This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).




In Re the Matter of:

Dawn Louise White Hassebroek, petitioner,



Gary Marvin Hassebroek,


Filed May 23, 2000


Huspeni, Judge*

Anoka County District Court

File No. F9997179

Jill M. Waite, Waite, Ltd., 2856 Humboldt Avenue South, Suite 3, Minneapolis, MN 55408 (for appellant)

Joseph Marvin, Marvin & Erhart, LLC, 2150 3rd Avenue, Suite 20, Anoka, MN 55303 (for respondent)

            Considered and decided by Judge Amundson, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


On appeal from an order dismissing a domestic abuse proceeding, appellant alleges (1) the trial court should have appointed a guardian ad litem to represent the parties’ children because there was reason to believe a child was a victim of domestic abuse; (2) the trial court failed to make adequate findings to support the dismissal; and (3) the trial court’s findings are unsupported by the record.  Respondent argues this matter is moot.  Because we conclude that the matter is not moot, we address the issues on their merits; because the trial court’s findings are not clearly erroneous, we affirm. 


On August 20, 1999, appellant Dawn Louise White Hassebroek petitioned for dissolution of her marriage to respondent Gary Marvin Hassebroek.  Appellant also sought an order for protection against respondent, alleging several incidents in which she felt threatened and felt the couple’s two minor children were harmed by respondent’s actions.  The trial court granted an ex parte temporary order for protection.  After a hearing at which both parties testified, the trial court dismissed the petition for an order for protection, but made several statements that appellant claims contradict its decision.  Appellant also claims the trial court should have appointed a guardian ad litem, failed to make adequate findings to support dismissal, and made findings unsupported by the record.



            Respondent argues that this appeal is moot because a subsequent petition brought by appellant seeking an order for protection was also dismissed.  We reject respondent’s mootness argument.  On the record before us, it appears that a dissolution proceeding is still pending, and that custody of the minor children may be at issue.  Under Minn. Stat. § 518.17(12) (1998), domestic abuse is one of the factors to be considered by the trial court in determining the best interests of minor children.[1]  Therefore, this court’s decision on appeal will have an impact on how the trial court weighs the factors set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.17 (1998).


            Minnesota law requires appointment of a guardian ad litem in custody proceedings only when the trial court has reason to believe that a child is a victim of abuse or neglect.  Minn. Stat. § 518.165, subd. 2 (1998); see also Minn. Stat. § 518.003(g) (1998) (including domestic abuse cases in definition of “custody proceeding”).  Appellant alleges that the trial court erred in not appointing a guardian ad litem here.  We find no error.  The ex parte order for protection did not indicate the trial court had reason to believe the children were victims of abuse and neglect, but only that appellant’s allegations, if true, would support an order for protection.  Therefore, the requirements of section 518.165, subd. 2, were not implicated.  Evidence submitted at the hearing indicates that the children were not being abused and that appellant’s claims of abuse were not credible.  Again, the statute’s requirements were not implicated.  The trial court declined to believe the children were being abused or neglected, and unless that determination is reversed on appeal, appointment of a guardian ad litem is not required. 


            This court will reverse a trial court’s findings of fact only if they are clearly erroneous.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.  The trial court’s findings will not be overturned unless this court is “left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.”  Gjovik v. Strope, 401 N.W.2d 664, 667 (Minn. 1987); Snesrud v. Instant Web, Inc., 484 N.W.2d 423, 428 (Minn. App. 1992).  When determining whether findings are clearly erroneous, we view the record in the light most favorable to the findings.  Lossing v. Lossing, 403 N.W.2d 688, 690 (Minn. App. 1987); Rinker v. Rinker, 358 N.W.2d 165, 167 (Minn. App. 1984). 

            A.        Appellant alleges that the trial court’s findings of fact are inadequate.  We disagree.  While the trial court did not label its findings of fact clearly as such, our review of the court’s statements on the record satisfies us that the basis for dismissal of the petition was set forth with the clarity and completeness necessary to permit meaningful review.  See Rigwald v. Rigwald, 423 N.W.2d 701, 703 (Minn. App. 1988).  No remand is required.

            B.        Appellant also argues that the trial court made contradictory statements in its findings and, therefore, the factual basis for the decision was not sufficiently clear.  We cannot agree.  The parties presented contradictory testimony at the hearing.  Appellant claimed that respondent threatened her and that he harmed their children by not putting shoes on them, administering medicine in a harsh manner, and hitting their son.  Respondent presented his own testimony in response to appellant’s claims, and denied ever threatening appellant or harming the children. 

            The trial court was required to make credibility determinations regarding the parties’ testimony.  Respondent’s testimony, apparently, was more persuasive.  See Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988) (deferring to fact-finder’s determinations of witness credibility); General v. General, 409 N.W.2d 511, 513 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that judging credibility of testimony is the duty of the fact-finder); see also Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999) (stating “[i]t is not the province of [an appellate court] to reconcile conflicting evidence”). 

            The trial court’s findings that it suspected appellant “might be afraid” and that respondent “may have been dominant * * * in aggressive ways that should not be” are not inconsistent with its conclusion that appellant failed to reach the level of proof necessary to grant an order for protection.  The trial court recognized appellant’s subjective fears and reached objective conclusions regarding those fears.  Also, while noting respondent’s “aggressiveness,” the trial court did not find that any behavior of respondent’s met the statutory requirements.  Because the record considered as a whole reasonably supports the trial court’s findings, they are not clearly erroneous.  Snesrud, 484 N.W.2d at 428.

            The trial court found appellant had not presented enough evidence to prove respondent committed domestic abuse.  In light of the record, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing appellant’s petition for an order for protection.


*  Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

[1]  Minn. Stat. § 518.17(12) (1998) requires the trial court, when awarding custody, to consider:

[T]he effect on the child of the actions of an abuser, if related to domestic abuse, as defined in section 518B.01, that has occurred between the parents * * * .