This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:
Christine Dudley, petitioner,
Filed August 21, 2001
Clay County District Court
File No. F6001137
Bonnie J. Askew, 118 Broadway, Suite 213, P.O. Box 227, Fargo, ND 58107 (for respondent)
Ronald B. Sieloff, Kathy K. Hart, Sieloff and Associates, P.A., Yankee Square Office III, 3460 Washington Drive, Suite 214, Eagan, MN 55122 (for appellant)
Lisa Nelson Borgen, Clay County Attorney, 807 - 11th Street North, P.O. Box 280, Moorhead, MN 56561 (for Clay County)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and Hanson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On direct appeal from a default judgment in a marriage-dissolution proceeding, appellant contends that (1) the decree was insufficient to dissolve the marriage, (2) ten of the district court’s 14 conclusions of law violate Minn. R. Civ. P. 54.03 by ordering relief that respondent had not asked for in her petition, (3) the district court’s findings of fact do not support its conclusions of law, and (4) the district court addressed issues that respondent was collaterally estopped from raising by a 1997 consent order regarding child support. Because we conclude that (1) the decree dissolved the marriage, (2) the relief provided by the decree does not violate rule 54.03, (3) the district court’s findings adequately support its conclusions of law, and (4) the collateral-estoppel issue is not properly before us, we affirm.
Appellant Jeffrey Dudley and respondent Christine Dudley married on July 4, 1998, after living together for more than ten years and having two children. The parties separated on December 21, 1999, and appellant moved to California.
The parties agreed that their children would stay with appellant during June and July 2000 and would be returned to respondent on August 1. The children accompanied respondent to California on June 1. On June 16, appellant filed a petition in California for dissolution of marriage, and on June 19, respondent filed a dissolution petition in Minnesota and moved for temporary relief.
Respondent’s petition asked the district court to (1) dissolve the marriage; (2) award her legal and physical custody of the parties’ two minor children, subject to appellant’s right of reasonable visitation; (3) order appellant to pay guidelines child support and to pay spousal maintenance; (4) divide the parties’ property and distribute their debts; and (5) award respondent attorney fees and costs and any appropriate equitable relief. In an accompanying affidavit, respondent stated that appellant had told her that he would not return the children to her on August 1.
On June 29, the district court ordered appellant to appear on July 25 and show cause why respondent’s motion for temporary relief should not be granted and to return the children to respondent by August 1. Appellant was personally served in California on July 12 with copies of respondent’s summons, petition, and motion for temporary relief, and the order to show cause. Appellant did not answer, and when he failed to appear at the July 25 hearing, the district court granted respondent’s requested temporary relief. Appellant also did not comply with the court’s order to return the children to respondent by August 1.
After a default hearing in September 2000 on respondent’s dissolution petition, the district court found, in a decree dated October 11, 2000, that “[t]here has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship of the parties within the meaning of [the] Minnesota Statutes” and (1) ordered the dissolution of the marriage; (2) awarded respondent sole legal and physical custody of the parties’ children but allowed appellant to have visitation within the state of Minnesota; (3) ordered appellant to pay child support and to arrange for medical and dental insurance for the children, reserving the issue of child-care costs; and (4) divided the parties’ property and distributed their debts, ordering the parties to sign all documents necessary for titles to the property to be held accordingly. The district court did not award respondent attorney fees or costs. This appeal comes directly from the default judgment.
An appellate court’s review of a direct appeal from a default judgment is “necessarily limited to issues which the record establishes were actually raised in, and decided by, the [district] court.” In re Estate of Magnus, 436 N.W.2d 821, 823 (Minn. App. 1989) (citation omitted). Because a party is not entitled to raise a question for the first time on appeal,
a party in default may not deny facts alleged in the complaint when such facts were not put into issue below. By the same token, a party in default may not assert facts on appeal which were not asserted below. Finally, a party in default may not raise procedural irregularities on appeal which were not raised below, provided that adequate and expeditious relief is available by motion in the trial court.
Thorp Loan and Thrift Co. v. Morse, 451 N.W.2d 361, 362-63 (Minn. App. 1990) (citations omitted), review denied (Minn. Apr. 13, 1990). But a party in default may challenge whether the relief granted by the default judgment exceeded that which was requested. See id. at 363-64. A party in default may also challenge “whether the evidence on record supports the findings of fact and whether the findings support the conclusions of law.” Nazar v. Nazar, 505 N.W.2d 628, 633 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. Oct. 28, 1993). We review a district court’s conclusions of law de novo. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass’n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm’n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984).
