This opinion will be unpublished and
                  may not be cited except as provided by
               Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1994)

                          State of Minnesota
                            in Court of Appeals

     In Re the Marriage of:

Jeffrey Howard Michaud, petitioner,


Elisa Beth Michaud,

n/k/a Elisa Beth August-Michaud,

Filed June 25, 1996
Affirmed in part, Reversed in part, and Remanded
Norton, Judge

Hennepin County District Court

File No. DC 193 410

Nancy Zalusky Berg, Gary A. Debele, William A. Winter, Walling & Berg,
P.A., 701 Fourth Avenue South, Suite 650, Minneapolis, MN 55415-1873 (for

Louis M. Reidenberg, Louis M. Reidenberg Law Offices, 625 Pillsbury Center,
200 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402-1887 (for Respondent)

Considered and decided by Norton, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and
Amundson, Judge.
                        Unpublished Opinion

NORTON, Judge (Hon. Harvey C. Ginsberg, District Court Trial Judge)

Appellant alleges that the trial court abused its discretion by concluding
that the best interests of the children were served by placing sole
physical custody with respondent, especially in light of respondent's
proposed move to Texas. Appellant also challenges the trial court's
decision not to allow his expert to testify at trial and its determination
of visitation, child support, and the division of marital assets.

We reverse and remand the child custody issue for a new trial to include
the testimony of father's expert and for proper consideration and analysis
of the best interests of the children. We affirm in part, reverse in part,
and remand the marital property issue.

Appellant Jeffrey Michaud and respondent Elisa August-Michaud were married
in March 1988 and separated in July 1993. They have two boys born to their
marriage, now ages seven and five. During the marriage, father worked full
time; mother worked full time until the parties' second child was born.

In August 1993, the court entered a temporary relief order that provided
for joint legal and physical custody of the parties' children. Pursuant to
this arrangement, the children alternated approximately every two weeks
between their father's residence, which is the children's birth homestead,
and their mother's residence.

At the dissolution trial in April 1995, the parties strongly contested the
custody issue, mainly due to mother's plans to move to Texas to attend
graduate school.

Several witnesses testified to the parties' parenting capabilities,
relationships with the children, and mental health. Mary Ellen Bauman, a
representative from Hennepin County Court Services, testified regarding the
contents of the 1993 court-ordered custody study. Bauman testified that the
custody study found that mother performed the majority of primary parenting
tasks, and the children's best interests mandated sole physical custody
with mother. Bauman indicated, however, that the custody study recommended
not allowing the children to move away from their father for two years.

Several witnesses testified regarding mother. Dr. Julia Davis, a licensed
psychologist whom mother had hired, testified that mother was mentally
healthy and has excellent parenting skills. Carolyn Barinsky testified that
mother has patience with the children, sets limits, and puts the children
first in her life. Jane Mondry testified to mother's excellent parenting
and said she would be willing to move to Texas for an unspecified duration
to help mother with the children. Dr. Winifred B. Lilly-Taylor testified
that she had treated mother for a history of depression and bulimia during
May and June 1993.

Several witnesses also testified or submitted reports regarding father. Dr.
Randall S. Voeks testified that father had seen him for a sexual behavior
problem, which now had subsided and was not a parenting issue. Father hired
Dr. Richelle Moen to testify to father's parenting capabilities. The court
received Dr. Moen's report into evidence, but refused to allow Dr. Moen to
testify at trial. Dr. Moen's report indicates that father is nurturing and
committed to the best interests of the children.

