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In re Olson

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

March 13, 2017

In the Matter of: Christina Marie Olson on behalf of A. C. O. and N. P. O., petitioner, Respondent,
v.
Bradley Charles Olson, Appellant.

         Blue Earth County District Court File No. 07-FA-16-3248

          Christina Marie Olson, Mankato, Minnesota (pro se respondent).

          B. Steven Messick, J. Scott Braden, P.A., Faribault, Minnesota (for appellant).

          Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Cleary, Chief Judge; and Jesson, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Under the Minnesota Domestic Abuse Act, when a district court holds a hearing on a petition and affidavit for an order for protection pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, subds. 5, 7 (2016), the district court errs by basing its finding of domestic abuse solely on inadmissible hearsay statements in the petition and affidavit.

          OPINION

          CLEARY, Chief Judge.

         Appellant-father Bradley Charles Olson challenges a district court's grant of an order for protection (OFP) arguing that the OFP is based on inadmissible hearsay allegations contained in respondent-mother Christina Marie Olson's petition and affidavit for an OFP. Because a finding of domestic abuse following a contested hearing must be made on admissible evidence, we reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         On August 17, 2016, respondent filed a petition and affidavit for an OFP on behalf of her minor children, A.C.O. and N.P.O., then ages ten and eight, respectively, against appellant. In her petition and affidavit, respondent alleged that her children started crying when she told them they were going to appellant's house and that A.C.O. "hyperventilated." Respondent also alleged in her petition and affidavit that, in early August 2016, she took A.C.O. and N.P.O. to see a therapist, and that respondent told the therapist that A.C.O. was upset about going to appellant's house. According to respondent's petition and affidavit, the therapist asked respondent to go to the waiting room and, after the session, the therapist told respondent that her children should not go to appellant's house because he did not understand the children's issues and that the children's mental health was being affected. Respondent also stated in her petition and affidavit that at an August 10, 2016 therapy session, A.C.O. told the therapist and respondent that appellant slaps N.P.O. across the face and tells N.P.O. and A.C.O. that if they tell respondent there will be "severe consequences."

         In regard to previous abuse, respondent stated in her petition and affidavit that she reported to child-protection services in March 2016 that N.P.O. complained that appellant had slapped N.P.O.'s face. Respondent stated that child-protection services did not become involved because there were no marks from the slap. Respondent also alleged in her petition and affidavit that appellant once spanked A.C.O. when A.C.O. was a baby, and that appellant initially lied about the incident. Respondent checked the box on the form petition indicating that she believed domestic violence would continue and that she and her children were in immediate danger.

         In August 2016, the district court issued an emergency ex parte OFP against appellant, with A.C.O. and N.P.O. as the protected persons. At the request of appellant, and pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 518B.01, subds. 5, 7 (2016), the district court held a domestic abuse hearing in September 2016.

         Respondent appeared pro se at the hearing. Appellant, through his attorney, requested that the ex parte OFP be dismissed, arguing there were "no instances of domestic abuse which is required by statute, " and that the allegations contained in the petition and affidavit are "hearsay, irrelevant and don't meet the standards of domestic abuse."

         At the hearing, the district court asked respondent, "[A]nything that you want to add other than what's already in the record based upon your Petition?" Respondent replied that she wanted the OFP to stay in place due to the emotional distress that appellant allegedly inflicted on A.C.O. and N.P.O. Respondent presented a letter from the children's therapist, and appellant objected on hearsay grounds. The district court ruled that the letter was inadmissible because the therapist was not ...


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