Appellant claims that the default judgment did not dissolve the marriage, but he does not challenge the district court’s finding that there was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Minnesota law provides that a district court shall grant dissolution upon finding an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship. Minn. Stat. § 518.06, subd. 1 (2000). “A decree of dissolution completely terminates the marital status of both parties.” Id. The decree of dissolution is final when entered, subject to the right of appeal. Id. An appeal from a marital-dissolution decree that does not challenge the finding of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship does not delay the finality of the decree. See id. Here, because the district court found that there was an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship, and appellant does not challenge this finding, the decree dissolved the parties’ marriage.
Appellant next argues that respondent’s petition violates Minn. Stat. § 518.10(f) (2000) because, rather than stating “whether or not a separate proceeding for dissolution, legal separation, or custody is pending in a court in this state or elsewhere” as required by the statute, the petition contains the qualified assertion that “[t]o [respondent’s] knowledge, no separate proceeding for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or custody is pending in a Court in this state or elsewhere.” We conclude that respondent’s qualified assertion substantially complies with the requirements of section 518.10(f); any such assertion would necessarily be “to the knowledge” of the party.
Appellant also contends that none of the allegations in respondent’s petition was established by competent evidence, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 518.10(j) (2000). At the default hearing, respondent testified under oath regarding the allegations of her petition in response to the district court’s questions. The district court, which at the time of the hearing was aware of the California petition, specifically asked respondent about her knowledge of that action. Respondent testified that she had by then learned of the California action, and her attorney explained that a hearing in California on the issue of jurisdiction had been scheduled. The file shows that the California court subsequently dismissed appellant’s petition for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because he had not met the state’s 180-day residency requirement. We conclude that the testimony at the dissolution hearing established the allegations of respondent’s petition by competent evidence.
Appellant argues that the default judgment violates Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 54.03 because it provides relief different from that requested by respondent. Rule 54.03 provides that “[a] judgment by default shall not be different in kind from or exceed in amount that prayed for in the demand for judgment.”
In her petition, respondent requested legal and physical custody of the parties’ children, subject to appellant’s right of reasonable visitation. Appellant contends that the district court’s grant of sole legal and physical custody of the parties’ children to respondent and the limitation that appellant’s visitation occur only in Minnesota provide relief different from the relief that respondent asked for. But because only noncustodial parents have visitation rights, respondent’s request that she have custody, subject to respondent’s reasonable visitation rights, was effectively a request for sole legal and physical custody. See Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 1(a) (2000) (describing visitation between children and noncustodial parents). And, under the circumstances here, where respondent failed to return the children to Minnesota by August 1 as the parties agreed and the district court ordered, the limitation that appellant’s visitation occur only in Minnesota provides him with reasonable visitation.
Respondent’s petition also requested child support in accordance with the statutory guidelines, Minn. Stat. § 518.551 (2000). Appellant argues that the district court violated rule 54.03 by calculating his child-support obligation based on full-time employment of 40 hours a week at 150% of the Minnesota minimum wage. But appellant provided no income information to the district court before the default hearing. The child-support guidelines provide:
If a parent under the jurisdiction of the court does not appear at a court hearing after proper notice of the time and place of the hearing, the court shall set income for that parent based on credible evidence before the court or [by imputing income].
Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subd. 5b(c) (emphasis added). Where, as here, there is insufficient information to determine the actual income of or to impute income to a child-support obligor, the guidelines provide that “the court may calculate support based on full-time employment of 40 hours per week at 150 percent of the * * * Minnesota minimum wage.” Id., subd. 5b(e). Respondent requested guidelines child support and that is what the district court ordered.
Appellant also contends that the district court violated rule 54.03 by ordering him to arrange medical- and dental-insurance coverage for the parties’ minor children, if he had such insurance himself, and to be responsible for all their uncovered, unreimbursed medical and dental expenses until he provided verification of his income and thereby his proportionate share of such expenses could be determined.
The marital-dissolution statute requires every child-support order to “expressly assign or reserve the responsibility for maintaining medical insurance for the minor children and the division of uninsured medical and dental costs.” Minn. Stat. § 518.171, subd. 1(a)(1) (2000). The statute also requires the district court to order “the party with the better group dependent health and dental insurance coverage” to name the parties’ minor children as beneficiaries on
any health and dental insurance plan that is available to the party on:
(i) a group basis;
(ii) through an employer or union; or
(iii) through a group health plan under the ERISA.
