Abuse of Discretion in Minnesota – An Overview


In cases that involve divorces, the district court is awarded broad discretion to the division of property, award of maintenance, custody determination and child support. Rutten v. Rutten, 347 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Minn. 1984). The district court’s conclusions must be clearly erroneous given the facts on the record before the court for an appellate court to find that the district court abused its discretion. Id.

Spousal Maintenance

District courts have broad discretion in awarding spousal maintenance. The spousal maintenance award amount cannot be disturbed on review unless the appellate court finds the district court abused its discretion. Erlandson v. Erlandson, 318 N.W.2d 36, 38 (Minn. 1982). The Minnesota Supreme Court has decided even where the appellate court would have ruled otherwise if it had been the district court, the district court’s decision on spousal maintenance must be upheld if it has an acceptable basis in fact and principle. Rohling v. Rohling, 379 N.W.2d 519, 524 (Minn. 1986). The standard that a district court has broad discretion over issues of spousal maintenance and that a decision regarding maintenance will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion applies to appeals that involve a cost of living adjustment. Grachek v. Grachek, 750 N.W.2d 328, 330-31 (Minn. Ct. App. 2008).

Property division

Whether property is marital or nonmarital is a question of law that the court of appeals may review with independent judgment, but the facts underlying the finding that property is marital or nonmarital will be set aside only if clearly erroneous. Swick v. Swick, 467 N.W.2d 328, 330 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991). District Courts have broad discretion over the division of marital property and appellate courts will not alter a district court’s property division absent a clear abuse of discretion or an erroneous application of the law. Sirek v. Sirek, 693 N.W.2d 896, 898 (Minn. Ct. App. 2005).

Custody and Parenting Time

A custody decision will not be reversed by an appellate court unless the district court abused its discretion by making findings unsupported by the evidence or by improperly applying the law. Pikula v. Pikula, 374 N.W.2d 705 (Minn. 1985). District courts are given extensive discretion when deciding parenting time issues. Olson v. Olson, 534 N.W.2d 547, 550 (Minn. 1995). Denial of parenting time has to be based on persuasive evidence that parenting time is not in the best interests of the child. Van Griffin v. Van Griffin, 267 N.W.2d 733. 735 (Minn. 1978). Parenting time decisions cannot be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Manthei v. Manthei, 268 N.W.2d 25 (Minn. 1978). The court will apply an abuse of discretion standard for reviewing a dismissal of a custody modification petitioner without an evidentiary hearing. Geibe v. Geibe, 571 N.W.2d 774, 777 (Minn. Ct. App. 1997).

Child Support

An appellate court cannot reverse a determination of net income for calculating child support if it has a reasonable basis in fact. Schisel v. Schisel, 762 N.W.2d 265, 272 (Minn. Ct. App. 2009). A district court’s determination on modification of child support is not reversed absent an abuse of discretion. Fifield v. Fifield, 360 N.W.2d 673 (Minn. Ct. App. 1985). On appeal from a child support magistrate’s ruling, the standard of review is the same as it would be if the decision had been made by a district court. Gerber v. Gerber, 694 N.W.2d 573, 575 (Minn. Ct. App. 2005).



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Published On: March 24, 2018Categories: Family Law Updates

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