may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Marriage of:
Timothy Lee Clark, petitioner,
Deborah Evelyn Clark,
Filed July 21, 1998
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Dakota County District Court
File No. F69612676
Carol A. Overland, Overland Law Office, 402 Washington St. South, Suite 225, Northfield, MN 55057 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Holtan, Judge.*
*Retired Judge of the district court, serving as judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. Art. VI, § 10.
This is an appeal from a district court order denying appellant-mother Deborah Evelyn Clark's motion to reopen the dissolution judgment and decree for a new custody evaluation granting her sole custody of the parties' minor children or, in the alternative, a new trial. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion in its custody determination, we affirm.
A district court has broad discretion in making custody determinations. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). A district court abuses its discretion only where it makes a clearly erroneous conclusion contrary to logic and the facts on record. Id. An appellate court, therefore, must examine the record in the light most favorable to the district court's findings. Ayers v. Ayers, 508 N.W.2d 515, 521 (Minn. 1993). Thus, an appellate court, will not reverse an award of custody absent district court findings unsupported by the evidence or improper application of the law. Pikula v. Pikula, 374 N.W.2d 705, 710 (Minn. 1985).
Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by awarding primary physical custody to respondent. She contends the decision of the district court is contrary to the evidence in the record because the order fails to address the documentary evidence from the (1) counselor at Linden Center for Psychological Health; (2) order for protection; and (3) recommendation of the guardian ad litem that appellant should be granted primary physical custody. Appellant further argues that because the district court's order failed to consider the evidence contained in these documents, the custody award must be reversed and remanded for a new trial.
When determining a child's best interests, the district court must consider all of the relevant factors listed in Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1 (1996). The district court may not rely on one factor to the exclusion of all others, and must make detailed findings on each of the factors and explain how the facts lead to its conclusions and the best interests of the child. Id. The recommendations of licensed custody evaluators contained in custody reports are "to be accorded great weight by the district court." In Re Welfare of Larson, 312 Minn. 210, 221, 251 N.W.2d 325, 332 (1977). However, where the court has conducted a thorough best interests analysis on the record, it does not abuse discretion when it awards custody contrary to the recommendation of the custody report without a specific finding explaining its rationale for rejecting the recommendation. Rutanen v. Olson, 475 N.W.2d 100, 104 (Minn. App. 1991)(abuse of discretion not found where the court refused to accept the custody recommendation and made no reference to the custody report, but demonstrated that it "conscientiously and thoroughly" considered the best interests of the child and the statutory factors). Furthermore, district courts "stand in a superior position to appellate courts in assessing the credibility of witnesses." Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203,210 (Minn. 1998). Our supreme court has observed this is particularly true (in custody determinations) where
the trial court's opportunity to observe the parent and other witnesses who are called to testify is so crucial to an accurate evaluation of what is best for the child.
In re Welfare of A.D., 535 N.W.2d 643, 648 (Minn. 1995).
All of the evidence cited by appellant was part of the record and utilized by the district court in resolving the issue of primary physical custody. Here, the documentary custody evaluations and the testimony of the evaluators contained either information to support findings on the statutory factors, or specific best interests findings that tracked the statutory factors in Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd 1(a).
There is no evidence to show that the district court gave more weight to one factor to the exclusion of all others. Maxfield v. Maxfield, 452 N.W.2d 219, 223 (Minn. 1990)(no set formula on how the district court should weigh and balance the statutory factors, so long as all are credited in the decisionmaking process). Because the district court chose to give certain testimony more weight does not mean that the evidence does not support the court's findings. See Id. Under the circumstances, the district court had sufficient information to make its custody determination and we cannot say that determination was manifestly contrary to the evidence. We conclude, therefore, that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellant's motion to reopen the judgment and decree, or obtain a new trial.