Id., subd. 1(a)(2). The statute further provides that the district court may require the obligor to obtain dependent medical and dental insurance and to be liable for reasonable and necessary medical and dental expenses
[i]f the court finds that dependent health or dental insurance is not available to the obligor or obligee on a group basis or through an employer or union, or that group insurance is not accessible to the obligee.
Id., subd. 1(b).
Here, the district court made the following finding:
It is unknown whether [appellant] has medical insurance available for the minor children through his employment or otherwise. If he has medical and dental insurance available, he should immediately arrange for coverage for the children * * * . If [appellant] does not have medical and dental insurance available or fails to provide information regarding its availability, [respondent] should obtain the insurance coverage and [appellant] shall be solely responsible for the cost of the insurance coverage.
Although the district court did not expressly so state, we conclude from this finding that the court determined that dependent medical- and dental-insurance coverage was not available to respondent on a group basis. The district court therefore had the authority to order appellant, under section 518.171, subdivision 1(b), to obtain dependent medical and dental insurance and to be liable for reasonable and necessary medical and dental expenses.
Finally, appellant claims that the decree violated rule 54.03 because respondent did not request the district court to conclude that it had personal jurisdiction over the appellant, subject-matter jurisdiction over the dissolution proceeding, jurisdiction over the parties’ children pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 518D.101-.317 (2000), and that service of the judgment and decree on respondent by U.S. mail constituted due and proper service. Appellant also claims that various other actions by the court also violated rule 54.03: (1) ordering the parties to “sign whatever documents are necessary to transfer title of the assets,” (2) reserving the issue of child-care costs, and (3) waiving the rule 125 automatic stay of entry of judgment. None of these objected-to conclusions of law and actions by the court provides a form of relief, and they do not cause the relief provided by the default judgment to be different from that requested by respondent.
Appellant argues that the district court’s findings of fact do not support ten of its 14 conclusions of law. Many of appellant’s arguments are merely restatements of the rule 54.03 objections that we have already considered. As to the remaining issues raised by appellant, a review of the decree convinces us that the district court’s findings of fact adequately support its conclusions of law. See Wilson v. Moline, 234 Minn. 174, 182, 47 N.W.2d 865, 870 (1951) (stating function of appellate court “does not require us to discuss and review in detail the evidence for the purpose of demonstrating that it supports the trial court’s findings. Our duty is performed when we consider all the evidence * * * and determine that it reasonably supports the findings.”). But we will address specifically appellant’s challenge to the district court’s conclusions concerning jurisdiction and custody.
Appellant claims that the district court’s findings of fact do not support its conclusion that it had personal jurisdiction over him. Appellant also contends that Minnesota’s long-arm statute was not satisfied and that there were not sufficient “minimum contacts” between him and the State of Minnesota to satisfy due-process requirements. The existence of personal jurisdiction is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo. TRWL Fin. Establishment v. Select Int’l, Inc., 527 N.W.2d 573, 575 (Minn. App. 1995). This court may review questions of law on direct appeal from a default judgment. In re Estate of Magnus, 444 N.W.2d 295, 298 (Minn. App. 1989).
The Minnesota long-arm statute permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over nonresidents to the maximum extent permitted by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution: “[i]f the personal jurisdiction requirements of the federal constitution are met, the requirements of the long-arm statute will necessarily be met also.” Valspar Corp. v. Lukken Color Corp., 495 N.W.2d 408, 411 (Minn. 1992). When analyzing personal-jurisdiction issues, Minnesota courts may apply federal caselaw. Id.
In International Shoe Co. v. Washington, the Supreme Court held that due process requires only that a nonresident defendant have “minimum contacts” with the forum state such that “maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.’” International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 158 (1945) (citations omitted). Minnesota courts analyze five factors to determine whether there are sufficient minimum contacts to support Minnesota’s exercise of jurisdiction:
1. The quantity of contacts with the forum state;
2. The nature and quality of contacts;
3. The source and connection of the cause of action with these contacts;
4. The interest of the state providing a forum;
5. The convenience of the parties.
Impola v. Impola, 464 N.W.2d 296, 299 (Minn. App. 1990) (quoting Rostad v. On-Deck, Inc., 372 N.W.2d 717, 719-20 (Minn. 1985)).
