This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






In re Terese Rose Dahl, petitioner,





John Edward Dahl,




Filed February 1, 2005


Toussaint, Chief Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. F5-95-3203


Sarah E. Arendt, Foster, Hedback, Brever, Arendt & Carlson, PLLC, Suite 201 Anthony Place, 2855 Anthony Lane South, St. Anthony, MN 55418 (for respondent)


Mark Nygaard, Nygaard & Longe, 210 Ivy League Place, 475 North Cleveland Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Schumacher, Judge; and Minge, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge


On September 9, 2003, this court issued an unpublished opinion that provided the basis for this appeal.  Dahl v. Dahl, No. A03-143, 2003 WL 22079505 (Minn. App. Sept. 9, 2003).  At that time, this court held that the district court failed to appropriately determine the custody status of the children in agreement with Nolte v. Mehrens, 648 N.W.2d 727 (Minn. App. 2002).  Id. at *2.  Specifically, the case was remanded to the district court to [“determine whether the parties have joint physical custody or whether one party has sole physical custody,] and, in light of that determination, establish the appropriate child support pursuant to the Hortis/Valento formula or the child support guidelines.”  Id.  Because the district court issued an order, on March 10, 2004, which found respondent Terese Rose Dahl had sole physical custody of the children, made appropriate child support determinations, and entered a parenting time schedule not inconsistent with its findings, we affirm.




Sole Physical Custody and the Hortis/Valento Formula

            A.         Sole Physical Custody

            Appellant John Edward Dahl maintains that the language used in the parties’ marital termination agreement, “shared physical custody,” has the same meaning as “joint physical custody” and that the district court erred in finding the opposite.  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).  Appellate review is limited to determining 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).  “Even though the trial court is given broad discretion in determining custody matters, it is important that the basis for the court’s decision be set forth with a high degree of particularity.”  Durkin, 442 N.W.2d at 151 (quotation omitted).

            The dispositive element in determining the nature of a stipulated custody arrangement is the label put on the arrangement by the parties and adopted by the court.  Nolte v. Mehrens, 648 N.W.2d 727, 730, (Minn. App. 2002).  But while the district court may consider the language used by the parties in their marital termination agreement, such language is not binding on the district court.  Moylan v. Moylan, 384 N.W.2d 859, 865 (Minn. 1986) (“We have stressed that the welfare of the child takes precedence even if the case involves a stipulation.”); Petersen v. Petersen, 296 Minn. 147, 148, 206 N.W.2d 658, 659 (1973) (stating that while “considerable weight” is given to stipulations, “in determining questions of custody the paramount issue remains the welfare and best interests of the children,”); Sydnes v. Sydnes,388 N.W.2d 3, 7 (Minn. App. 1986) (“Parties cannot enter into a stipulation which might not be in the best interests of the child.  Such an agreement is entitled to little weight.”)

            Here, the district court found that the acrimony between the parties was so pervasive that they would be unable to cooperate in order to meet the best interests of the children.  Additionally, the district court stated, “The net result of the parenting arrangement was that the children were with [respondent] the bulk of the time having their needs met while [appellant] had his visitation time without addressing the specific needs of the children, especially those of [their learning disabled son].” 

            Because the district court made findings supported by the evidence and properly applied the law, we affirm the district court’s ruling that respondent has sole physical custody of the children.

            B.         Hortis/Valento Formula

            Appellant contends the district court should have applied the Hortis/Valento child support formula.  Use of the Hortis/Valento formula when one parent has sole physical custody is a deviation from the child support guidelines and must be supported by findings on the statutory factors enumerated in Minn. Stat. § 518.551, subds. 5(c), 5(i) (2004).  Rogers v. Rogers, 622 N.W.2d 813, 821 (Minn. 2001).  When parents have joint physical custody, however, the Hortis/Valento formula is the presumptively appropriate method for setting support.  Schlichting v. Paulus, 632 N.W.2d 790, 792-93 (Minn. App. 2001).  Here, following a finding by the district court that respondent had sole physical custody of the children, the district court did not apply the Hortis/Valento formula.  Because the Hortis/Valento formula is not part of the guidelines in a case of sole physical custody, the district court did not abuse its discretion by not applying the formula.  See id. at 793 (“[T]he [Hortis/Valento] formula treats each parent as a child-support ‘obligor’ and the legislature’s 1998 amendment to the definition of ‘obligor’ presumptively excluded a parent with sole physical custody”).


Evidentiary Hearing

            Appellant maintains the district court inappropriately modified the parties’ custody agreement without holding an evidentiary hearing.  When addressing custody modifications, this court has stated:

Whether the district court must hold an evidentiary hearing depends on the degree of modification.  Insubstantial parenting-time modifications or adjustments do not require an evidentiary hearing.  Whether a modification is substantial depends on whether parenting time was restricted, which requires looking at both the reasons for the change and the amount of reduction of the parenting-time rights.


Matson v. Matson, 638 N.W.2d 462, 468 (Minn. App. 2002) (citation omitted).

            Here, there was no modification of custody.  Pursuant to Dahl v. Dahl, No. A03-143, 2003 WL 22079505 (Minn. App. Sept. 9, 2003), the district court determined respondent has sole physical custody, made the appropriate child support determinations, and entered a parenting time schedule not inconsistent with its findings.  No hearing was required on remand, and based on the record before us, neither party made a timely or appropriate request for a hearing.  Because there was no modification of custody, the district court did not err by not holding a hearing on this issue.


Parenting Time

            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); Braith v. Fischer, 632 N.W.2d 716, 721 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Oct. 24, 2001).  A district court’s findings of fact, on which a visitation decision is based, will be upheld unless they are clearly erroneous.  Griffin v. Van Griffin, 267 N.W.2d 733, 735 (Minn. 1978); Crosby v. Crosby, 587 N.W.2d 292, 295 (Minn. App. 1998), review denied (Minn. Feb. 18, 1999).  “It is well established that the ultimate question in all disputes over visitation is what is in the best interest of the child.”  Clark v. Clark, 346 N.W.2d 383, 385 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. June 12, 1984).

            Here, the district court’s findings regarding the parties’ contentious relationship, as outlined in section I, supra, are sufficient to support the district court’s parenting time schedule.  Because the district court’s parenting time determinations are in accord with the best interests of the child standard established in Minn. Stat. § 518, 551, subd. 5(c), we find no error.