STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In Re the Matter of:
Tammy Sue Turnquist, petitioner,
Filed August 24, 1999
Dakota County District Court
File No. F39715027
Richard A. Stebbins, Daniel R. Butler & Associates, P.A., 2330 Firstar Center, 101 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Ronald D. Ousky, Gelhar & Ousky, P.A., 5001 West 80th Street, Suite 935, Bloomington, MN 55437 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Harten, Judge.
This appeal arises from the 1998 dissolution of an 18-year marriage. On appeal, Richard Turnquist argues the trial court erred in denying his motions for new trial and support modification. We affirm.
Despite evidence that Turnquist's former spouse currently cohabits with Turnquist's 40-year-old nephew, the trial court granted Turnquist's former spouse sole physical custody of the parties' three children. In support of this determination, the record shows: (1) the court-appointed psychologist concluded in her assessment and at trial that Turnquist's children have not experienced any emotional trauma based on the familial nature of their mother's relationship; (2) the guardian ad litem stated in her reports and at trial that Turnquist's children see their mother's current relationship as positive; (3) Turnquist's former nephew and spouse both testified at trial the children have not reacted negatively to her current relationship with Turnquist's nephew; and (4) Turnquist's children all express a strong preference for living with their mother. Although Turnquist contends the trial court's custody arrangement has distanced his children from him, a careful review of the record also shows neither Turnquist's former spouse nor nephew attempted to alienate the children from Turnquist. Given these facts, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Turnquist's motion for new trial based on the trial court's custody arrangement. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (noting due regard must be given to trial court's opportunity to judge credibility of witnesses); cf. Simonson v. Simonson, 292 N.W.2d 12, 13 (Minn. 1980) (reversing trial court's custody determination where custodial parent lived with convicted felon who had history of criminal sexual conduct); Nazar v. Nazar, 505 N.W.2d 628, 633 (Minn. App. 1993) (reversing trial court's custody determination where evidence showed custodial parent physically, emotionally, and verbally abused children), review denied (Minn. Oct. 28, 1993).
Turnquist also argues the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for new trial because the trial court formed opinions about the outcome of the case before hearing evidence. Hertz, 304 Minn. at 146, 229 N.W.2d at 44; see State v. Ketterer, 244 Minn. 127, 128, 69 N.W.2d 115, 116 (1955) (recognizing no judge should hear case if litigant has reason to believe judge is prejudiced). The record shows: (1) the trial court notified Turnquist's attorney during pretrial conference of its opinion of Turnquist's case; (2) the trial court based this opinion on two guardian ad litem reports, a psychological assessment of the parties and their children, and multiple letters and affidavits; and (3) during the parties' dissolution proceedings, Turnquist never objected to or made motions regarding the trial court's alleged prejudice. Given these facts, Turnquist is not entitled to a new trial based on judicial bias.
Finally, Turnquist argues the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for new trial because his former spouse's property settlement is larger than the entire value of the parties' marital estate. See Minn. Stat. § 518.58, subd. 1 (1998) (requiring division of marital property to be just and equitable). But we will affirm the trial court's distribution of property as long as it is based on sound fact and principle. Kriesel v. Gustafson, 513 N.W.2d 9, 12 (Minn. App. 1994); Aaron v. Aaron, 281 N.W.2d 150, 152 (Minn. 1979) (deferring to trial court's property distribution absent abuse of discretion). In its detailed findings of fact, the trial court noted Turnquist's failure to disclose all requested financial information and based the parties' property settlements on 1996 and 1997 federal and state income tax returns. Because the record supports these findings, we cannot say the trial court abused its discretion in denying Turnquist's motion for new trial based on its property distribution. See Ronnkvist v. Ronnkvist, 331 N.W.2d 764, 766 (Minn. 1983) (noting trial court's distribution of property must be supported by documentary evidence or comprehensive findings); Bollenbach v. Bollenbach, 285 Minn. 418, 428, 175 N.W.2d 148, 155 (1970) (noting party's failure to make full disclosure of assets and liabilities results in adverse inferences).
The record shows: (1) Turnquist began working as co-founder and corporate curator for Rainforest Café in 1994; (2) during the parties' dissolution proceedings, Turnquist continued to serve as Senior Vice President of Rainforest Café's Friends of the Future Foundation, but voluntarily left his corporate curator position to work as an executive consultant for Lifestyle Ventures; (3) approximately one month after the trial court determined Turnquist's support obligations, Turnquist lost his job with Lifestyle Ventures and began working as a cook for $10 per hour; (4) although he claims to be unable to find a more lucrative position in the restaurant industry, several corporate contacts testified and wrote letters on Turnquist's behalf during the parties' dissolution proceedings. Given these facts, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding no change in circumstances warrants a reduction in Turnquist's support obligations. See In re Marriage of Richards, 472 N.W.2d 162, 164-65 (Minn. App. 1991) (holding change in circumstances must be in good faith to justify modification); Juelfs v. Juelfs, 359 N.W.2d 667, 670 (Minn. App. 1984) (concluding obligor's voluntary career change lacked good faith and failed to provide basis for support modification), review denied (Minn. Mar. 29, 1985).