Gietzen v. Gietzen

Decision Date30 March 1998
Docket NumberNo. 970292,970292
Citation575 N.W.2d 924
PartiesKenneth J. GIETZEN, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Vicki L. GIETZEN, Defendant and Appellant. Civil
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Monte L. Rogneby, Kapsner & Kapsner, Bismarck, for plaintiff and appellee.

Todd D. Kranda, Kelsch, Kelsch, Ruff & Kranda, Mandan, for defendant and appellant.

NEUMANN, Justice.

¶1 Vicki Gietzen appeals from the trial court's order granting Ken Gietzen's motion for amended divorce judgment allowing a change of custody of the parties' son, Colter. 1 Vicki contends the trial court misapplied the two-step process for a change of custody determination. First, Vicki argues the trial court erred in finding the move from Bismarck to Coleharbor amounted to a significant and material change of circumstances. Second, Vicki argues the trial court erred in determining Colter was so adversely affected by the relocation as to compel a change of custody. We affirm.

¶2 Ken and Vicki Gietzen were married June 22, 1981. Their son, Colter, was born in August 1983. The parties divorced in February 1984, stipulating Vicki would have primary physical custody of Colter.

¶3 The relationship did not end with the divorce. The parties have lived together at least twice since their divorce, once for about two months, and most recently, in 1996 for about nine months. Both Ken and Vicki have been involved parents to Colter. Although Ken did not have custody, he had contact with Colter on nearly a daily basis. In the past, both Ken and Vicki were heavy drinkers. Vicki completed alcohol treatment in 1989 and currently attends AA meetings. Ken denies having a drinking problem, but admits to having had open containers in his vehicles while driving, boating, and hunting. Ken and Vicki's relationship was stormy, including one incident involving a butcher knife during which Vicki was violent and suicidal.

¶4 Vicki and Colter moved out of Ken's home in September 1996 and moved in with Vicki's mother. Vicki had begun a relationship with another man, Terry Malnourie. While dating Malnourie, Vicki spent one or two nights a week at his home in Washburn. When Vicki was in Washburn, Colter stayed with Ken or with Vicki's mother.

¶5 Vicki worked at Lowe's Garden Center in Bismarck, but was transferred to work at a Minot location when the Bismarck center closed. Vicki moved in with Malnourie in July of 1997 in Coleharbor. Vicki enrolled Colter in the Underwood school system. Ken moved for change of custody in August 1997. At the custody hearing, Colter testified he wanted to live with his father in Bismarck. Colter wanted to live in Bismarck so he could attend the same school, continue his friendships and participate in many extra-curricular and church activities not available to him in Coleharbor. One activity in particular that Colter would not be able to continue in is Tae Kwan Do. Colter has earned a black belt in Tae Kwan Do, wishes to continue this activity, and is unable to do so in Coleharbor.

¶6 Vicki testified she took Colter to see a counselor prior to the custody hearing. Vicki testified, "I took him to see Brian Smith because [Colter] was quiet, withdrawn and not his normal, happy-go-lucky self.... [Colter] was silent, withdrawn, distant, just not himself."

¶7 The trial court found Vicki's move to Coleharbor to live with Malnourie, requiring Colter to be enrolled in school in Underwood, was a significant change in circumstances. The trial court considered the applicable best interest factors in N.D.C.C. § 14-09-06.2 and found: (1) section (d), referring to the time the child has lived in a stable satisfactory environment favors Ken; (2) section (f), referring to the moral fitness of the parent slightly favors Ken; and, (3) section (i), the reasonable preference of the child favors Ken. The trial court found all other factors to be either inapplicable, neutral, or favoring neither party. The trial court found the change of circumstances required granting a change of custody. Vicki appeals.

¶8 A trial court's modification of child custody is a finding of fact subject to the clearly erroneous standard of review. Mosbrucker v. Mosbrucker, 1997 ND 72, p 5, 562 N.W.2d 390. A finding of fact is clearly erroneous only if it is induced by an erroneous view of the law, there is no evidence to support it, or if, although there is some evidence to support it, on the entire evidence, we are left with a definite and firm conviction a mistake has been make. McDonough v. Murphy, 539 N.W.2d 313, 316 (N.D.1995); Rule 52(a), N.D.R.Civ.P. When a party seeks to modify custody, the trial court applies a two-step process. Mosbrucker, 1997 ND 72, p 6, 562 N.W.2d 390. First, the trial court must determine whether there has been a significant change of circumstances since the divorce and original custody determination. Id. at p 6, 562 N.W.2d 390; Barstad v. Barstad, 499 N.W.2d 584, 587 (N.D.1993). Second, the trial court must determine whether the change compels or requires, in the best interests of the child, a change of custody. Mosbrucker, 1997 ND 72, p 6, 562 N.W.2d 390; Gould v. Miller, 488 N.W.2d 42, 43 (N.D.1992).

¶9 The trial court found there had been a significant change of circumstances. Specifically, the trial court found "When the parties divorced, they lived in Bismarck in close proximity to each other. Colter has attended Bismarck schools his entire life. He has friends in Bismarck and has been involved in many activities, most...

To continue reading

Request your trial
23 cases
  • Dunn v. Dunn
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • November 17, 2009
    ...concurring in result). We have said a parent's relocation may constitute a material change in circumstances. Id. at ¶ 19; Gietzen v. Gietzen, 1998 ND 70, ¶ 10, 575 N.W.2d 924. [¶ 10] In some contexts, this Court has said a court must consider whether a change in circumstances so adversely a......
  • Kelly v. Kelly
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • February 21, 2002
    ...¶ 6, 601 N.W.2d 264; Holtz v. Holtz, 1999 ND 105, ¶¶ 9-10, 595 N.W.2d 1; Ramstad v. Biewer, 1999 ND 23, ¶ 11, 589 N.W.2d 905; Gietzen v. Gietzen, 1998 ND 70, ¶ 8, 575 N.W.2d A [¶ 17] A material change of circumstances would be important new facts that were unknown at the time of the prior c......
  • Tank v. Tank
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • January 20, 2004
    ...parent may constitute a significant change of circumstances under N.D.C.C. § 14-09-06.6. Volz, at ¶ 11 (citing Kelly, at ¶ 19; Gietzen v. Gietzen, 1998 ND 70, ¶ 10, 575 N.W.2d 924; Mosbrucker v. Mosbrucker, 1997 ND 72, ¶ 10, 562 N.W.2d 390; Alvarez v. Carlson, 524 N.W.2d 584, 590 (N.D.1994)......
  • Kunz v. Slappy
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • October 14, 2021
    ...6, 601 N.W.2d 264 ; Holtz v. Holtz , 1999 ND 105, ¶¶ 9-10, 595 N.W.2d 1 ; Ramstad v. Biewer , 1999 ND 23, ¶ 11, 589 N.W.2d 905 ; Gietzen v. Gietzen , 1998 ND 70, ¶ 8, 575 N.W.2d 924. Id.[¶21] This Court has recently reiterated the need to show how the material change in circumstances advers......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT