This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






In re:


Dawn Carol Nelson,

n/k/a Dawn Carol Reidinger, petitioner,





Gregory Scott Nelson,



Filed May 6, 2003


Kalitowski, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. MF231676


Daniel W. Hergott, Dunkley, Bennett, Christensen & Madigan, P.A., 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 700, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for respondent)


Gary A. Weissman, 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55415 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Minge, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            In this custody-modification proceeding, appellant-father argues that the district court (1) should have granted his motion for physical custody of the parties’ daughter because respondent-mother constructively consented to the current arrangement under which the child now lives with appellant and because the child wishes to continue to live with appellant; and (2) erred in dividing the medical costs for the children where there was no record evidence on the amount of those costs.  We affirm.




            A district court has broad discretion to provide for the custody of the parties’ children.  Durkin v. Hinich, 442 N.W.2d 148, 151 (Minn. 1989); Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984).  This court applies an abuse-of-discretion standard to a district court’s decision to deny a petition for modification of custody without holding an evidentiary hearing.  Geibe v. Geibe, 571 N.W.2d 774, 777 (Minn. App. 1997).  Moreover, the original custody order shall be maintained unless 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.



            A modification is warranted if the movant establishes the four elements of a prima facie case of endangerment:  (1) there is a change in the circumstances of either the child or the custodial parent; (2) a modification of the custody arrangement would serve the best interests of the child; (3) the present environment endangers the child’s physical or emotional health or development; and (4) the harm to the child as a result of the change in custody is outweighed by the advantages of the change.  Id. at 778 (citing Abbott v. Abbott, 481 N.W.2d 864, 868 (Minn. App. 1992)).

            The district court concluded that appellant failed to establish a prima facie case of endangerment because he failed to show that the present environment endangered the child.  The court stated on the record that

[the child] said I would like to try [living with appellant] and that’s understandable and [respondent] said yes, so I haven’t found the harm.


Appellant argues that the district court’s denial of the custody modification was an abuse of discretion, citing cases that stand for the proposition that requiring a teen to live where she does not want to live constitutes endangerment under Minn. Stat. § 518.18(d) (iv) (2002).  See, e.g., State ex rel. Feeley v. Williams, 222 N.W. 927, 928 (Minn. 1929) (danger in forcing an older teenager to live where she does not want to live).  We disagree.

The facts of this case are distinguishable from the cases cited by appellant because respondent is not preventing the child, who was 16 at the time of the move, from residing with appellant.  Rather, respondent consented to the child moving to Florida but objected to the modification of custody.  The district court agreed with respondent and granted appellant extended visitation, reasoning that teens frequently change their minds about which parent they want to live with.  Moreover, as both parties note, the practical result of the custody label is the same; the child will continue to reside with her father if she chooses. 

We agree with the district court’s rationale and therefore, conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s request for custody modification.


            Minnesota law requires every child-support order to “expressly assign * * * the responsibility for maintaining medical insurance for the minor children.”  Minn. Stat. § 518.171, subd. 1(a)(1) (2002).  The district court has broad discretion in determining child support obligations and its decision will not be reversed absent an abuse of that discretion.  Rutten, 347 N.W.2d at 50.  The medical needs of minor children, including insurance coverage, are in the nature of child support.  Bock v. Bock, 506 N.W.2d 321, 326 (Minn. App. 1993).

            Appellant argues that according to the parties’ marital dissolution judgment, the noncustodial parent is required to pay the health insurance costs and that he should no longer be required to pay the child’s health costs because he is now her custodial parent.  Therefore, appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion in requiring appellant to continue paying for the children’s health insurance, minus $250 paid by respondent for her share of the out-of-pocket costs.  We disagree.

            The language of the judgment reflects the parties’ stipulation that maintaining medical and dental insurance for the children was appellant’s sole responsibility, and that the parties would divide the uninsured health costs.  The judgment specifically stated that appellant “shall continue to defray 100% of the health and dental insurance premiums for himself and the children.”  Because this language is unambiguous, there is no room for any other interpretation.  Starr v. Starr, 312 Minn. 561, 562-63, 251 N.W.2d 341, 342 (1977). 

Moreover, although appellant argues that his status as the noncustodial parent was the reason for the insurance provisions in the judgment, there is nothing in the record indicating the parties’ intentions.  And the statutory presumption that the noncustodial parent is required to pay for the children’s medical care was overcome by the parties’ own stipulation.  See Minn. Stat. § 518.171, subd. 1(c) (child support obligor is the presumptive payor of the children’s health insurance) and Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 8 (“obligor” is presumed to the noncustodial parent).  Thus, we conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion.