This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In re the Marriage of:
Kevin John Hallerman, petitioner,
Jennifer Ann Hallerman,
Filed August 30, 2005
Benton County District Court
File No. F9-03-1463
Timothy R. Reuter, Kelm & Reuter, PA., 1287 Second Street North, Suite 101, Sauk Rapids, MN 56379 (for respondent)
Thomas E. Kramer, 925 South First Street, P.O. Box 638, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant Jennifer Ann Hallerman challenges the district court’s order establishing a parenting schedule for the parties’ minor child, N.H. Appellant contends the district court erred by (1) adopting respondent’s proposed findings of fact instead of making independent findings; (2) failing to make findings regarding the best interests of the child in determining the primary residence of N.H.; and (3) relying on the guardian ad litem’s recommendation in determining the primary residence of N.H. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
“[V]erbatim adoption of a party’s
proposed findings and conclusions of law is not reversible error per se.” Bliss
v. Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583, 590 (
Appellant asserts that the district court failed to make independent findings and merely adopted respondent’s proposed findings. Appellant states that “[a] careful review of [these] documents would appear to disclose that perhaps not even one word was changed by the [district] court before signing the documents submitted by counsel for [respondent].” Appellant contends that the findings give “the impression that [appellant] was not afforded the opportunity to have a fair and careful decision regarding her minor child.” For these reasons, appellant asks this court to remand for additional findings or reverse the district court’s decision.
But the district court specifically noted that it made its decision “after consideration of the evidence and after a review of the Partial Marital Termination Agreement, the report of the Guardian ad Litem, the testimony at the hearing, the exhibits, arguments of counsel, and minutes.” And many of the findings had previously been stipulated to by both parties in their partial marital-termination agreement. The record supports the court’s findings. We conclude that the record indicates the district court considered all of the issues. Therefore, we reject appellant’s challenge to the form of the court’s findings.
It is well settled that the ultimate
question in disputes over parenting time is what is in the best interests of
Appellant states that “[i]t is undisputed that a trial court must make findings demonstrating that the trial court considered the best interest factors of Minn. Stat. § 518.17 when awarding child custody.” See Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(a) (2004) (enumerating 13 best-interests factors to consider when determining custody and child support). Appellant acknowledges that the parties stipulated to joint physical and joint legal custody of N.H., but appellant argues that the district court “was still required to make findings of fact regarding the best interests of the minor child in order to issue any decision regarding the primary residence of the minor child.”
The statute on parenting time does not require the district court to make specific findings on the 13 best-interests factors set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(a), for decisions on custody and child support. See Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 1(a). Rather, the parenting-time statute simply states that the court shall “grant such parenting time on behalf of the child and a parent as will enable the child and the parent to maintain a child to parent relationship that will be in the best interests of the child.” Id. Moreover, the supreme court has specifically stated that parenting time is, “by its essential nature, a less critical decision than the judicial determination as to custody, especially where custody is disputed. Therefore, absent a legislative requirement, we are unwilling to impose the same level of factfinding required in custody determinations.” Olson, 534 N.W.2d at 550 n.5.
Here, the district court found that the guardian ad litem (GAL) was experienced and stated that the court respected her opinion. The district court further found that a parenting schedule similar to what was recommended by the GAL “would be in the minor child’s best interests.” In its conclusions of law, the district court stated that it considered the GAL’s opinions and closely analyzed the factors identified in Minn. Stat. § 518.17. And as noted above, the district court was not required to make explicit findings on the factors set forth in the statute for custody and child support. Therefore, we conclude the district court made appropriate findings to support its decision.
Appellant contends that the district court erred in relying on the GAL’s recommendation because the recommendation focused on only 1 of the 13 factors set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.17 and ignored the other factors. As discussed above, the district court was not required to address the best-interests factors set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.17. Appellant states that “[i]n reviewing the recommendations and testimony of the guardian ad litem it is clear that the single determinative factor recognized by the applicable statutes was the guardian ad litem’s belief that Respondent father would be more flexible in his dealings with Appellant mother than Appellant would be when dealing with Respondent.” Appellant argues that the district court should have disregarded the GAL’s reports because they contained three different custody/primary placement recommendations.
The GAL’s three reports did contain three different recommendations for parenting time. But at the end of each report, the GAL stated that she “reserves the right to amend and/or supplement this report if any new or additional information is available or if any circumstance affects the above recommendations.” In her third and final report, the GAL reviewed family schedules and stated that it does not appear as though appellant has a great deal of flexibility or benefits at her job, but that respondent has flexibility with sick leave and vacation benefits at his job. She also found that appellant’s family is mostly unavailable, while respondent has a very large network of family support, and that respondent demonstrated a much greater capacity for flexibility and ability to co-parent. Based on this information, the GAL recommended that N.H.’s primary residence be with respondent and that respondent have the majority of parenting time.
Additionally, the GAL testified that she had concerns about appellant’s ability to co-parent. She stated that her “biggest concern is that [N.H.] be allowed and encouraged to have a good relationship with both of his parents and I don’t feel like that has happened in the past . . . ten months that I’ve been working with this family.” The GAL further testified:
I think one of the worst things that a parent can do to a child is try to keep them from the other parent unless there is some type of danger involved, and because of that I think it’s very important for [N.H.] to reside primarily with [respondent]. [Respondent] has been much more open about working with [appellant] on parenting time issues, allowing her time that was his scheduled time, minimizing conflict for [N.H.] when they had disagreements.
We conclude that the GAL’s testimony and reports support the district court’s parenting-time decision.