The trial court concluded the best interests of the children would be
fulfilled by placing sole physical custody with mother. The trial court
waived the two-year waiting period recommended in the custody study and
allowed mother to move to Texas as of the date of the decree. The trial
court ordered father to pay $692 per month in child support, ordered
visitation between father and the children during the school year and
summers, and divided the marital property. Father brought a motion for
amended findings or, alternatively, a new trial, and a stay of the custody
decision. The court stayed the custody decision and reinstated the
temporary relief order of August 1993 pending a decision on father's
motion. Due to the initial judge's retirement, a new judge heard the motion
and denied it. The court also denied father's motion to stay the custody
decision pending appellate review.
1. The Children's Custody

Father argues that the trial court abused its discretion by finding that
sole physical custody with mother serves the best interests of the
children. A trial court has broad discretion to provide for the custody of
the parties' children. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn.
1984). An appellate court may not reverse a custody determination unless
``the trial court abused its discretion by making findings unsupported by
the evidence or by improperly applying the law.'' Pikula v. Pikula,
374 N.W.2d 705, 710 (Minn. 1985). We may not set aside the trial
court's findings unless they are clearly erroneous. Id.
At the heart of this custody dispute is mother's proposed move to Texas
to enroll in the Physician's Assistant program at Baylor University. Father

argues that the trial court applied an erroneous standard of law in
allowing mother to move the children to Texas with her. We disagree.

Father asserts, ``The party seeking to alter the status quo by removing the
children'' has the burden of proving that a move is in the children's best
interests. See Sydnes v. Sydnes, 388 N.W.2d 3, 6 (Minn. App. 1986)
(when both parties are granted legal and physical custody under the terms
of the divorce decree, neither is the primary caretaker and the party
seeking to remove the child must demonstrate the move is in the child's
best interests). The Sydnes standard, however, concerns a move after a
formal decree has been entered, not the situation here, where only a
temporary order has been issued. See Minn. Stat. 𨹞.131, subd. 9(a)
(1994) (providing that temporary orders have no impact on later

In an initial dissolution proceeding, the trial court treats a proposed
move simply as another factor to balance in determining who should have
custody of the child. Stangel v. Stangel, 355 N.W.2d 489, 490 (Minn.
App. 1984), review denied (Minn. Feb.6, 1985). Here, the trial
court's findings indicate that, to the extent it considered mother's
proposed move at all, the move was just another factor in the best
interests analysis. The trial court applied the correct standard.

Although mother does not bear the burden of proving the move was in the
children's best interests, the trial court has the responsibility to
consider the move, and all other pertinent factors, in determining the best
interests of the children pursuant to Minn. Stat. 𨹞.17, subd. 1
(1994). A proposed move bears implicitly, if not explicitly, on several of
the best interests factors in section 518.17. In particular, the best
interests factors stressing stability and continuity of care are of
particular importance in light of mother's proposed relocation to Texas and
the young age of the children. See Sydnes, 388 N.W.2d at 6;(1)
        [Footnote] (1)Although Sydnes was a case
        involving removal and a resulting modification of a
        prior custody decree, the importance of stability
        and continuity in a child's life is relevant in all
        relocation situations involving young children.
        Cf. Auge v. Auge, 334 N.W.2d 393, 399 (Minn.
        1983) ( creating presumption in favor of allowing
        custodial parent to remove child from state when
        custodial parent moves out of state; presumption
        based on concern for continuity).

see also Minn. Stat. 𨹞.17, subd. 1(a) (4), (5), (6), (7), and
(8) (pertinent factors). Father argues that not only do the trial court's
findings fail to reflect the impact of the move on the best interests of
the children, but that, overall, the findings and conclusions with respect
to the best interests factors are insufficient and merit a reversal of the
custody decision. With respect to many factors, we agree.

Father contends the trial court abused its discretion when it awarded
custody to mother without making any findings on the effect of the move on
his relationship with the children, their relationship with extended
family, their adjustment to school, home, and community, and the
permanence, stability and continuity of their home life. Minn. Stat.
𨹞.17, subd. 1(a) (5), (6), (7), (8). We agree.

Although the evidence supports the court's finding regarding the children's
current relationship with extended family, the finding is insufficient
because it failed to articulate how a move would affect those relationships
and why the move to Texas outweighs the potential deterioration of those
relationships. See Id., subd. 1(a) (``The court must make detailed
findings on each of the factors and explain how the factors led to its
conclusions and to the determination of the best interests of the child'').

