In re the Marriage of: Ross Edward Rehbein, petitioner, Respondent,
Robyn Elizabeth Rehbein, Appellant
St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-FA-08-580 Smith, Judge
Bill L. Thompson, Duluth, Minnesota (for respondent)
Leah Sonstelie Warner, Vogel Law Firm, Fargo, North Dakota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Bjorkman, Judge.
In this parenting-time dispute, appellant alleges that the district court abused its discretion by awarding respondent parenting time because the district court failed to (1) engage in a best-interests-of-the-child analysis; (2) make findings that were supported by the evidence; and (3) follow or mention the recommendations of the guardian ad litem (GAL). Because the record supports the district court's parenting-time determination, we cannot conclude that the district court abused its discretion. We affirm.
Appellant-wife Robyn Rehbein and respondent-husband Ross Rehbein married in 1999. The parties have two children, A.R., born November 27, 2003, and L.R., born December 7, 2006.
Upon returning home on December 27, 2007, A.R. requested that wife take her to the bathroom to change her underwear. This request was not uncommon as A.R. had been suffering from vaginal redness and discomfort that required wife and husband to regularly apply lidocaine spray and/or Desitin cream. Once in the bathroom, wife observed that A.R.'s labia appeared red and inquired whether someone had touched A.R. where they should not have. A.R. responded that husband had touched her with his hand but that it had occurred only twice. When wife confronted husband, he indicated that A.R. had a big imagination.
Wife took A.R. for a medical examination the next day. Throughout the examination, A.R. was fearful, hesitant, and only responded to questions by whispering into wife's ear. Wife informed the examining doctor of A.R.'s disclosure of possible sexual abuse. The physical examination revealed "erythema all along the edges of both labia majora . . . [and] a small 'mound' of tissue just inferior to the uretheral meatus." The doctor never directly inquired regarding the alleged sexual assault and A.R.'s fearful nature rendered a more thorough physical examination impossible. The doctor concluded that although sexual abuse was a possible cause of the vaginal redness, bad hygiene or an infection may also explain the symptoms. However, based on wife's disclosure of the possible abuse, the doctor reported a possible assault to social services.
On January 3, 2008, the district court issued an emergency order for protection (OFP) that granted wife temporary physical custody of the children. The finalized OFP awarded husband supervised parenting time. As part of the OFP proceeding, husband voluntarily agreed to undergo a psychological evaluation. The evaluation revealed no basis for limiting husband's contact with the children. On February 11, 2008, St. Louis County child protection, investigating the alleged abuse based on the doctor's report, indicated that "[w]e did not determine that abuse occurred or that child protective services are needed. The reasons for the determinations were based on interviews with members of [the] family and reports from [the] doctors regarding examinations of [A.R.]." On May 27, 2008, husband moved to dismiss the OFP, which the district court denied. However, the district court noted that supervised parenting time must recommence immediately and that unsupervised parenting time should be considered in the future. On May 30, 2008, husband filed for divorce.
Following the alleged abuse, A.R. began therapy. Although initially helpful, the sessions began deteriorating when the therapist would mention husband. The therapist referred A.R. to a female colleague. After three sessions, that therapist noted that A.R. displayed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and noticed that A.R.'s artwork during play therapy "included inappropriate material, " that A.R. exhibited signs of physical illness following visits with husband, and that A.R. displayed signs of disassociation. Based on these conclusions, the therapist recommended that husband's parenting time with each of his daughters be suspended due to the "high potential that [A.R.'s] younger sibling may have also been abused." A second recommendation requested continued suspension of parenting time, noting that A.R. continued to display signs of physical illness following parenting time, was beginning to have behavioral trouble at school, and had begun vocalizing her desire not to see husband.
On October 22, 2008, husband and wife began a psychosexual evaluation intended to "assist the court in the early neutral evaluation process with respect to determining [parenting time], custody, and parenting matters." This evaluation would continue until March 9, 2009, with a final report issued on March 10, 2009. The completed report indicated that the parties had experienced some marital tension prior to the alleged abuse but noted that husband had been a good father and that both girls were attached to him. The report concluded that wife appeared incapable of hypothesizing explanations as possible causes for A.R.'s symptoms other than the alleged abuse. The report noted wife's "unresolved" issues regarding abuse she had previously experienced and determined that wife was "vulnerable to excessive and hypervigilant observations of her daughter." The report also determined that husband ...