may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
Rose, n/k/a Anna M. Haymond,
Michael Paul Rose,
Myron Dvorak, et al.,
Meeker County District Court
File No. F394382
David T. Johnson, 217 West James Street, P.O. Box 241, Paynesville, MN 56362 (for appellant)
Diane L. Gordon, Jensen & Gordon, 22 North Main Street, Hutchinson, MN 55350 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Parker, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from a custody-modification order granting respondents Myron and Fran Dvorak custody of two of their grandchildren, appellant-mother Anna Marie Rose, n/k/a Anna M. Haymond, argues that (a) the district court’s order ignores the custody presumption favoring parents; and (b) the fact that the children were living with the Dvoraks before the modification does not show the extraordinary circumstances necessary for awarding custody to nonparents. We affirm.
The marriage of mother and respondent-father Michael Paul Rose was dissolved in 1994. The dissolution judgment awarded mother sole legal and physical custody of the parties’ three children, Crystal, currently age 16, Joshua, currently age 14, and Kayla, currently age 11, subject to reasonable visitation by father.
For six months following the divorce, mother and the children lived with the Dvoraks, the children’s maternal grandparents, in Litchfield, Minnesota. Mother and the children then moved into another home in Litchfield. During this time, mother worked and attended college.
In 1997, mother was experiencing health problems and stress from the demands of working, attending school, and raising a family. Mother began having difficulties with Crystal, then age ten, so mother sent Crystal to live with father, who also lived in Litchfield. Also in 1997, mother met her current husband, Tyrone Larry Haymond, via the Internet. Since about 1979, Haymond has been serving a life sentence without parole in a California state prison.
In 1998, mother finished college and moved to Cottage Grove, Minnesota, with Joshua and Kayla. Crystal remained in Litchfield with father. Following the move, mother had difficulties controlling Joshua’s behavior. Joshua became increasingly disobedient at home and began getting into trouble outside the home. In 2000, due to Joshua’s behavior problems, mother sought to place him with father. Father declined to have Joshua live with him and suggested that mother place him with the Dvoraks. In June 2000, Joshua returned to Litchfield to live with the Dvoraks. In November 1999 or November 2000, Crystal moved out of father’s residence and began living with the Dvoraks, with mother’s consent and approval. Also in 2000, mother married Haymond.
In June 2001, the Dvoraks filed a motion to modify custody, requesting that custody of Crystal and Joshua be awarded to them. Mother opposed the motion and sought to retain custody of Crystal and Joshua and have them return to live with her. Mother currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
In granting the Dvoraks’ motion after a hearing, the district court found that Crystal and Joshua are of sufficient age and maturity to express a preference and that both unequivocally prefer to live with the Dvoraks. The court found that although Crystal and Joshua maintain relationships with mother and father, the Dvoraks are their primary caretakers as they provide for their daily living and clothing expenses and extracurricular activities. The court also found that the Dvoraks have played an active role in Crystal’s and Joshua’s lives since the divorce and that the intimacy of the relationship between Crystal and Joshua and the Dvoraks has increased considerably since Crystal and Joshua were placed with the Dvoraks. The district court found:
Crystal has lived her whole life in the Litchfield community. She has attended schools in the Litchfield School District since Kindergarten, developed friendships since childhood, and established ties to the community as a teenager through church and extra curricular activities.
Crystal has excelled in school maintaining an “A” average and making the “A” honor roll. She is also active in extra curricular events including track, basketball, Knowledge Bowl, and debate. Crystal is active in church and has attended the National Catholic Youth Conference. She also volunteers at the Stay-N-Play childcare center in Litchfield.
Joshua has spent the majority of his youth living in the Litchfield community and attended schools in the Litchfield School District since Kindergarten, except for half of the fifth grade and the entire sixth grade. Joshua is a good student maintaining a “B” average and making the “B” honor roll. He is also very active in basketball throughout the year as well as baseball and football.
The district court found that Crystal and Joshua are in a stable environment with the Dvoraks. The court also found that although allowing mother to retain custody would theoretically keep together the family unit of mother and all three children, as a practical matter, it was
unlikely that the family unit could be kept together given Crystal’s defiance to the idea of remaining with [mother] and Joshua’s sincere and expressed reluctance.
The district court found that allowing mother to retain custody would be detrimental to Crystal’s and Joshua’s mental well being:
The mental well being of Crystal and Joshua will be greatly impaired by the move. Both children have found considerable successes living in the Litchfield area. It is highly unlikely that the level of success achieved by these two children would be realized again if they were required to relocate to an unfamiliar area and enroll in an unfamiliar school. Crystal is unfamiliar with [mother’s] current religious lifestyle and way of life and it is very likely that she would not remain with [mother].
Joshua is an intense and sensitive boy and making the transition to a new area in St. Paul and to a new school will be disruptive and traumatic for him. It is very likely that the disobedience Joshua has shown in the past would resurface.
The district court found that mother loves and cares for all of her children and had not neglected, abandoned, or endangered them in any way. The district court also found that both mother and the Dvoraks have the capacity to give love, affection, and guidance to the children and would endeavor to encourage the level of excellence achieved by Crystal and Joshua in school, church, and community.
Appellate review of a custody determination is limited to whether the district court abused its discretion by making findings unsupported by the evidence or by improperly applying the law. Silbaugh v. Silbaugh, 543 N.W.2d 639, 641 (Minn. 1996); Pikula v. Pikula, 374 N.W.2d 705, 710 (Minn. 1985). A district court’s findings will be sustained unless they are clearly erroneous. Pikula, 374 N.W.2d at 710.