The record is sufficient to support the district court’s conclusion that appellant had sufficient minimum contacts with Minnesota to give Minnesota courts personal jurisdiction over him. The district court found that appellant and respondent married in Moorhead, Minnesota, on July 4, 1998, and that they resided in Minnesota with their two children from 1995 until their separation in December 1999. By marrying and living in the state, he has purposefully availed himself of the “benefits and protections of Minnesota law.” See Impola, 464 N.W.2d at 299 (concluding that nonresident purposefully availed himself of benefits of Minnesota law by marrying within Minnesota and claiming child as state-tax deduction).
Also, Minnesota has an interest in providing a forum for the dissolution, and the inconvenience to appellant of having marriage-dissolution proceedings here is no greater than the inconvenience to respondent of having marriage-dissolution proceedings in California. See id. at 300 (concluding that even though only one party resided here, Minnesota was not inconvenient forum). Appellant possesses sufficient minimum contacts with Minnesota such that the district court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over him does not “offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Id. at 299.
Appellant also claims that the district court did not make sufficient findings to support the custody award. “In determining custody, the court shall consider the best interests of each child.” Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 3(a)(3) (2000). The district court is required to consider and evaluate all relevant factors in determining the best interests of the child. Id., subd. 1(a). The statute lists 13 factors and requires the district court to “make detailed findings on each of the factors and explain how the factors led to its conclusions and to the determination of the best interests of the child.” Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(a) (2000). The supreme court has
repeatedly stressed the need for effective appellate review of family court decisions in our cases, and have required specificity in written findings based on the statutory factors.
Pikula v. Pikula, 374 N.W.2d 705, 713 (Minn. 1985) (citations omitted). But a district court “need not make specific findings as long as the findings as a whole reflect that relevant statutory factors were considered.” Peterson v. Peterson, 408 N.W.2d 901, 903 (Minn. App. 1987) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Sept. 23, 1987).
Here, the district court made the following findings relating to custody:
The minor children have resided in Minnesota continuously from 1995 until present. When the parties separated in December 1999, the children remained with the Petitioner in Minnesota and remained in attendance at the local public schools. The children went to visit their father on June 1, 2000. [He] has refused to return the children to the care of the Petitioner or to the State of Minnesota, despite this Court’s Orders.
* * * *
The Petitioner is a fit and proper person to have custody of the minor children and it is in the best interests of the minor children that they be in the sole legal and physical custody of the Petitioner.
The district court’s findings reflect that it considered the statutory factors concerning the children’s primary caretaker; the intimacy of the relationship between each parent and the children; the interaction and interrelationship of the children with their parents and each other; the children’s adjustments to home, school, and community; and the length of time that the children have lived in a stable, satisfactory environment. See Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(a)(3), (4), (5), (6), (7).
The district court was aware that respondent had requested custody, subject to appellant’s right of reasonable visitation, and that appellant had not returned the children to respondent as ordered. Thus, we infer that the district court considered the statutory factors concerning the wishes of each parent as to custody and “the disposition of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the child[ren].” See id., subd. 1(a)(1), (13). We note that by failing to return the children as he agreed he would and by failing to appear at the dissolution hearing, appellant effectively precluded the district court from making findings concerning the reasonable preferences of the children; “the mental and physical health of all individuals involved”; his own capacity and disposition to give the children love, affection, and guidance and the parties’ ability to continue educating and raising them in their culture and religion or creed; and the children’s cultural background. See id., subd. 1(a)(2), (9), (10), (11). We conclude, therefore, that appellant cannot be heard to complain about the absence of findings on these factors. Cf. Tuthill v. Tuthill, 399 N.W.2d 230, 232 (Minn. App. 1987) (stating, in maintenance-modification context, that party cannot complain when his own failure to produce evidence leads, in part, to denial of motion to modify).
Finally, although the district court made no findings concerning possible effects of child abuse and “the permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed custodial home,” see id., subd. 1(a)(8), (12), there is no evidence of child abuse and, because appellant recently moved to California, appellant was not in a position to offer a more permanent custodial home than was respondent.
Under the circumstances present here, the district court made sufficient findings of fact to support the custody award.
Finally, appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by addressing issues in the decree that respondent should have been collaterally estopped from raising by a March 1997 consent order regarding child support. Appellant seeks on appeal for the first time to introduce evidence of the consent order. Because a party in default may not assert facts on appeal that were not asserted below, this issue is not properly before us. See Thorp, 451 N.W.2d at 362-63.