to decide.
Sache v. Wallace, 101 Minn. 169, 172, 112 N.W. 386, 387 (1907); see Duenow v. Lindeman, 223 Minn. 505, 511, 27 N.W.2d 421, 425 (1947). A court “must have jurisdiction to decide the particular question it assumes to decide [and] the judgment must be limited to a determination of such questions.” Duenow, 223 Minn. at 512, 27 N.W.2d at 426. Thus, when a court purports to determine the rights of individuals who are not parties to a proceeding, the subject-matter jurisdiction “of the court is exceeded, even though it had jurisdiction of the general subject matter of the matters adjudicated.” Sache, 101 Minn. at 172, 112 N.W. at 387.
When the district court set aside a portion of the July 1998 judgment, it specifically limited the new proceeding to determining father and mother’s custody rights regarding N.G. and S.G. Our order denying the Beaumasters’ motion to stay the custody proceeding was based on the fact that the pending custody proceeding before the district court was to be limited to “visitation and custody issues only as between the parents.” Green v. Green, No. C1-98-2021 (Minn. App. Nov. 17, 1998) (order op.). And this court determined there was no violation of the Beaumasters’ due-process rights resulting from their exclusion from the custody proceeding because they “were not prejudiced by being excluded from a proceeding that could not address their custodial rights.” Green, 1999 WL 508385, at *2 (citing Midway Ctr. Assocs. v. Midway Ctr., Inc., 306 Minn. 352, 356, 237 N.W.2d 76, 78 (1975) (stating that appellants must demonstrate prejudicial error to prevail on appeal)).
But in November 1998, after four days of hearings in the custody proceeding, the district court issued a temporary order reducing the Beaumasters’ visitation rights to four hours per week. The court further reduced their visitation rights to two hours per week in an April 1999 order that was later incorporated into a July 1999 amended judgment.
Under the circumstances of this case, we find applicable the statement made by the supreme court in Duenow:
There can be no doubt that the court had jurisdiction of the parties and of the subject matter in the general sense that it had authority to hear and determine the class of cases to which the instant one belongs. But that is not enough; it is necessary that the court should have had authority also to decide the particular question which the judgment assumes to determine.
223 Minn. at 510, 27 N.W.2d at 425.
Because the Beaumasters were not parties to the custody proceeding, the district court did not have the jurisdictional authority to adjudicate their visitation rights as a part of that proceeding. We therefore reverse the July 1999 judgment of the district court as it relates to the Beaumasters’ visitation rights and reinstate their visitation rights established in the district court’s July 1998 judgment and decree. See Kulinski v. Medtronic Bio-Medicus, Inc., 577 N.W.2d 499, 502 (Minn. 1998) (stating that judgments rendered without subject-matter jurisdiction are void ab initio); Sache, 101 Minn. at 178, 112 N.W. at 390 (stating that those portions of judgment rendered without jurisdictional authority are void).
Because we reverse the July 1999 judgment with respect to the Beaumasters’ visitation rights, we need not reach the Beaumasters’ argument that the district court’s decision to reduce their visitation was an abuse of its discretion. We note, however, that we express no opinion as to whether the district court’s decision to reduce the Beaumasters’ visitation rights, if the matter were properly before it, would be an abuse of its discretion given its factual findings. And our decision should not be construed to preclude any interested party from moving to alter visitation pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 518.175 (1998) (regarding modification of visitation) or to limit the district court from then exercising its discretion under Minn. Stat. § 518.131 (1998) (regarding temporary orders pending final disposition of relevant proceeding).
Affirmed in part and reversed in part.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.