Similarly, the trial court's mere mention of the facts relating to the
children's home, school, and community are not sufficient when section
518.17 requires the trial court to explain how the findings, in light of
the move, affected the decision that custody with mother in Texas was in
the children's best interests. Aside from finding that the children lived
in their birth homestead prior to the parties' separation, the court failed
to make detailed findings on the length of time the children have lived in
a stable environment and the importance of continuity in their lives. The
trial court ``must make detailed findings on each of the factors'' in
section 518.17 and explain how these factors affect the children's best
interests in a custody determination. Minn. Stat. 𨹞.17, subd. 1(a);
Rogge v. Rogge, 509 N.W.2d 163, 165 (Minn. App. 1993), review
denied (Minn. Jan.28, 1994). Given that custody with mother will result
in a completely new home environment for the children, it is important for
the court to consider how that move would affect the stability and
continuity in the children's lives and serve their best interests.
Sydnes, 388 N.W.2d at 6.

Likewise, the findings are insufficient on the permanence and stability of
the home each parent has and will continue to offer. Minn. Stat.
𨹞.17, subd. 1(a) (8). Where a move is involved, the factors
indicating stability and continuity are critical. Sydnes, 388 N.W.2d
at 6. The trial court made no findings directly bearing on the permanence
of the proposed custodial home.

Mother argues that the permanence of the custodial home should not be
considered solely in terms of one parent's ability to continue caring for
the children in the family home. See Smith v. Smith, 425 N.W.2d 854,
857 (Minn. App. 1984) (holding it error to grant custody to father
``solely'' because he was able to continue to work and care for children on
the family farm). Instead, she contends that her ability to meet the
children's economic needs in Texas serves their best interests, based on
Lees v. Lees, 404 N.W.2d 346, 348 (Minn. App. 1987). Lees
involved a mother's request for custody modification to move the
children to South Carolina to secure employment. Id. The parties had
joint physical custody of the children, but the father had relocated to
Kansas. Id. In light of that unique situation, the trial court found
that the children's stability and continuity could be preserved by a move
to South Carolina. Id.
In contrast to Lees, which involved removal and resulting
modification of custody, this appeal is from the initial custody
determination. Neither party here has sole physical custody of the children
yet. Further, unlike in Lees, father still resides in Minnesota.
Most significantly, mother is not moving to Texas for employment, but to
enter a graduate program, which is arguably both more demanding and time-
consuming than her prospective job. The trial court's finding that the
graduate program will provide mother with a good income seems premature as
mother first has to complete the program, then find a job, and in the
meantime may not be providing any financial support to the children.
Moreover, as the children are adjusting to their new home in an unfamiliar
environment, mother will be balancing motherhood and rigorous studies. Once
again, the trial court, while acknowledging the best interest factor
regarding the stability of the custodial home, failed to provide any
explanation of how that finding affected the ultimate best interests
decision as required by Minn. Stat. 𨹞.17, subd. 1(a).

Father argues that the evidence does not support the trial court's finding
that mother was the primary caretaker. Id., subd. 1(a) (3). We
disagree. The trial court found that mother performed the majority of
parenting duties during the marriage and both parties cared for the
children during the pendency of the dissolution proceeding. The record is
replete with testimony regarding mother's parenting role before and after
the parties' separation that supports the trial court's finding.

Father contends the trial court made the primary caretaker finding without
regard to specific evidence of his parenting skills listed in the custody

study. The trial court heard evidence regarding both parents, weighed the
conflicting evidence, and made a finding accordingly. We defer to the trial
court's opportunity to weigh conflicting testimony and determine
credibility. Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210-11 (Minn. 1988).
The trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to include in the
findings the evidence that father cited.(1)
        [Footnote] (1)Similarly, we note father's objection
        to the fact that the trial court did not mention his
        nurturing role with the children, their attachment
        to him, or mother's lack of attendance in parenting
        classes. Our review of the record shows conflicting
        evidence on each of these points, which left the
        credibility determination to the trial court.
        Sfekow, 427 N.W.2d at 210. We detect no abuse
        of discretion here.

