from the District Court of Burleigh County, South Central
Judicial District, the Honorable John W. Grinsteiner, Judge.
B. Weiler, Bismarck, ND, for plaintiff and appellee.
H. Oster, Bismarck, ND, for defendant and appellant.
1] Dustin Erman appeals from a district court judgment
awarding Trista Dick primary residential responsibility of
the parties' minor child. We affirm the district
court's judgment as to primary residential responsibility
and decision-making responsibility. We reverse the district
court judgment with regard to extended parenting time and
remand for a decision consistent with this opinion.
2] Dick and Erman are the parents of R.M.E. who was born in
2014. In January 2017, the parties ended their relationship
and moved to separate residences. Dick has been the
child's custodial parent since the separation. In
February 2017, Dick initiated proceedings seeking a
determination of primary residential responsibility,
parenting time, parenting rights and responsibilities, and
3] The parties could not reach an agreement to resolve the
litigation and a trial was held in March 2018. The evidence
at trial included testimony regarding Erman's alcohol use
and his domestic violence against Dick. The district court
ultimately found that best interest factors (d), (f), and (j)
favored Dick, determined that the remainder of the factors
were either neutral or did not apply, and awarded Dick
primary residential responsibility of R.M.E. Erman was
provided with parenting time consisting of one overnight a
week, every other weekend, and alternating holidays. Erman
did not receive any extended parenting time other than
additional days associated with every other Christmas holiday
and every other school spring break. The parties were
allocated day-to-day decision-making authority while R.M.E.
is in their respective care. The parties were provided joint
decision-making authority for significant decisions and were
required to seek professional assistance if they could not
agree on those decisions. However, in the event that the
parties reached an impasse, Dick was provided with authority
to make the decision.
4] On appeal, Erman argues the district court erred in not
ordering joint residential responsibility. He also asserts
that the district court erred in not providing him with an
extended period of visitation and in awarding Dick the
ultimate decision-making authority when the parties reached
an impasse on significant decisions.
5] Dick's complaint sought primary residential
responsibility for R.M.E. In his response to Dick's
complaint, Erman sought primary residential responsibility
or, alternatively, joint residential responsibility. The
district court awarded Dick primary residential
responsibility. Erman argues the district court erred in its
findings with regard to best interest factors (d), (f), and
(j), by not ordering joint residential responsibility, and by
failing to provide an explanation why joint residential
responsibility had not been ordered.
6] "A district court's award of primary residential
responsibility is a finding of fact, which will not be
reversed on appeal unless it is clearly erroneous."
Morris v. Moller, 2012 ND 74, ¶ 5, 815 N.W.2d
266. "A finding of fact is clearly erroneous if it is
induced by an erroneous view of the law, if no evidence
exists to support it, or, although there is some evidence to
support it, on the entire record, we are left with a definite
and firm conviction a mistake has been made."
Id. (quoting Doll v. Doll, 2011 ND 24,
¶ 6, 794 N.W.2d 425). In reviewing a district court
decision, this Court "will not retry a custody case or
substitute our judgment for a district court's initial
custody decision merely because we might have reached a
different result." Marsden v. Koop, 2010 ND
196, ¶ 8, 789 N.W.2d 531 (quoting Heinle v.
Heinle, 2010 ND 5, ¶ 6, 777 N.W.2d 590). "This
is particularly relevant for custody decisions involving two
fit parents." Id.
7] "District courts must award primary residential
responsibility of children to the party who will best promote
the children's best interests and welfare."
Morris, 2012 ND 74, ¶ 6, 815 N.W.2d 266.
"A district court has broad discretion in awarding
primary residential responsibility, but the court must
consider all of the relevant factors under N.D.C.C. §
14-09-06.2(1)." Id. Erman argues the district
court's analysis of best interest factors (d), (f), and
(j), as well as its final conclusion to award Dick primary
residential responsibility rather than joint residential
responsibility, were clearly erroneous.
8] Factor (d) requires the district court to consider the
"sufficiency and stability of each parent's home
environment, the impact of extended family, the length of
time the child has lived in each parent's home, and the
desirability of maintaining continuity in the child's
home and community." With respect to factor (d), the
district court made several specific findings. The court
found both parties had provided testimony they would stay in
Lincoln where they were currently residing so that R.M.E.
would have continuity in his life and community. The court
also found R.M.E. has ties with both sides of his extended
family. However, in weighing factor (d) in favor of Dick, the
court found that prior to the parties' separation and
after, Dick was the primary parent who provided daily care
for R.M.E., and Erman's work caused him to be away from
home most of the week. The district court's finding that
factor (d) weighed ...