Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-FA-05-1035
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hudson, Judge
This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2012).
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.
Appellant mother challenges the district court's order rejecting a parenting consultant's decision on the school district in which the parties' minor children should attend school, arguing that the district court erred by concluding that the parenting consultant's decision was unenforceable and abused its discretion by concluding that it was in the children's best interests to continue attending school in their current school district. We affirm.
The district court dissolved the marriage of appellant Michelle Lynn Wetherby and respondent James Eric Hanson by stipulated judgment in 2006. The district court granted the parties joint legal and physical custody of their two children, then ages five and two. Since the dissolution, respondent has lived in the family homestead in Hanover; appellant moved initially to Maple Grove and then, when she remarried, to Mahtomedi. Since the dissolution, the children have had a schedule by which they spend Mondays and Tuesdays at their father's, Wednesdays and Thursdays at their mother's, and weekends alternating between parents.
The judgment directed the parties to use a parenting consultant, then Dr. Susan Phipps-Yonas, to assist them with resolving issues regarding their children, including the issue of which schools the children would attend. In 2008-09, Dr. Phipps-Yonas conducted a "mini-study" and concluded that the children should continue to attend elementary school in Hanover for the 2009-10 school year; that it would not disadvantage them to attend that school for two or three years; and that it would be desirable for respondent to move to Mahtomedi so that the children could take advantage of expanded opportunities in Mahtomedi schools and have a balanced schedule of overnights with both parents without a long commute.
At the expiration of Phipps-Yonas's appointment in 2009, the district court appointed Kelly Semler as the parenting consultant with "authority to recommend changes in the children's schedule with each parent." The order stated that the parenting consultant "may decide to try to mediate a resolution with the parties, and/or if the mediation is deemed not possible by the Parenting Consultant, then the Parenting Consultant shall arbitrate the issue and advise the parents of his/her decision in writing." The order provided that a party who disagrees with the parenting consultant's decision "must obtain a Court hearing date[,] . . . provide written notice of the hearing date to the other parent, and the Parenting Consultant, within fourteen (14) days of receiving the decision[,] . . . [and] file and serve pleadings on the Motion within the time frame of the law and rules governing Family Court." The order also stated that "[a]ll decisions of the Parenting Consultant shall be binding on the parties."
At the parties' request, in March 2010 Semler made a decision regarding the district in which the children should attend school. She reported that both parties lived within a few miles of the elementary schools in their respective school districts, that respondent worked primarily out of his home, and that appellant also had flexibility that occasionally allowed her to work from home. Semler decided that, "[p]roviding there are no major family changes," the children would remain at Hanover Elementary for the next two years, but would transfer to Mahtomedi schools in fall 2012, when the older child would start middle school. She reasoned that, although the children would probably do well in either school district, the Mahtomedi school district would be a better fit for middle school because it had higher testing scores and fewer students. She also stated that the children would have a shorter commute to school in Mahtomedi, based on the distance from the parties' homes to the middle and high schools in their respective school districts. Respondent did not challenge Semler's decision in the district court pursuant to the parenting consultant order.
In November 2011, the parties met again with Semler and considered, among other issues, the children's upcoming transition to the Mahtomedi school district. At that time, respondent told Semler that his job now required him to work more often in offices in St. Cloud and expressed concern that, once the children started school in Mahtomedi, it would be almost impossible for him to take them to and from school. Semler informed the parties that her decision about the children's school district would still be in effect.
In May 2012, respondent moved the district court to require the children to continue attending school in the Hanover/Buffalo school district. He argued that changing schools was not in their best interests and that, based on his change in work location, he would have an extremely long commute in transporting them to and from school in Mahtomedi, which ...