Father also argues the trial court misapplied the law in determining mother
was the ``more primary caretaker.'' Minn. Stat. 𨹞.17, subd. 1(a)
(3). We disagree. The trial court found that mother was responsible for
most of the basic parenting duties before separation. See Pikula,
374 N.W.2d at 713 (listing parental duties court should consider). The
trial court also found that the parties have shared parenting duties since
their separation. In making its finding, the court looked not only at the
children's caretaking before the separation, but also over the course of
their entire lives. Rutanen v. Olson, 475 N.W.2d 100, 103 (Minn.
App. 1991) (considering parties' parenting roles during children's entire
lives). The trial court properly applied the law when it concluded that
mother was the primary caretaker.

Father claims that the trial court failed to make significant findings
regarding mother's relationship with the children. Minn. Stat. 𨹞.17,
subd. 1(a) (4). Again, we disagree. The trial court found that mother has a
healthy and close parental relationship with the children. These findings
are supported by the custody study, which provides that ``both children
were observed to interact affectionately with both parents, to seek their
attention, direction, and assistance.''

Father also claims the trial court failed to incorporate into the findings
certain evidence regarding his relationship with the children. We note that
the record states the boys are at their ``peak psychological attachment''
to father; it does not indicate the children are more attached to father
than mother. Further, although the custody study acknowledged that the
children felt father was more nurturing, the therapists expressed concern
that father had caused this response by talking negatively about mother and
by not disciplining the children. Finally, contrary to father's
allegations, Barinsky's testimony indicates that mother did enroll in
parenting classes. Given this conflicting evidence, we defer to the trial
court's ability to weigh the evidence, determine its credibility, and reach
a decision. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d at 210.

Father next challenges the trial court's finding regarding the mental
health of the parties. Minn. Stat. 𨹞.17, subd. 1(a) (9). The trial
court adopted the findings of Dr. Davis, who found mother was mentally
healthy and engaged in appropriate behavior with the children. The trial
court found Dr. Davis's testimony was credible and refuted claims of
mother's mental instability. We defer to the trial court's opportunity to
weigh conflicting testimony and judge its credibility. Sefkow, 427
N.W.2d at 210.

Father claims that the trial court erred in awarding mother custody after
it had found that father had a loving relationship with the children. Minn.
Stat. 𨹞.17, subd. 1(a) (10). We note that the trial court also found
that mother had a loving relationship with the children. The evidence
supports both of those findings. The trial court is vested with the
authority to determine custody. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d at 50 (holding that
trial court is vested with broad discretion to provide for custody of

children). When the evidence supports the trial court's conclusions, we
must affirm, even though the evidence would have supported other
conclusions as well. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d at 210.

Father also challenges the accuracy of the finding that says, ``The experts
who testified on behalf of [father] did not shed any light on the issue of
[father's] ability to function appropriately as a custodial parent.'' The
record contains the nine-page report from Dr. Moen analyzing and
highlighting father's strengths as a parent. Dr. Moen concluded that father
is ``a nurturing father who is committed to the best interests of his
children *** who appears to provide a stable environment for [his] children
which has contributed to [their] healthy psychological development.'' This
evidence does ``shed light'' on father's parenting abilities and renders
the finding clearly erroneous. Dr. Moen was unable to shed further light on
this issue, because the trial court refused to allow her to testify.

Finally, father argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it
failed to explain why it rejected the recommendation of the custody study
that the children not be moved out of state for two years. We agree. A
trial court may reject custody study findings, but it must explain why it
rejected the recommendation or make particularized findings justifying its
decision. Rutanen, 475 N.W.2d at 104. Here, the trial court's
findings are not particularly detailed; the court gave no reason for
rejecting the study's recommendation of a two-year waiting period, stating
only that ``the court does not find this waiting period is further
necessary since almost one and one-half years have passed since the Custody
Study was completed.'' The court issued these findings June 26, 1995, only
one year and three months after the completion of the custody study, not
one and one-half years. Moreover, given that the crux of this dispute is
whether the children's best interests are served by moving to Texas, the
trial court's lack of elaboration on this issue is troubling. The trial
court's failure to make particularized findings adequately explaining why
it waived the recommended two-year waiting period is an abuse of

