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Rustad v. Rustad

Supreme Court of North Dakota

October 22, 2013

Rick R. RUSTAD, Plaintiff and Appellant
v.
Svetlana RUSTAD, Defendant and Appellee.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 423

Leslie J. Aldrich (argued) and Joshua B.E. Nyberg (appeared), Fargo, N.D., for plaintiff and appellant.

Svetlana Rustad, Fargo, N.D., for defendant and appellee.

KAPSNER, Justice.

[¶ 1] Rick Rustad appeals from a district court judgment granting him a divorce from Svetlana Rustad, awarding primary residential responsibility of the parties' minor child to Svetlana Rustad, distributing their marital property, and

Page 424

awarding Svetlana Rustad rehabilitative spousal support. We affirm the portion of the judgment awarding spousal support and distributing the marital property, but we reverse and remand on primary residential responsibility.

I

[¶ 2] Rick and Svetlana Rustad were married in February 2008 and have one minor child together, a girl who was born in 2011. Svetlana Rustad is a permanent resident of the United States and a Russian citizen. The parties lived in Kindred during the marriage. Rick Rustad is self-employed and works as a software consultant. Svetlana Rustad has degrees in economics and law, which she obtained in Russia, and she was employed throughout the marriage until October 2012.

[¶ 3] In May 2012, Rick Rustad filed for divorce. A parenting investigation was completed and a report was filed with the court. The parenting investigator recommended Rick Rustad be awarded primary residential responsibility. After a trial, the district court granted the divorce, distributed the marital property, awarded Svetlana Rustad primary residential responsibility of the child, and ordered Rick Rustad pay child support. In distributing the marital property, the court awarded Rick Rustad the residence, various investment accounts, and other assets with a net value of $401,212. Svetlana Rustad was awarded a vehicle, jewelry, various bars of silver, and other assets with a net value of $41,316. The court also awarded Svetlana Rustad rehabilitative spousal support of $900 per month for six months.

II

[¶ 4] Rick Rustad argues the district court's decision to award Svetlana Rustad primary residential responsibility of the parties' child is clearly erroneous. He claims the court's decision is not supported by the evidence, the court failed to make specific findings about the best interest factors in N.D.C.C. § 14-09-06.2, and the court failed to explain its rationale for awarding primary residential responsibility to Svetlana Rustad when its findings were in his favor.

[¶ 5] A court's award of primary residential responsibility is a finding of fact, which will not be reversed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous. Dieterle v. Dieterle, 2013 ND 71, ¶ 6, 830 N.W.2d 571. A court's finding is clearly erroneous if there is no evidence to support it, it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, or we are convinced, based on the entire record, that a mistake has been made. Id.

[¶ 6] A district court must award primary residential responsibility to the party who will best promote the child's best interests and welfare. Dieterle,2013 ND 71, ¶ 6, 830 N.W.2d 571. A court has broad discretion in making a determination of primary residential responsibility, but it must consider all of the relevant best interest factors under N.D.C.C. § 14-09-06.2(1). Dieterle, at ¶ 6. The court is not required to make specific findings on each best interest factor, but the court must consider all of the factors and make findings with sufficient specificity to enable our Court to understand the factual basis for its decision. Fonder v. Fonder, 2012 ND 228, ¶ 11, 823 N.W.2d 504. " It is not enough for the district court merely to recite or summarize testimony presented at trial to satisfy the requirement that findings of fact be stated with sufficient specificity." Datz ...


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