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In re Marriage of Cavanagh

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

August 5, 2013

In re the Marriage of: Pamela Jo Cavanagh, petitioner, Respondent,
William P. Cavanagh, Appellant.


Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-FA-10-1240.

Phillip Gainsley, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent).

William P. Cavanaugh, Edina, Minnesota (pro se appellant).

Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Huspeni, Judge.[*]


Appellant challenges the district court's denial of his motion to reduce his child-support and spousal-maintenance obligations. We affirm.


Although the history of this case is not lengthy, it is convoluted, involving a succession of post-decree proceedings initiated primarily by appellant. Appellant's motions have come in such rapid succession that he has made a second motion on a subject while a prior motion on that same subject is under advisement. The following brief history is limited to the facts and the district court proceedings relating to the issues reasonably raised by this appeal.

Appellant William P. Cavanagh and respondent Pamela Jo Cavanagh were married in 1990. Three children were born of the marriage. Appellant is the sole shareholder of a subchapter S corporation, Gunflint Capital, and holds partial ownership interest in two other companies. Respondent was unemployed or working part-time at the time of separation. In March 2011, and based upon the parties' partial agreement, the district court dissolved the parties' marriage, awarded respondent spousal maintenance for ten years on a graduated basis, and ordered appellant to make child-support payments of $1, 654.00 per month. The district court also awarded respondent half of the parties' checking and savings accounts, and $5, 585.39 from a Gunflint Capital Wells Fargo Checking and Savings Account (Wells Fargo account).

On April 8, 2011, appellant moved to amend the March 2011 judgment and decree. On April 27, 2011, respondent filed a motion with the district court requesting that appellant be found in constructive civil contempt for failure to pay child support and spousal maintenance, and for refusing to accomplish the division of financial accounts as ordered by the district court. On September 7, 2011, the district court amended the judgment and decree by modifying the parenting-time schedule, amending the parties' respective budgets, and decreasing appellant's child-support obligation to $1, 178.00 per month.

On October 4, 2011, appellant moved the district court for modification of his child-support and spousal-maintenance obligations. Appellant claimed that his gross monthly income had substantially declined since the most recent child-support and spousal-maintenance order. Appellant claimed that he had no monthly income and that he had received no paychecks in over one year because his mergers-and-acquisitions business had been affected by the recession. A hearing on this motion was held on November 29, 2011.[1] In February 2012, and with appellant not making his required child-support and maintenance payments, respondent filed an affidavit of default and notice of intent to enter and docket judgment for appellant's unpaid child support, spousal maintenance, and property-settlement payment. In March 2012, and while the motions heard on November 29, 2011 were still under advisement, appellant filed a responsive motion requesting that the district court deny respondent's requests, and again requesting modification of his child support and spousal maintenance.

On March 7, 2012, the district court denied appellant's October 2011 motion to modify child support and spousal maintenance. The court observed that appellant's motion "consisted of a voluminous amount of material, and the majority of said material [was] highly unorganized argument and not in proper motion or affidavit form." The district court also concluded that appellant's motion sought to relitigate issues previously addressed in the court's September 2011 order following appellant's motion for amended findings, and that appellant was "attempting to take a third bite at the apple and once again mov[e] the Court [to] rethink or redo determinations made in the parties' Judgment and Decree." The district court noted that appellant's motion was an improper attempt at reconsideration that had not been approved by the court. The court found that appellant's reports of his own income were not credible, and it doubted the authenticity of documents provided by appellant to show his finances. In response to appellant's claim that he was unemployed, the court concluded that "[appellant] is self-employed . . . [and] [u]nless [appellant] fired himself or is seeking a different profession, he is still employed." The district court declined to modify appellant's child-support obligation "[b]ased upon [appellant]'s credibility issues and the absence of evidence establishing that [appellant]'s income has changed." The district court further found that appellant had "failed to prove a substantial change in circumstances that render[s] his current spousal maintenance obligation unreasonable or unfair." In response to respondent's request for attorney fees against appellant, the district court "decline[d] to award attorney's fees at this time, but if [he] continues on the path to excessive meritless legislation, the Court will award conduct-based attorney's fees at future hearings."

On March 8, 2012, the district court entered judgment against appellant for the property-settlement award of $5, 585.39, [2] and on July 26, 2012, the court issued a writ of execution for $5, 795.96, which included interest and an execution fee. The Hennepin County Sheriff made a third-party levy on $4, 678.57 in funds on deposit in appellant's Wells Fargo account in August 2012. Appellant claimed that the funds were exempt from levy, and respondent opposed appellant's claim of exemption, arguing that appellant had failed to provide evidence to support his claim ...

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