Mother argues that the district court’s order ignores the custody presumption favoring parents and that the fact that Crystal and Joshua were living with the Dvoraks before the modification does not show the extraordinary circumstances necessary for awarding custody to nonparents.
The general rule that a natural parent is presumed fit to have custody of his child emerged from cases involving proof of unfitness in terminating parental rights. When deciding custody disputes between a parent and a third party, the presumption that a natural parent is entitled to custody of his own child will not be overturned unless it clearly appears that [the parent] is unfit or has abandoned [the parent’s] right to custody, or unless there are some extraordinary circumstances which would required [the parent] be deprived of custody. Minnesota statutes and case law, however, recognize that a district court’s primary commitment in matters concerning custody is the best interests of the child.
J.W. ex rel. D.W. v. C.M., 627 N.W.2d 687, 692 (Minn. App. 2001) (citations and quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Aug. 15, 2001).
Under Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d) (2000),
the court shall not modify a prior custody order * * * unless it finds * * * that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or the parties and that the modification is necessary to serve the best interests of the child. In applying these standards the court shall retain the custody arrangement * * * established by the prior order unless: * * *
(iii) the child has been integrated into the family of the petitioner with the consent of the other party; or
(iv) the child’s present environment endangers the child’s physical or emotional health or impairs the child’s emotional development and the harm likely to be caused by a change of environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child.
See also Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(a) (2000) (listing best interests factors).
In Westphal v. Westphal, 457 N.W.2d 226 (Minn. App. 1990), this court held that Minn. Stat. § 518.18 applies when a nonparent seeks custody in a custody-modification proceeding. The Westphal court explained:
The application of section 518.18 to these facts harmonizes with caselaw concerning the custodial rights of nonparents. The Wallin court identified two basic doctrines in determining custody between a parent and another custody claimant. First, the nonparent may show the natural parent is unfit to have custody. Such a showing corresponds to the requirement in section 518.18(d)(iii) that the court find the current custody endangers the child. Second, the Wallin court recognized that the “overriding consideration” in deciding custody is the best interests of the child. This analysis recognizes that certain extraordinary situations may exist in which the child’s best interests require placement with a nonparent, and it has been applied in situations in which the court legitimizes a de facto custody arrangement and allows the nonparent to retain custody. Section 518.18(d)(ii), which allows modification in favor of a noncustodian where the child has been integrated into the movant’s family with the consent of the custodian, reflects these situations. Section 518.18 incorporates the Wallin strands into its required findings. Both the caselaw and the statute reflect a settled policy view that stability of custody is usually in the child’s best interest. Thus, the Wallin recognition of the importance of considering the child’s best interest does not allow a court to remove custody from a parent to nonparents based only on the application of the best interest standard.
Id. at 229 (citations omitted).
The district court found that Crystal and Joshua had been integrated into the Dvoraks’ home. The district court’s finding that Crystal began living with the Dvoraks in November 2000 is inconsistent with its finding that when mother attempted to place Joshua with father, father suggested that Joshua live with the Dvoraks as Crystal had done. Joshua began living with the Dvoraks in June 2000. The Dvoraks stated in their amended motion that Crystal had been living with them since November 1999. But mother’s answer to the motion, which states that Crystal did not begin living with the Dvoraks until November 2000, supports the district court’s finding that Crystal began living with the Dvoraks in November 2000.
Even if Crystal did not begin living with the Dvoraks until November 2000, she had been living with them for more than nine months when the district court issued the order granting the Dvoraks custody. Mother cites no authority indicating that nine months is an insufficient time period to support a finding of integration.
The district court also found that Crystal’s and Joshua’s mental well being would be greatly impaired if they returned to live with mother. Crystal and Joshua are both doing very well in school and are involved in extracurricular activities in Litchfield, and the district court found that it was highly unlikely that they would achieve the same level of success if they were required to relocate to an unfamiliar area and school. It was mother’s problems parenting Crystal and Joshua that led to their placement with the Dvoraks. The district court found that Crystal was defiant to the idea of returning to live with mother and that it was very unlikely that she would remain with mother. The court also found that it was very likely that Joshua’s behavior problems would resurface if he resumed living with mother. The evidence supports these findings.
The district court analyzed in detail the best interests factors set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(a), and found that they favored awarding custody to the Dvoraks. The evidence supports the district court’s findings that (1) a change of circumstance has occurred since the initial custody determination, brought about by mother’s placement of Crystal and Joshua; (2) Crystal’s and Joshua’s mental well being would be greatly impaired if they returned to live with mother; (3) Crystal’s and Joshua’s interest in remaining with the Dvoraks in Litchfield, where they have lived the majority of their life and are integrated into the school and community, outweighed the benefit of being reunited with mother; (4) mother consented to the placement of Crystal and Joshua with the Dvoraks; and (5) Crystal and Joshua have been integrated into the Dvoraks’ home. The district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding physical custody of Crystal and Joshua to the Dvoraks.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 It is not clear whether the district court granted grandparents physical or physical and legal custody. The Dvoraks’ motion and amended motion and the district court order refer only to custody. The guardian ad litem recommended that the Dvoraks be awarded physical custody and that mother and father share joint legal custody. Because the parties are disputing only physical custody, we do not address legal custody.
 Father also filed a motion to have sole legal and physical custody of Crystal and Joshua awarded to him, but he did not oppose the Dvoraks’ motion. If father were awarded custody, he intended to allow Crystal and Joshua to continue living with the Dvoraks.
 The requirement that appeared at Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(iii) (1990) appears at Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(iv) (2000).
 The requirement that appeared at Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(ii) (1990) appears at Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d)(iii) (2000).