This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Michael Zigich, Jr.,
Lake County District Court
File No. F10044
Suzan Zigich, P.O. Box 501, Beaver Bay, MN 55601 (pro se appellant)
Michael Zigich, 4879 Second Avenue North, Duluth, MN 55803 (pro se respondent)
††††††††††† Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.
Appellant Susan Zigich challenges an amendment to a dissolution judgment increasing respondent Michael Zigichís visitation with the partiesí two children, arguing that the district court abused its discretion by (1) failing to properly consider the best interests of the children and make findings to demonstrate that consideration; (2) failing to properly consider respondentís history of violent behavior; and (3) failing to order respondent to restrain his dog when the children are with him.† Because the district court made significant modifications to the visitation schedule without making the required particularized findings from which we can discern whether the district court appropriately considered the best interests of the children, we remand.
††††††††††† Appellant Susan Zigich and respondent Michael Zigichís marriage was dissolved in 2001.† The primary issue in the dissolution proceeding was the custody of the partiesí two children.† Appellant sought sole physical custody and respondent sought joint physical custody of the children.† The district court found that respondent had been physically violent to appellant and had used excessive physical force in dealing with at least one of the children, but also found that both parties are proper persons to share legal and physical custody of the children.† The district court awarded the parties joint legal custody and awarded appellant sole physical custody subject to rigidly scheduled visitation with respondent.† Visitation included alternate weekends from 4:00 p.m. Friday through 6:00 p.m. Sunday, one week in June, one week in July, and one week in August, and a holiday visitation schedule that gave respondent, among other holidays, visitation from after school on the day before Thanksgiving until 3:00 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.
††††††††††† Subsequently, the children began attending a school with three-day weekends.† Respondent moved to increase visitation.† Appellant moved to dismiss respondentís motion, requested clarification of the existing visitation order and sought an order that respondentís dog be kenneled when the children visit respondent.† Appellant also requested attorney fees.†
††††††††††† The district court amended the judgment, increasing respondentís weekend visitiation from 4:00 p.m. Thursday through 6:00 p.m. Sunday and increasing respondentís summer visitation to ďfrom 4:00 p.m. on the second Friday in July to 4:00 p.m. the Wednesday prior to the first day of school in September.Ē† All other motions were denied.† This appeal followed.
District courts are granted broad discretion to determine what is in the best interests of a child in visitation matters and will not be overturned on appeal absent an abuse of discretion.† Braith v. Fischer, 632 N.W.2d 716, 721 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Oct. 24, 2001).†
Appellant argues that the district court failed to consider the best interests of the children in modifying visitation and did not make required findings reflecting consideration of the best interests of the children.† Significant modifications to visitation that do not restrict visitation rights must be supported by findings that they are in the best interests of the children.† Chapman v. Chapman, 352 N.W.2d 437, 441 (Minn. App. 1984)(holding expansion of fatherís holiday visitation and elimination of requirement that he take children to Mass are significant modifications and must be supported by findings that they are in the childrenís best interests).† The district court stated in its memorandum that:
[The Court is] satisfied that the ages of the children and the partiesí experience and history with visitation are such that what may be reasonably construed as an increase in visitation is appropriate at this time.† In that regard the Court does note that [appellant] agreed that because the childrenís school is a four day a week program, that the regular school year weekend visitation ought occurr commencing after school on Thursday as opposed to after school on Friday.
The district court does not explain why seven weeks of summer visitation with respondent, without any provision for contact with appellant or any comparable award of uninterrupted time with appellant, is in the best interests of the children.† The district court significantly modified respondentís visitation rights and was therefore required to make particularized findings that the modifications are in the childrenís best interests.† No particularized findings were made.† Without those findings, it is difficult to discern the basis for the district courtís decision.† Because effective appellant review is impossible, we remand for the required findings.
Appellant also asserts that the district court failed to properly consider respondentís history of violence when it modified visitation.† But appellant did not raise the issue of respondentís violent behavior or present any new information in her motion opposing modification of visitation.† This court will generally only consider matters argued and considered in the court below.† Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988).††
Appellantís motion did raise concerns about the safety of the children around respondentís dog.† After some discussion about the dog at the hearing, counsel for respondent agreed that the court could impose restrictions on interaction between the children and the dog when respondent is not present.† The district court asked:
Is that a solution I guess?† If the Court put some kind of limit on the dog being around without [respondent] controlling the dog or supervising the dog?
Appellantís counsel indicated that such a solution would be acceptable to appellant.† The district court failed to include any restrictions in its order.† On the record before us, we cannot say that the district court abused its discretion by declining to impose restrictions on the dog, but on remand the district court may clarify its intent with regard to the childrenís contact with respondentís dog.
 Appellant also complains about the restriction of her time with the children on Thanksgiving, which may have been an inadvertent result of moving the start of respondentís alternate weekend visitation to Thursday.† We do not consider this change, in and of itself, significant, but on remand the district court may want to clarify its intent with regard to the Thanksgiving holiday.