Because the trial court failed to explain why its findings led to a
conclusion that the best interests of the children mandated physical
custody with mother, particularly in light of mother's proposed move to
Texas, we reverse and remand for consideration and proper analysis on this

Our decision on the custody issue obviates discussion of visitation and
child support, because those issues hinge on custody. In the interest of
judicial efficiency, however, we note that the trial court acted well
within its broad discretion when it decided visitation and child support
here. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d at 50 (child support); Manthei v.
Manthei, 268 N.W.2d 45, 46 (Minn. 1978) (visitation). For purposes of
clarity on remand, the trial court may incorporate into the decree the
parties' agreement that father pays no child care costs during summer
months when he has custody of the children.
                        2. Expert Testimony

Father argues the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to allow
his expert witness to testify regarding his parenting skills. See
Uselman v. Uselman, 464 N.W.2d 130, 138 (Minn. 1990) (admission of
evidence rests within broad discretion of trial court and will only be
reversed if erroneous or an abuse of discretion). To show entitlement to a
new trial on the grounds of an improper evidentiary ruling, a complaining
party must demonstrate prejudicial error. Id. Father argues that the
gravity of the prejudice is demonstrated by the court's finding: ``The
experts who testified on behalf of [father] did not shed any light on the
issue of [father's] ability to function appropriately as a custodial
parent.'' We agree.

This finding is contrary to the evidence. Even though Dr. Moen was not
given the opportunity to testify, her written report lists numerous

criteria reflecting positively on father's parenting skills with his
children. The court's finding reflects that it failed to consider this
report among the evidence from father's experts. Dr. Moen's live testimony
may have changed the result in this case. The court's treatment of this
witness undeniably caused father prejudice and constitutes an abuse of
discretion. Father is entitled to a new trial that includes Dr. Moen's
3. Trial Court's Independent Weighing and Assessment of the Evidence

Father argues that the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of
law ``mirror'' mother's proposed findings and conclusions, and thus legal
error exists justifying reversal of the case. We disagree. A trial court's
verbatim adoption of one party's proposed findings and conclusions is not
reversible error per se, but ``raises a question of whether the trial court
independently evaluated each party's testimony and evidence.'' Bliss v.
Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583, 590 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied
(Minn. Feb. 12, 1993). Other than those findings that we have
enumerated as faulty, ``the record supports the [remaining] findings and
shows the trial court conscientiously considered'' the issues. Bersie v.
Zycad Corp., 417 N.W.2d 288, 292 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied
(Minn. May 5, 1988).
                        4. Marital Property

The trial court has broad discretion in dividing property. Rutten,
347 N.W.2d at 50. Absent an abuse of discretion, the trial court's
decision must stand. Id.
Father challenges the finding that he dissipated marital assets. The
trial court found that father disposed of a certificate of deposit worth
approximately $2,500 and a Norwest account worth $1,382 in violation of the
temporary order. The evidence supports this finding; father testified to
spending this money.

Father next contends the trial court erroneously included two accounts in
the schedule of marital assets. The evidence shows that Norwest Account No.
0038369456 was a personal checking account, not a retirement account. The
evidence also shows Norwest Account No. 26100-188864 was closed prior to
trial and should not have been included with the other retirement accounts
in the schedule of marital assets. The trial court's inclusion of these
accounts as retirement accounts is clearly erroneous.

Father argues the cash property settlement was excessive. The trial court's
award of $5,506.50 is supported by the evidence and does not appear
excessive considering that father received the marital homestead. The trial
court did not abuse its discretion in making this cash settlement.

The trial court's division of marital property is affirmed in part,
reversed in part, and remanded for the correct disposition of the Norwest
accounts that were erroneously included as retirement accounts.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.