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statutory rebuttable presumption against an award of joint
custody when domestic violence has occurred between the
parents, found in Minnesota Statutes section 518.17,
subdivision 1(b)(9) (2018), applies only against a joint
physical or joint legal custodial arrangement, and not
against a particular party.
district courts custody award was not an abuse of
A. Tschida, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.
J. Lawton, Rogosheske Lawton, PC, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and
Mary Catherine Lauhead, Law Offices of Mary Catherine
Lauhead, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.
W. Bowman, Yaeger & Jungbauer Barristers, PLC, Saint Paul,
Minnesota; and Michael P. Boulette, Barnes & Thornburg, LLP,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota State Bar
S. Barrett Wiik, Best & Flanagan LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota;
and Rana S. Alexander, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus
Kristine Lizdas, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae
Battered Womens Justice Project.
Elizabeth J. Richards, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amicus
curiae Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.
appeal concerns a dispute over the custody of a 4-year-old
girl and the proper application of a statutory rebuttable
presumption against an award of joint custody in cases when
domestic abuse has occurred between the parents. Soon after
the childs first birthday in November 2015, appellant
Matthew Lawson Thornton ("Thornton"), the childs
father, sued the childs mother, respondent Jessica Bosquez
("Bosquez"), for sole physical and legal custody.
two-day trial, the family court referee found that Bosquez
had committed domestic abuse against Thornton but that the
childs best interests required that the parents be awarded
joint physical custody and equal parenting time. The referee
further found that the statutory presumption against joint
legal custody was not rebutted and awarded sole legal custody
to Bosquez. The district court agreed and the court of
now asks us to reverse the district courts order and award
him sole legal and physical custody. He contends that the
district court misapplied the rebuttable presumption against
awarding joint custody when domestic violence has occurred
between the parents. See Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd.
1(b)(9) (2018). Thornton further challenges the district
courts application of the statutory best-interests factors,
asserting that the district court improperly considered the
friendly-parent factor in its best-interests analysis.
See Minn. Stat. § 518.17, subd. 1(a)(11) (2018).
conclude that the district court did not misapply the
domestic-abuse presumption or the friendly-parent factor, and
appropriately exercised its broad discretion in analyzing the
best-interests factors. Accordingly, we affirm.
Thornton and Bosquez first met when Thornton, an attorney,
represented Bosquez in a personal injury matter. They became
intimate sometime in 2010, after the attorney-client
relationship ended. Until this lawsuit, the parties
on-again-off-again relationship was tumultuous,
conflict-riven, and, as described by the referee,
"toxic." After Bosquez became pregnant with the
child in early 2014, she began living at Thorntons house.
The parties never married, but they signed a Recognition of
Parentage establishing Thornton as the childs father.
Bosquez and the child continued to live with Thornton until
November 2015, when Thornton sought an award of child custody
and simultaneously petitioned for an ex parte order
for protection on behalf of himself and the child. The
district court granted a temporary, ex parte order
for protection for Thornton and the child and ordered an
evidentiary hearing. At the hearing, Bosquez stipulated to an
order for protection for Thornton, without factual findings,
and the district court dismissed the petition that sought
protection for the child. The referee ordered temporary
custody to Thornton subject to shared parenting time with
Bosquez. The referee also appointed a guardian ad litem to
provide final recommendations on physical custody, legal
custody, and parenting time. Because Ramsey County follows a
"one judicial officer per family" policy in family
law matters, the same referee presided over the order for
protection matters and the custody proceedings.
guardian ad litem recommended that the parties share joint
physical custody, joint legal custody, and parenting time
according to a court-ordered schedule. The guardians
findings and recommendations were based on court-ordered
psychological evaluations, parenting assessments, chemical
dependency assessments, home visits with the parties and the
child, discussions with the childs daycare provider,
discussions with the parties mental health care providers,
and two personal references for each parent. The guardian
also reviewed court files, medical records, correspondence
between the parties, social media posts, and audio
2-day bench trial in January 2017, Thornton testified and
presented testimony from eight witnesses and over 90