Scott County District Court File No. F04-00178.
The monthly payments that a tribal member receives from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community fall within the definition of "income" in Minn. Stat. § 518.54, subd. 6 (2004); therefore, any such payments received during a tribal member's marriage are marital property subject to division upon dissolution.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Willis, Judge
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
In this appeal from a dissolution judgment, appellant wife argues that the district court abused its discretion by denying her motion for amended findings or alternatively a new trial because (1) respondent husband's change of residence after the dissolution trial is a sufficient basis for amended findings or a new trial; (2) the district court abused its discretion by awarding the parties joint legal and physical custody of their children when the record shows that the parties are unable to communicate or cooperate; and (3) the district court erred by concluding that the per capita payments appellant wife received from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community during the parties' marriage were marital property. Because the record supports the district court's findings and we agree with the district court's legal conclusions, we affirm.
Appellant Melinda Alice Zander (wife) and respondent Jeremy James Zander (husband) have known each other since grade school, began dating in 1999, and were married in September 2001. Wife has two children, currently ages 15 and 12, from two previous relationships. Husband adopted both children in November 2001. During the marriage, husband was voluntarily unemployed, and wife did not work but received monthly per capita payments from the Shakopee Mdewakanton (Dakota) Sioux Community (Mdewakanton Community). The parties separated in January 2004. After the separation, husband lived in a trailer home owned by wife on the Mdewakanton reservation, and wife lived in Jordan, Minnesota.
In January 2004, husband petitioned for dissolution. In February 2004, the district court issued a temporary order granting the parties joint legal custody and wife sole physical custody of the children, subject to husband's parenting time. The district court conducted a trial on the dissolution from March 15 to 18, 2005, during which the court heard testimony from 13 witnesses, met in camera with the parties' children, and received 43 exhibits. In June 2005, the district court issued its dissolution judgment, granting the parties joint legal and physical custody and ordering a division of the parties' marital property. In July 2005, wife moved for amended findings or, in the alternative, a new trial. The district court denied the motion, and wife's appeal follows.
Did the District Court Abuse Its Discretion by Denying Wife's Motion for Amended Findings or a New Trial?
Wife appeals from both the dissolution judgment and the district court's order denying her motion to amend its findings or, in the alternative, for a new trial. A motion to amend findings must be based on the files, exhibits, and minutes of the court, not on evidence that is not a part of the record. Otte v. Otte, 368 N.W.2d 293, 299 (Minn. App. 1985) (applying Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.02). When considering a motion for amended findings, a district court "must apply the evidence as submitted during the trial of the case" and "may neither go outside the record, nor consider new evidence." Rathbun v. W.T. Grant Co., 300 Minn. 223, 238, 219 N.W.2d 641, 651 (1974). This court reviews denials of such motions under an abuse-of-discretion standard. See Lewis v. Lewis, 572 N.W.2d 313, 315 (Minn. App. 1997) (noting that the purpose of a motion to amend findings is to permit the district court to review its own exercise of discretion), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 1998).
A district court's findings "shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the [district] court to judge the credibility of the witnesses." Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. A finding is "clearly erroneous" when this court has "the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." Vangsness v. Vangsness, 607 N.W.2d 468, 472 (Minn. App. 2000) (quotation omitted). When determining whether findings are clearly erroneous, this court views the record in the light most favorable to the district court's findings. Id.
A party may move for a new trial on the grounds of: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence; (3) fraud; (4) a void judgment and decree or order; or (5) satisfaction, release, or discharge of the judgment. Minn. Stat. § 518.145, subd. 2 (2004). This court reviews a district court's decision whether to order a new trial for an abuse of discretion. Halla Nursery, Inc. v. Baumann-Furrie & Co., 454 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn. 1990).
Wife argues that the district court's findings regarding husband's residence are clearly erroneous and that the district court's failure to amend its findings was an abuse of discretion. According to wife, when the district court made its custody determination, it placed "special emphasis" on the fact that husband resided on the reservation. Wife claims that husband did not intend to continue living on the reservation despite his testimony to the contrary and argues that her claim is supported by the fact that ...