In the Matter of the Custody of M. J. H.,
Danielle Marie Healey, Respondent. Eric John Christensen, petitioner, Appellant,
County District Court File No. 46-FA-10-1106
A. Warchol, Warchol Law Offices, PLLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Craig, Law Offices of Southern Minnesota Regional Legal
Services, Inc., Mankato, Minnesota (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Bjorkman, Presiding Judge; Hooten,
Judge; and Reyes, Judge.
a parent's proposed modification of parenting time would
result in the parents having equal or nearly equal parenting
time, the district court errs by treating the proposed
modification as a change in a child's primary residence
solely based on the apportionment of parenting time.
determining whether a proposed modification of parenting time
would constitute a change in a child's primary residence,
the district court should consider not only the apportionment
of parenting time under the proposed modification, but also
the child's other relevant attachments to each
parent's place of residence and the impact of the
modification on those attachments.
father challenges the district court's denial of his
motion to modify parenting time. Although appellant
characterized his motion as only a request for equal
parenting time or, in the alternative, increased parenting
time, the district court nonetheless construed his request as
a motion to change physical custody and the child's
primary residence. Reasoning that both of these types of
relief require the moving party to show that the child is
endangered in the child's current custodial arrangement,
the district court denied appellant's request for equal
parenting time on the ground that appellant failed to assert
a prima facie case of endangerment. Because the district
court erred by determining that appellant's request was
necessarily a motion for a change in physical custody and the
child's primary residence and because the district court
erred by failing to make sufficient findings regarding
appellant's alternative request for increased parenting
time, we reverse and remand.
Eric John Christensen and respondent Danielle Marie Healey
are the parents of one minor child, born in 2010. In a
stipulated June 2011 order, the district court awarded joint
legal custody to the parties, sole physical custody to
Healey, and parenting time to Christensen. In April 2015, due
to the child starting school, the parties agreed to amend the
2011 order. The resulting order provided that during the
school year the child would reside primarily with Healey and
that Christensen would have parenting time every other
weekend. The order also stated that the parties would
alternate weeks with the child during the summer. The parties
do not dispute that the child's primary residence was
with Healey after the 2015 amendment.
2016, Christensen moved to modify parenting time to equal
parenting time by extending the alternating week schedule to
the entire calendar year. Alternatively, Christensen
requested an increase in the amount of his parenting time to
something less than equal parenting time during the school
year. Notwithstanding Christensen's assertion that he was
not seeking to modify physical custody or the child's
primary residence, the district court determined that
Christensen's request for equal parenting time was a
request for joint physical custody and would change the
child's primary residence. As a result, the district
court applied the endangerment standard provided by Minn.
Stat. § 518.18(d)(iv) (2016). The district court
concluded that Christensen had not made a prima facie case of
endangerment and denied his request for equal parenting time.
The district court did not specifically address
Christensen's alternative request for increased parenting
time. Christensen appeals.
I. Did the district court err by treating Christensen's
request for equal parenting time as a motion to modify
physical custody and to change the child's primary
II. Did the district court err by failing to sufficiently
analyze Christensen's alternative request for ...