This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:
Karissa Shawn Meyer, petitioner,
John Patrick Meyer,
Cottonwood County District Court
File No. F397395
Eugene D. Mailander, Malone and Mailander, 2605 Broadway Avenue, Post Office Box 256, Slayton, MN 56172-0256 (for respondent)
Michael P. Kircher, Sunde, Olson, Kircher and Zender, 108 Armstrong Boulevard South, Post Office Box 506, St. James, MN 56081-0506 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Foley, Judge. *
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Appellant John Patrick Meyer appeals from a judgment and decree dissolving the parties’ marriage. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion (1) by awarding respondent Karissa Shawn Meyer sole physical custody of the child; (2) in its visitation determination; (3) in awarding child support; or (4) by awarding the federal dependency tax exemption to respondent, we affirm.
D E C I S I O N
The district court has broad discretion in determining custody issues between parties. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). We will not reverse a custody determination absent a showing that the district court’s findings were clearly erroneous or that the district court abused its discretion by improperly applying the law. Pikula v. Pikula, 374 N.W.2d 705, 701 (Minn. 1985). Appellate courts review the evidence in the light most favorable to the district court’s findings. Ayers v. Ayers, 508 N.W.2d 515, 521 (Minn. 1993). Also, we defer to the district court’s credibility determinations. Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988).
Appellant contends that the evidence does not support the district court’s findings and that its custody determination is not in the child’s best interests. See Berndt v. Berndt, 292 N.W.2d 1, 2 (Minn. 1980) (noting that the determining factor in all child- custody decisions is the best interests of the child). Contrary to appellant’s contention, however, the district court did not abuse its discretion in this case and the record supports the district court’s findings.
The district court heard evidence from 15 different witnesses over the course of a two-day custody hearing. The testimony presented can be summarized as follows: (1) both parties are good parents to the child; (2) they love the child, provide appropriate care, and are concerned for the child’s best interests; (3) both parties believe that the other parent is a good parent; (4) the parties have had a difficult time communicating with one another and appellant has exhibited occasional outbursts of anger; (5) the communication problem has improved somewhat since they separated, but their problems have not fully resolved; (6) the guardian ad litem believes joint legal custody and sole physical custody in favor of respondent (with liberal visitation for appellant) is in the best interests of the child; (7) although the psychologist who testified was unwilling to endorse joint physical custody at the time of the hearing, he did believe that it may be possible and appropriate in the future. The district court’s findings are consistent with this summary of the testimony.
Reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the district court’s findings, we are not “‘left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made.’” Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999) (quoting Gjovik v. Strope, 401 N.W.2d 664, 667 (Minn. 1987)). Therefore, we hold that the district court’s findings were not clearly erroneous. The district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that these findings support a determination that sole physical custody in favor of respondent was in the child’s best interests.
Appellant also challenges the district court’s visitation order. He contends that the district court abused its discretion in setting the visitation schedule. “The trial court has extensive discretion in deciding visitation questions and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.” Crosby v. Crosby, 587 N.W.2d 292, 295 (Minn. App. 1998) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Feb. 18, 1999). The district court is required to award visitation when it is requested to “enable the child and the noncustodial parent to maintain a child-to-parent relationship that will be in the best interests of the child.” Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 1 (a) (1998).
In this case, the court awarded appellant visitation every other weekend, every Wednesday evening, and eight weeks in the summer. Appellant contends that the court’s refusal to grant him more visitation was an abuse of discretion. He notes that the court failed to make a finding that the ordered amount of visitation was sufficient to maintain a child-to-parent relationship.
Despite appellant’s contention, the court did find that reasonable and liberal visitation was appropriate and ordered visitation accordingly. See Mikoda v. Mikoda, 413 N.W.2d 238, 242 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that a trial court’s interpretation of its own decree is entitled to great weight on appeal), review denied (Minn. Dec. 22, 1987). The court’s conclusion as to what is reasonable and liberal visitation in this case was not an abuse of discretion.
Appellant also contends that the district court erred in setting his child-support obligation in accordance with the child-support guidelines. Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5 (1998). “The guidelines in this subdivision are a rebuttable presumption and shall be used in all cases when establishing or modifying child support.” Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5(i). Appellant’s argument presupposes that the district court erred in granting respondent sole physical custody and awarding him less visitation than he sought. Because we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion regarding the custody and visitation issues, we likewise hold that it did not abuse its discretion in ordering child support based on the statutory guidelines. See Rutten, 347 N.W.2d at 50 (noting that abuse of discretion standard applies to appellate review of trial court’s child-support determination).
Finally, appellant contends that the district court abused its discretion by awarding the federal dependency tax exemption to respondent. “The allocation of the federal tax exemptions is within discretion of the trial court.” Crosby, 587 N.W.2d at 298 (citation omitted).
Appellant argues in his brief that
[t]he trial court made no findings as to the relative resources of the parties or who would benefit most from the exemption. To rule without making such findings was an abuse of discretion.
Contrary to the appellant’s contention, the trial court did make findings regarding the parties’ resources as part of its child-support determination. Further, the court concluded that
[s]ince [appellant’s] child support is based upon his claiming one exemption for federal and state income tax purposes, the [respondent] shall be entitled to name the child as an exemption on her federal and state income tax returns in each and every year.
In other words, the district court considered the benefit the exemption would provide to the parties and made a decision based on this consideration. This was not an abuse of discretion.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.