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In re Marriage of Anderson

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 30, 2013

In re the Marriage of: David Allen Anderson, petitioner, Respondent,
v.
Lisa Marie Syverson, f/k/a Lisa Marie Anderson, Appellant.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Clearwater County District Court File No. 15-FA-11-289.

Ronald S. Cayko, Bemidji, Minnesota (for respondent)

Thomas T. Smith, Smith Law Firm, P.A., Bemidji, Minnesota (for appellant)

Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Chutich, Judge; and Klaphake, Judge.

Klaphake, Judge [*]

Appellant Lisa Marie Syverson (f/k/a Lisa Marie Anderson) argues that the district court abused its discretion by awarding joint legal and physical custody of the parties' four children, and by ordering her to pay costs previously waived because of her in forma pauperis status. Because the district court did not abuse its discretion by ordering joint legal custody or by ordering appellant to pay costs previously waived, we affirm in part. But because the district court's analysis of the custody factors does not sufficiently explain the award of joint physical custody, we reverse in part and remand for further analysis.

DECISION

Custody Determination

The district court has broad discretion in making child custody determinations. Matson v. Matson, 638 N.W.2d 462, 465 (Minn.App. 2002). Our review is limited to determining whether the district court abused its discretion by making findings unsupported by the record or by improperly applying the law. McCabe v. McCabe, 430 N.W.2d 870, 872 (Minn.App. 1988), review denied (Minn. Dec. 30, 1988). Findings of fact will be sustained unless they are clearly erroneous. Id.

When determining child custody, the district court must consider "the best interests of the child, " which includes consideration of all relevant factors, including 13 statutory factors. Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(a) (2012). The district court must "make detailed findings on each of the factors, " and must "explain how the factors led to its conclusions and to the determination of the best interests of the child." Id. The district court must not use one factor to the exclusion of others. Id.

Where a party seeks joint legal or joint physical custody, the court must consider four additional factors. Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 2 (2012). Once joint legal custody has been requested by either party, the district court applies a rebuttable presumption that joint legal custody is in the best interests of the child. Id. This presumption does not exist with respect to joint physical custody. See id.

Appellant first argues that several of the district court findings are clearly erroneous. The district court made extensive and detailed findings on each of the statutory factors. These findings are supported by the record and not clearly erroneous. Appellant argues that the evidence could support different findings. But whether additional or different findings could be made does not make the existing findings clearly erroneous. See McCabe, 430 N.W.2d at 873 (concluding that this court must defer to the district court where the evidence could support multiple determinations).

Next, appellant argues that the district court erred by disregarding the factor requiring consideration of the children's preferences. The district court should consider "the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient age to express preference." Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(a)(2). The district court clearly considered the preferences of the children. It simply concluded that their preferences were not reasonable or mature. This is largely a credibility determination, which we will not disturb on appeal. See Gada v. Dedefo, 684 N.W.2d 512, 514 (Minn.App. 2004) ("[Reviewing ...


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