This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







In Re the Marriage of:

Amy J. Sparrow, petitioner,





John W. Sparrow,




Filed August 7, 2001

Affirmed as modified

Parker, Judge*


Anoka County District Court

File No. F2996276



Dennis J. Dietzler, 6625 Lyndale Avenue South, Suite 426, Richfield, MN 55423 (for appellant)


Brian R. Salita, Law Office of Brian R. Salita, 8409 Hopewood Lane, Minneapolis, MN 55427 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Parker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N



In this dissolution action, the parties stipulated to all issues in the marital termination agreement except two, which were submitted to the district court: (1) the time to begin respondent’s Christmas Day visitation and (2) the disposition of the German crystal.  The district court ordered that respondent’s Christmas Day visitation would begin at 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve and that respondent’s mother would hold the German crystal for the parties’ children.  Because the district court’s finding of the best interests of the children is unsupported by the record, we modify the visitation to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Christmas Day.  Because the disposition of the crystal was consistent with the intent as given, we affirm.



1.         Christmas Visitation

Appellant argues that the district court abused discretion in ordering that respondent’s visitation begin on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.  The parties were unable to agree on the precise wording of the judgment and decree.  Appellant wanted to drop the children off at 10:00 a.m. on Christmas Day and respondent wanted them dropped off at 9:00 a.m. on Christmas Day.  The district court ordered that it was in the best interests of the children if appellant dropped the children off at respondent’s home at 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve so that the children, ages three and five, could “wake up on Christmas Day, find their packages under the tree, have some magic.”  Appellant objected because that visitation schedule would interfere with her family’s custom of having the children nap and then attend midnight Mass.  The district court concluded that the children would not appreciate this tradition and “probably should be in bed by 10:00 o’clock.” 

The district court “shall, upon the request of either parent, grant such parenting time * * * as will 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) (2000).  “The district court has extensive discretion in deciding visitation questions and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.”  Olson v. Olson, 534 N.W.2d 547, 550 (Minn. 1995); Crosby v. Crosby, 587 N.W.2d 292, 295 (Minn. App. 1998), review denied (Minn. Feb. 18, 1999).  For this court to conclude the district court abused discretion, the district court’s factual findings must be “against logic and the facts on record.”  Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).

Unlike the original agreement between the parties to drop off the children on Christmas Day, the district court’s findings on the best interests of the children are not supported in the record.  Appellant had religious reasons for spending Christmas Eve with the children, and respondent had no disagreement with those reasons.  A district court must defer to a custodial parent’s decisions on religion unless it determines that failure to limit the custodial parent’s authority will endanger the children’s health or development.  Chapman v. Chapman, 352 N.W.2d 437, 441 (Minn. App. 1984) (finding abuse of discretion when, upon court’s own initiative, against parties’ agreement, and without making requisite findings, district court eliminated requirement that father take children to Mass); see Minn. Stat. § 518.003, subd. 3(a) (2000) (defining “legal custody” to include right to determine child’s religious training); id. § 518.17, subd. 1(1), (10) (2000) (stating wishes of parents and capacity of parties “to continue educating and raising the child in the child’s culture and religion” are factors in best interests of the child determination).  The parties’ agreement was not unreasonable and in no way can be said to endanger the children.  Although we normally show great deference to the district court’s determination of the best interests of children, we note that here, the court’s best-interests finding is unsupported by the record.  The parties functionally stipulated that Christmas visitation should begin the morning of Christmas Day, so the district court’s drastic change from that agreement to late Christmas Eve was an abuse of discretion.  Cf. Toughill v. Toughill, 609 N.W.2d 634, 638 n.1 (Minn. App. 2000) (stating that “while a district court may reject all or part of a stipulation, generally, it cannot, by judicial fiat, impose conditions on the parties to which they did not stipulate and thereby deprive the parties of their ‘day in court’”).  Therefore, the visitation order shall be modified to read “appellant will drop off the children at respondent’s home at 9:30 a.m. on Christmas Day.”

2.         German Crystal

Appellant argues that the district court abused discretion in awarding the German crystal to the children’s paternal grandmother.  The district court found that the parties’ list dividing their personal property unambiguously included “German china,” which was not the same as “German crystal.”  The parties agreed that respondent’s mother gave the crystal to the parties with the intent that they pass the crystal on to their children.  The district court ordered that the German crystal shall “be given to Respondent’s mother to be held for the children” until her death or when the youngest child reaches the age of majority.

“District courts have broad discretion over the division of marital property, and we will not disturb the division on appeal absent a clear abuse of discretion.”  Chamberlain v. Chamberlain, 615 N.W.2d 405, 412 (Minn. App. 2000) (citation omitted), review denied (Minn. Oct. 25, 2000).  The district court’s disposition of the German crystal is consistent with the intent of respondent’s mother’s gift, and therefore, was not an abuse of discretion.

Affirmed as modified.



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