This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Hennepin County on behalf of
Dawn M. Hunt,
Michael S. Johnson,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 27PAFA50705
Carla C. Kjellberg, 333 Parkdale Plaza, 1660 South Highway 100, St. Louis Park, MN 55416 (for respondent)
Farhan Hassan, Clausen & Hassan, L.L.C., Suite 150, 1295 Bandana Boulevard North, St. Paul, MN 55108 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.
Appellant-father challenges the award of physical custody of the parties’ child to respondent-mother, arguing that the district court failed to make findings on relevant evidence and made findings unsupported by the evidence regarding the best-interests factors. In the alternative, appellant argues that he was awarded inadequate parenting time. Appellant also challenges the district court’s award of need-based attorney fees to respondent. We affirm.
review of a custody decision 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, 518 N.W.2d 639,
When determining custody, a district
court must evaluate the child’s best interests by considering “all relevant
factors,” including the 13 factors listed in Minn. Stat. § 518.17,
subd. 1(a) (2004). Currently, the law
“leaves scant if any room for an appellate court to question the trial court’s
balancing of best-interests considerations.”
Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607
N.W.2d 468, 477 (
Father argues that, in analyzing the
best-interests factors, the district court failed to make findings on much of
the relevant evidence that was favorable to father. Father asserts that if all relevant evidence
is considered, the evidence does not support the district court’s findings. We find no merit in father’s argument. There is no authority for father’s apparent
assertion that a district court must make a finding on every piece of relevant
evidence introduced in a custody trial. The
district court made 12 pages of detailed and thorough findings covering all of
the statutory best-interests factors, clearly demonstrating that the district
court considered and weighed the evidence presented. The
district court found mother more credible than father on most disputed issues. We give considerable deference to the district
court’s decision because “a district court is in a superior position to assess
the credibility of witnesses.” In re Welfare of
II. Parenting time
Father argues that the district
court awarded insufficient parenting time.
A district court has broad discretion when determining a parenting-time
schedule and will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion. Olson
v. Olson, 534 N.W.2d 547, 550 (
The district court discussed, at length, evidence of concerns that father has not “dealt with the issues that underlie his personality” that led him in 1993 to suffocate his four-month old child while attempting to stifle the child’s crying. There was evidence that, prior to causing the child’s death, father had broken the child’s rib by holding him tightly until the child stopped moving. Father pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter and successfully completed his sentence, including ten years of probation, required therapy, and random testing for use of chemicals. Father voluntarily remained in therapy longer than he was required to under the terms of his probation. Nonetheless, the record supports the district court’s statement that “[a]ll of the professionals, other than [father’s] own, note that [f]ather does not appear sincere in his responses [concerning the child’s death] and all question whether he in fact has taken emotional responsibility for the death of his baby.” The district court found these concerns compelling with regard to the custody award, but insufficient to “prevent [father] from participating in [the child’s] life by spending time with him, attending his activities when he gets older, and offering the child whatever love and guidance he is capable of providing.”
The district court found that father does not appear to present a physical danger to the child at this time and adopted the recommendation of the custody evaluator that father have parenting time with the child every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The district court stated that it is presumed that this time will be spent with members of father’s current family, which includes other children and at least one other adult. The district court also provided that if father enrolls in an early-childhood-family-education parenting class, mother “shall make the child available to him for that purpose.”
The district court stated that because it was not awarding extensive parenting time, it would not order father to participate in therapy. The district court noted, however, that if father seeks to expand his parenting time in the future, “whether or not he has sought additional therapeutic assistance will have a bearing on that issue.” We conclude that based on the evidence in this case, the district court’s parenting-time decision was well within its broad discretion.
III. Attorney fees
Father argues that the district court abused its discretion by awarding mother need-based attorney fees. An award of attorney fees rests almost entirely within the discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed absent a clear abuse of discretion.” Crosby v. Crosby, 587 N.W.2d 292, 298 (Minn. App. 1998) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Feb. 18, 1999).
The district court initially denied mother’s request for attorney fees, concluding that there was insufficient evidence in the record from which it could determine that father had the ability to contribute to mother’s attorney fees. Mother moved for amended findings, in part, requiring father to contribute to her attorney fees. In the memorandum attached to her motion, mother specifically referenced testimony and evidence in the record that supported the conclusion that father is financially able to contribute to her attorney fees. The district court granted mother’s motion and ordered father to contribute $10,000 to her attorney fees paid at a minimum of $350 per month.
Father first argues that mother’s
motion for amended findings was “improper.”
The purpose of a motion for amended findings is to permit the trial
court to review its own exercise of discretion, and we have stated that “a
proper motion for amended findings must both identify the alleged defect in the
challenged findings and explain why the challenged findings are
defective.” Lewis v. Lewis, 572 N.W.2d 313, 315 (
The district court did not directly address father’s challenge to the propriety of mother’s motion, but implicitly found the motion was adequate. Father has not provided any authority that the required information must be contained in the motion itself or that a district court is prevented from exercising its discretion to act on a defective motion. Mother points to Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 303 to argue that a “motion” consists of all of the papers filed and not just the “Notice of Motion and Motion.” We conclude that mother’s motion was adequate, and even if it was not, the district court had discretion to act on the motion.
Father also argues that the district court’s finding that mother did not have the ability to pay for all of her attorney fees is clearly erroneous. But the record supports the district court’s finding that mother is unemployed, in school, and will have minimal income outside of child support for the next several years. Father argues that making him pay a portion of mother’s attorney fees inequitably rewards mother for not working. We disagree. The evidence supports the district court’s findings that mother does not have the means to pay for all of her attorney fees, and father has the means to contribute to mother’s attorney fees. The district court did not abuse its discretion by ordering father to contribute to her attorney fees.
 The district court did order mother to continue therapy.
was overruled regarding the tolling effects of a motion for amended
findings, “[d]istrict courts should . . . continue to use Lewis to determine whether a motion for amended findings has the
necessary components.” State by