Hennepin County District Court File No. DA 286409.
Considered and decided by Kalitowski , Presiding Judge; Randall , Judge; and Wright , Judge.
In a proceeding for relief under the Minnesota Domestic Abuse Act, when temporary custody is contested, Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, subd. 6(a)(4) (2002), requires the district court to make findings as to the best interests of the child.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wright, Judge
Affirmed in part, remanded in part
Appellant-father challenges the district court's decision to grant respondent-mother an order for protection, arguing that (1) the district court abused its discretion in declining to grant a continuance; and (2) the district court's decision to grant the order for protection is not supported by sufficient evidence. Appellant also contends that the district court erred by awarding temporary custody to respondent without making findings as to the best interests of the child. We affirm in part and remand in part.
On August 8, 2003, appellant-father Nuro Badaso Dedefo and respondent-mother Bontu Gada were involved in an altercation. The nature of the altercation is disputed. Gada maintains that Dedefo kicked her in the back, twisted her left arm, and pushed her. Dedefo denies engaging in physical violence with Gada and contends that Gada attempted to hit him with a trophy. On August 20, after telling Dedefo that she was taking their infant to the clinic, Gada left their home with the child and moved in with a friend.
Shortly thereafter, Gada petitioned for an order for protection based on the events of August 8. On August 23, Dedefo was served with the petition, which stated: "NOTICE TO RESPONDENT.... Be prepared for a hearing on the scheduled date.... You should bring any available documents, such as police reports, hospital and doctor records, pictures, witnesses, or other items." Dedefo arrived at the hearing on August 29 without an attorney. But elders from the Oromo community, of which Dedefo is a member, accompanied him to the hearing with the intention to mediate the dispute and convince Gada to dismiss the petition. The elders approached Gada when she arrived for the hearing and directed her to dismiss the petition.
When Gada declined to do so, Dedefo, a licensed attorney, sought a continuance to retain counsel and secure the appearance of witnesses. The district court denied the motion for a continuance and proceeded with an evidentiary hearing. Dedefo, Gada, the parties' two older children, and Dedefo's mother testified about the events of August 8.
Custody of the two older children was not in dispute. But each party sought sole legal and physical custody of the infant.
Finding that Dedefo committed domestic abuse on August 8, the district court issued an order for protection. The district court then awarded temporary sole legal and physical custody of the two older children to Dedefo and awarded temporary sole legal and physical custody of the infant to Gada. Dedefo was ...