In the Matter of: Jason Edward Gilberts o/b/o C. A. G., petitioner, Respondent,
Stacy Jean Gilberts, Appellant.
Kandiyohi County District Court File No. 34-FA-13-33
Jason Edward Gilberts, Willmar, Minnesota (pro se respondent)
Gregory R. Anderson, Anderson, Larson, Hanson & Saunders, PLLP, Willmar, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Ross, Judge.
This appeal questions the sufficiency of evidence supporting an order for protection from domestic abuse. Jason Gilberts noticed bruising on his five-year-old son, C.A.G., after C.A.G. returned from a stay with his mother, Stacy Gilberts. Jason alleged that Stacy had committed domestic abuse, and he sought an order for protection. The district court found that domestic abuse had occurred and issued the order, which also modified the parties' custody arrangement. Stacy contests that decision. Because the evidence supports the district court's conclusion that domestic abuse occurred, we affirm.
Stacy Gilberts and Jason Gilberts were married for nearly seven years until their divorce in March 2011. They had one child together, C.A.G., born in 2006, and Stacy had a daughter from a previous relationship. After the divorce, the parties agreed to a joint physical custody arrangement in which C.A.G. would spend roughly seven of every fourteen days with each parent. One day in December 2012, C.A.G. returned from Stacy's house with what appeared to be pinch marks on his right arm. C.A.G. returned from another stay with Stacy in January 2013 with a "little goose egg" bump on the back of his head, which lasted a few days.
About a month after the second wound appeared, Jason filed a petition for an order for protection on behalf of C.A.G. The petition cited these incidents as evidence of domestic abuse. The district court granted an ex parte order for protection, pending a full hearing, and it appointed a guardian ad litem to investigate and to report on the best interests of the child. The guardian ad litem met with each parent and with C.A.G. but did not visit either home.
The district court held a hearing on Jason's petition in February 2013. Jason testified about C.A.G.'s injuries, said that he had witnessed Stacy restraining the children during their marriage, and explained that he sought a protective order because C.A.G. had become reluctant to spend time with Stacy and because he feared for C.A.G.'s safety. He explained that he had not filed the petition immediately after the first injury because he "gave [Stacy the] benefit of the doubt, " and he denied filing it because he was dissatisfied with their custody arrangement. A friend of Jason's testified that he had also seen the pinch marks on C.A.G.'s arm.
The guardian ad litem, Murlene Gruis, testified that she had spoken to C.A.G. and concluded that he was uncomfortable staying with his mother for extended periods. She also indicated that Stacy had acknowledged the incident that led to C.A.G.'s head injury. According to her, C.A.G.'s best interests favored restricting his time with Stacy. Gruis acknowledged that she had little time to get to know the parties during the brief investigatory period before making her recommendations.
The district court found that domestic abuse had occurred, granted an order for protection against Stacy, and granted Jason sole physical custody of C.A.G. It also modified the parenting-time schedule, leaving Stacy to care for C.A.G. only every other weekend. The order also required her to complete anger ...