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In re Splinter

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 24, 2013

In the Matter of: Suzanne K. Splinter and o/b/o Minor Child, petitioner, Respondent,
v.
Jean Renee Strait, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-DA-FA-12-295

Jolene D. Baker Vicchiollo, Heather A. Chakirov, Edina, Minnesota; and Christine Schmidt, Edina, Minnesota (for respondent)

Zachary B. Smith, Sara A. Daly, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Ross, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.

SMITH, Judge

Appellant challenges the district court's issuance of an order for protection (OFP) in favor of respondent, asserting that the district court erred when it (1) found that appellant domestically abused respondent, (2) issued an OFP on behalf of the minor child without finding that appellant domestically abused the child, (3) took notice of findings from the recent custody proceeding, and (4) restricted respondent's parenting time. Because the district court did not err when it issued an OFP protecting respondent-parent and took judicial notice of the findings from the recent custody proceeding, we affirm in part. However, because the district court did not have the benefit of a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision when the district court issued its order, we remand on the issue of the OFP on behalf of the child, and leave the issue of whether to reopen the record on remand to the discretion of the district court. We also remand for findings regarding whether unrestricted or unsupervised parenting time would endanger the child or appellant-parent.

FACTS

Appellant Jean Strait and respondent Suzanne Splinter began a significant romantic relationship in 2005. The parties later purchased a house together and Strait adopted Splinter's minor son, K.C.S. After the Splinter-Strait relationship ended, their custody arrangement granted Strait time with K.C.S. at the house where Splinter and Strait formerly resided together. On Wednesdays, Splinter would leave the home at 4:00 p.m. and arrive back at 8:00 p.m., allowing Strait time alone with K.C.S. This arrangement enabled Splinter and Strait to avoid each other. The underlying facts of this case largely involve an incident that occurred as Strait's parenting time ended on Wednesday, March 21, 2012.

On March 22, Splinter petitioned for an OFP against Strait. Several hearings were held on this issue, and numerous witnesses—including Splinter and Strait—testified. The testimony at the hearings demonstrated that the parties' recollections of the evening of March 21 significantly differ.

Splinter's testimony

Splinter reported that she drove her vehicle into the driveway at 7:56 p.m. Splinter stayed in her vehicle and called her father on her cellular telephone so that he could hear whether any incident occurred between Strait and Splinter when Strait left the house. Strait exited the house shortly after 8:00 p.m., entered her (Strait's) vehicle, and parked it in front of Splinter's vehicle, preventing Splinter from driving into the garage. Strait then approached Splinter's driver's side window, attempted to open the locked car door numerous times, and pounded on the window. Strait used her karate training to hit the window forcefully, in an unsuccessful attempt to break the window.

Strait next returned to her vehicle, backed it inside the garage, and returned inside the home, but soon returned to her vehicle again and parked it next to Splinter's vehicle. Splinter then ended the call with her father and called 911. Strait eventually left, so Splinter informed the emergency operator that she did not require an officer's assistance, but would call back if Strait returned.

When Splinter entered the house, she noticed that Strait had disconnected and removed the five house telephones. Although Splinter had a cellular telephone, she felt fearful without the landlines and left to purchase house telephones from a nearby store. When she returned to her house, an officer was waiting to speak with her. As she told him about the events, she learned that he was not responding to her 911 call, but instead to a call placed by Strait. The officer did not remove K.C.S. from the house because the officer did not believe K.C.S. was in danger. Splinter's testimony of the March 21 events is consistent with the responding officer's testimony and the recording of her 911 call.

When discussing Strait, Splinter reported that she is afraid for her own physical safety because Strait had physically abused her previously and because Strait has karate training. Before the Splinter-Strait relationship deteriorated, Strait told Splinter about a previous breakup, during which Strait felt the need to be careful because Strait's karate skills could cause severe injury. Splinter testified that Strait threatened her numerous times since the custody hearing, specifically with telephone messages threatening repercussions for Splinter limiting Strait's access to K.C.S, as well as threatening to call the judge and media to reveal that Splinter is a threat to K.C.S. Splinter reported that because Strait's aggression is increasing in both frequency and intensity, Splinter has an "increasing level of fear about [K.C.S.] with [Splinter] and what actions [Strait] is willing ...


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