This opinion will be unpublished and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:

William J. Ferguson, petitioner,




Natalie J. Ferguson,



Filed April 2, 2002


Harten, Judge


Washington County District Court

File No. F7-00-4059


Jeffrey J. Fenske, Ritter & Fenske, Ltd., 461 University Avenue, St. Paul, MN  55103 (for respondent)


Natalie J. Ferguson, 14830 58th Street North, #409, Oak Park Heights, MN  55082 (appellant pro se)


            Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Pro se appellant Natalie Ferguson alleges that the record does not support the district court’s findings regarding child custody, child support, disposition of the home, spousal maintenance, and division of property.  Respondent William Ferguson alleges that the appeal must be dismissed.  We decline to dismiss the appeal and, because the record supports the district court’s findings of fact and because those findings support the conclusions of law and the judgment, we affirm the district court.


            Respondent alleges that the appeal must be dismissed because appellant did not comply with this court’s briefing order.  Whether to dismiss an appeal for nonjurisdictional defects is decided by addressing, among other things, whether the appeal is meritorious.  Progressive Cas. Ins. Co. v. Kraayenbrink, 365 N.W.2d 229, 231 (Minn. 1985).  This case is now fully briefed and the merits of the appeal require evaluation whether for dismissal purposes or to decide the appeal.  We therefore decline to dismiss the appeal. 

            Pro se parties are subject to the generally applicable legal and procedural rules.  Fitzgerald v. Fitzgerald, 629 N.W.2d 115, 119 (Minn. App. 2001).  Generally, absent a new-trial motion, our review is limited to whether the evidence supports the findings of fact and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law and the judgment.  Gruenhagen v. Larson, 310 Minn. 454, 458, 246 N.W.2d 565, 569 (1976); Erickson v. Erickson, 434 N.W.2d 284, 286 (Minn. App. 1989).  On appeal, findings of fact are not altered unless they are clearly erroneous.  Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01.  Here, because appellant did not seek a new trial, many of her objections to the judgment are not properly before this court.

            We reject appellant’s challenge to the award of custody to respondent.  The record supports the findings that the child was of an age and maturity to express a custodial preference and that her preference was to live with respondent.  The child’s age requires that her preference be given great weight.  Ross v. Ross, 477 N.W.2d 753, 756 (Minn. App. 1991).  Awarding respondent custody is consistent with the recommendations of the custody evaluator and the guardian ad litem.  Moreover, the record supports the findings that (1) respondent provided most of the child care before appellant moved out of the home; (2) respondent provided all of the child care after appellant moved out; (3) appellant’s health “impaired” her ability to care for the child; and (4) the child’s best interests are served by awarding custody to respondent.  Accordingly, we affirm the award of child custody to respondent[1]

            Appellant, who receives social security benefits, challenges her maintenance award.  The person appointed to investigate appellant’s financial status referred to appellant’s social security benefits as “SSI.”  The judgment, however, referred to appellant’s social security benefits as “SSDI” on all but one occasion.  Generally, “SSI” and “SSDI” refer to “Supplemental Security Income” and “Social Security Disability Insurance,” different programs with different rules and different eligibility requirements.  See New York v. Sullivan, 906 F.2d 910, 913 (2d Cir 1990) (discussing differences in programs for SSI and SSDI).  Here, it is undisputed that appellant is disabled.  And the district court use of SSDI indicates that appellant was receiving disability benefits.  On this record, appellant has not shown that the maintenance award must be altered, and we decline to do so based on what was apparently a clerical error in the identification of appellant’s benefits.  Cf. Minn. R. Civ. P. 60.01 (addressing clerical errors in judgments). 

            Because appellant has not shown the district court’s property-related findings of fact to be clearly erroneous, and in light of our resolution of the maintenance issue, we decline to alter the district court’s property award.  We also decline appellant’s requests to bring posttrial motions before this court, for this court to accept new evidence on appeal, and for a continuance of the appeal.  See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (stating appellate courts address only questions presented to and considered by the district court); Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.01 (defining record on appeal as documents filed in district court); Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 127 (stating relief is to be sought by written motion). 


[1]Because appellant’s requests for child support and to be allowed to live in the family home are based on the assumption that she will become the custodial parent and because we affirm the custody award, we need not address appellant’s arguments on these points.