Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Michael R. Sjodin, petitioner,
Candice L Sjodin,
Filed October 7, 1997
St. Louis County District Court
File No. F595600400
Daniel C. Berglund, Falsani, Balmer, Berglund & Peterson, 1200 Alworth Building, 306 West Superior Street, Duluth, Minnesota, 55802, (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Short, Presiding Judge, Parker, Judge, and Crippen, Judge.
This dissolution case involves issues of custody, visitation, and dependency tax exemption. On appeal from a denial of a motion to amend the judgment and decree, Michael J. Sjodin argues the trial court abused its discretion by (1) granting his former spouse sole legal and physical custody of the parties' minor child, and (2) failing to allocate visitation transportation costs or establish a visitation schedule that adequately serves the best interests of the child or grant him the dependency tax exemption. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
A trial court has broad discretion to decide custody issues and visitation, and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion as evidenced by making findings unsupported by the evidence or by improperly applying the law. See Ayers v. Ayers, 508 N.W.2d 515, 518 (Minn. 1993) (holding scope of appellate review of custody determination is limited to whether trial court abused its discretion by making findings unsupported by evidence or by improperly applying law) (citing Lenz v. Lenz, 430 N.W.2d 168, 169 (Minn. 1988); Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988) (holding scope of appellate review limited to finding errors and correcting them); see also Manthei v. Manthei, 268 N.W.2d 45, 45-6 (Minn. 1978) (holding discretion of trial court in deciding questions relating to visitation is extensive) (citing Bryant v. Bryant, 264 Minn. 509, 119 N.W.2d 714 (1963)). A trial court's findings must be sustained unless clearly erroneous. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d at 210 (citing Pikula v. Pikula, 374 N.W.2d 705, 710 (Minn. 1985)). We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's findings. See Hansen v. Hansen, 284 Minn. 1, 5, 169 N.W.2d 12, 14 (1969) (holding appellate courts will be slow to interfere with trial court's ruling in custody matters absent arbitrary action).
Sjodin also argues the trial court abused its discretion in awarding sole, as opposed to joint, legal custody. However, the record demonstrates: (1) the court-appointed social worker concluded the parents do not have an ability to cooperate; (2) the court-appointed social worker concluded the parties are unable to resolve issues through mediation or between themselves; and (3) the court-appointed guardian ad litem found no evidence suggesting either parent will cooperate in the future. Because the record contains extensive evidence of the parties' inability to cooperate, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding sole legal custody. See Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 2 (1996) (listing four factors courts must examine in determination of joint physical or joint legal custody); see also Estby v. Estby, 371 N.W.2d 647, 649 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding trial court must consider factors set forth in Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 2 when determining joint legal custody).
Sjodin also argues the court's visitation schedule does not adequately serve the best interests of the child. However, the child is only three years old. The trial court determined Sjodin would have visitation: (1) every other weekend, from 6:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday; (2) on Christmas Day; Thanksgiving Day, Father's Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day; and (3) one week during the summer until the child is older. Under these circumstances, we cannot say the trial court abused its discretion. See Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 51 (Minn. 1984) (holding trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying noncustodial parent overnight visitation with his five- and six-year-old children).
Sjodin further argues the trial court abused its discretion by failing to award him the dependency tax exemption. See Fudenberg v. Molstad, 390 N.W.2d 19, 21 (Minn. App. 1986) (holding state courts may allocate dependency tax exemption to noncustodial parents). We disagree. It is undisputed that Sjodin's income is minimal, and his former spouse expressed a desire to gain employment in the future. Given these facts, and Sjodin's ability to seek a modification of the trial court's decree if his income increases, we cannot say the trial court abused its discretion. See Greeler v. Greeler, 368 N.W.2d 2, 4 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding dependency tax exemptions may be modified in accordance with Minn. Stat. § 518.64).