In re the Marriage of: Blanca Dora Calles De Guardado, petitioner, Appellant,
Juan Carlos Guardado Menjivar, Respondent.
County District Court File No. 82-FA-16-3090
T. Tyler, Tyler Law Office, L.L.C., Minneapolis, Minnesota
Carlos Guardado Menjivar, Chalatenango, El Salvador (pro se
Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Kirk,
Judge; and Florey, Judge.
Minnesota district court has authority to make
special-immigrant-juvenile (SIJ) findings in a dissolution
proceeding involving a custody determination.
award of sole legal and sole physical custody of a child to
one parent, for purposes of SIJ findings, is a placement
"under the custody of . . . an individual . . .
appointed by a [s]tate or juvenile court." 8 U.S.C.
§ 1101(a)(27)(J)(i) (2012).
marital-dissolution-related dispute, appellant-mother Blanca
Dora Calles De Guardado argues that the district court (1)
was permitted to make SIJ findings, which are state court
findings that allow certain immigrant youths to seek
permanent-resident status and (2) clearly erred by not making
one such finding, that her children were placed under the
custody of an individual appointed by a state court. Because
we conclude that a district court is authorized to make SIJ
findings in a dissolution proceeding and that the district
court's award of sole legal and sole physical custody to
appellant, for purposes of SIJ findings, is a placement under
the custody of an individual appointed by a state court, we
reverse and remand.
Blanca Dora Calles De Guardado and respondent Juan Carlos
Guardado Menjivar have two children, C.C., born in 2005, and
B.C., born in 2008. The children were born in El Salvador.
Soon after B.C.'s birth, the parties married in El
Salvador, and at some point, the parties and the children
came to Minnesota.
abused both appellant and the minor children, and in July
2016, appellant filed for divorce in Minnesota. In her
dissolution petition, she requested sole legal and sole
physical custody of the children. She also requested that the
district court make specific findings to enable the children
to seek SIJ status, a federally created path to permanent
residency in the United States. See In re Guardianship of
Guaman, 879 N.W.2d 668, 671 (Minn.App. 2016).
October 2016, a default hearing was held in the dissolution
proceedings. Respondent failed to appear. Appellant requested
that the district court make the SIJ finding that the
children are "dependent upon the juvenile court or have
been legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an
agency or department of a [s]tate, or an individual or entity
appointed by a [s]tate or juvenile court." The district
court refused to make the SIJ dependency/custody finding,
stating that the custody award to appellant did not
substantiate the finding, and a dissolution proceeding was
not the appropriate forum for such a finding.
the hearing, the district court entered a judgment and decree
adjudicating respondent the father of the children and
dissolving the parties' marriage. Appellant was granted
sole legal and sole physical custody of the children. The
district court made a number of findings concerning the abuse
perpetrated by respondent. Further, the decree contained some
of the SIJ findings proposed by appellant. However, the
district court crossed out appellant's proposed SIJ
dependency/custody finding. In its place, the court wrote
that the children were dependent on "their mother who
has been awarded sole legal and physical custody of the
parties' minor children."
subsequently requested permission to file a motion to
reconsider, but the district court refused to permit the
motion, noting that it "questioned the legal and
precedential authority" supporting appellant's
"expanded reading" ...