This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In Re the Marriage of:

Douglas Wayne Starnes, petitioner,



Sharon Gulledge Starnes,


Filed February 17, 1998


Foley, Judge**

Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.

Dakota County District Court

File No. F9-91-12880

Patrice M. Feterl, Briar Bend Offices, 13786 Reimer Drive, Suite B, Maple Grove, MN 55311 (for appellant)

Michael D. Dittberner, 3205 West 76th Street, Edina, MN 55435 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Foley, Judge.


FOLEY, Judge

Appellant Douglas Starnes alleges that the district court abused its discretion when it modified the parties' visitation schedule. Respondent Sharon Gulledge Starnes filed a notice of review claiming the district court abused its discretion when it failed to award her all of her claimed costs and fees. We affirm.


The parties were divorced in 1992, and have one minor child. Respondent was awarded sole physical custody of the child with appellant granted visitation. The visitation schedule sought to accommodate appellant's irregular work schedule as an airline pilot by requiring the parties to cooperate in coordinating visitation with appellant's days off work. The visitation schedule was unsuccessful and resulted in numerous difficulties between the parties. The child suffered because of the parties' inability to make the visitation schedule work. Ultimately, respondent moved the district court for a modification of visitation and prevailed. Appellant seeks review of the district court's change to the visitation schedule and respondent seeks review of the district court's award of costs and fees.


The district court's discretion in deciding visitation questions is "extensive" and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Al-Zouhayli v. Al-Zouhayli, 486 N.W.2d 10, 12 (Minn. App. 1992) (quoting Manthei v. Manthei, 268 N.W.2d 45, 45-56 (Minn. 1978)).

Under the statute governing modification of visitation, the "court shall modify an order granting or denying visitation rights whenever modification would serve the best interest of the child." Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 5 (1996). On the other hand, the court may not restrict visitation rights without a finding of endangerment or the noncustodial parent's chronic and unreasonable failure to comply with court-ordered visitation. Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subds. 5 (1), (2) (1996); see also Anderson v. Archer, 510 N.W.2d 1, 4 (Minn. App. 1993) (defining restriction as "[a] substantial alteration of visitation rights").

Appellant's time with his child has been modified and not restricted. Appellant's speculation that he will have only five days of visitation per month under the new schedule is unsupported by the record. The record reveals that under the previous visitation schedule, appellant was able to see the child on weekends; some months he saw the child every weekend. It was not an abuse of the district court's discretion, therefore, to assume that appellant will continue to be able to see the child every other weekend. In fact, under the new visitation schedule, appellant will be with his child one or two weeknights and every other Friday through Sunday. During months with three weekends, appellant could have as many as 17 visitation days per month, eight more than under the previous schedule. The change in the visitation schedule did not substantially alter appellant's visitation rights and, therefore, cannot be categorized as a restriction. See Anderson, 510 N.W.2d at 4 (restriction is substantial alteration of visitation rights). We affirm the district court's discretion in modifying the visitation schedule.

Having determined that the district court modified appellant's visitation rights, we next address whether the change was in the best interests of the child. Minn. Stat. § 518.175, subd. 5. A district court has broad discretion in this area. We hold that the district court properly acted in the child's best interest because the previous schedule was unworkable and negatively affected the child. The new schedule will provide stability because the dates of appellant's visitation will be known in advance. Appellant was unable or unwilling to make the previous flexible schedule work and the child suffered. By enacting a schedule aimed at reducing the parties' conflict and providing stability for the child, the district court's modification was in the child's best interests.

Appellant also argues that the district court erred by adopting verbatim respondent's proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The verbatim adoption of a party's proposed findings, however, is not reversible error per se; rather, the "clearly erroneous" standard applies. Sigurdson v. Isanti County, 408 N.W.2d 654, 657 (Minn. App. 1987), review denied (Minn. Aug. 19, 1987). After a review of the record, we conclude that the district court did not adopt respondent's proposed findings and conclusions verbatim but rather accepted some, modified some, and omitted others. The district court's findings and conclusions were "detailed, specific and sufficient enough to enable meaningful" appellate review. Bliss v. Bliss, 493 N.W.2d 583, 590 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Feb. 12, 1993). Accordingly, its findings and conclusions are not clearly erroneous.

Finally, respondent argues that the district court abused its discretion when it awarded her only $2,000 of the approximately $7,000 she sought in costs and fees. The allowance of attorney fees rests almost entirely in the discretion of the trial court. Solon v. Solon, 255 N.W.2d 395, 397 (Minn. 1977). "[O]nly rarely will a trial court's decision regarding attorney fees be overturned on appeal." Burns v. Burns, 466 N.W.2d 421, 424 (Minn. App. 1991). The record provides no basis to support that the district court abused its discretion. Accordingly, we affirm its award of costs and fees.