This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).

 

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

A03-948

 

In the Matter of:

Susan M. Zordich, petitioner,

Respondent,

 

vs.

 

Robert T. Zordich,

Appellant.

 

Filed January 27, 2004

Affirmed

Randall, Judge

 

Hennepin County District Court

File No. DC-213219

 

 

Lynn Klicker Uthe, 1730 Plymouth Road, Suite 101, Minnetonka, MN 55305 (for respondent)

 

Gerald O. Williams, 905 Parkway Drive, St. Paul, MN 55106 (for appellant)

 

 

            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Crippen, Judge*.


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

RANDALL, Judge

            Appellant Robert Zordich challenges the district court’s denial of his motion to decrease his child-support obligation.  He also challenges the district court’s refusal to allow him to submit further documentation of his income after the hearing.  The record supports the district court’s findings, and we see no abuse of discretion.  We affirm.

FACTS

            Appellant Robert Zordich and respondent Susan Zordich were married in the summer of 1985.  During the marriage, they had two children, the first born in September 1986, and the second born December 1989.  In 1995, respondent petitioned for dissolution of the marriage.  The parties drafted a stipulated marital termination agreement, and after a default hearing, the marriage was dissolved.  Pursuant to the parties’ agreement, respondent received physical custody of the children, with liberal visitation by appellant.  Appellant was to pay respondent $693.68 per month in child support, which would be automatically withheld from his income, and would be subject to increases for cost of living. 

            On December 9, 2002, appellant filed a motion for a reduction of his child support obligation (which had risen to $818 per month with the periodic cost of living increases).  In his supporting affidavit, appellant cited long periods of unemployment and the startup of his new business as having caused him to amass credit card debt and refinance his house.  Because of his decreased income, and mounting debt, appellant asked that his child-support obligation be at least temporarily reduced to reflect his current income.

            A hearing on the matter was held February 4, 2003.  At the hearing, appellant testified as to his decreasing income and his inability to find and keep full-time employment as a computer-systems consultant.  Appellant presented numerous documents as evidence in support of his claimed income.  Respondent’s counsel objected to many of the documents because they had either not been disclosed before or had been disclosed just the day before the hearing.  The child-support magistrate (CSM) accepted the documents as evidence, but determined to hold the record open for respondent’s counsel to respond to the documents if necessary. 

            On cross-examination of appellant, respondent’s counsel pointed out that there appeared to be some intermingling of money, or at least it was unclear which deposits and monies went to appellant’s business and which were personal.  Appellant agreed it was confusing, but insisted he could provide documents that would explain it.  Appellant insisted that as of the time of the hearing, he had no income at all, although he indicated he had a couple contracts for work that had not yet been completed.  Respondent’s counsel argued that the documents submitted to the court did not provide an accurate or coherent statement of appellant’s income, leaving respondent unable to properly respond.  Thus, respondent argues that appellant simply failed to show his income had decreased to such a level that the current child-support obligation was unfair. 

            On February 28, 2003, the CSM denied appellant’s motion.  The CSM found that the documents appellant submitted as evidence of his income were insufficient to explain various discrepancies or to prove his income had substantially decreased.  The CSM also noted that although appellant claimed that his income in 2002 was $20,244, his bank deposits for that time totaled over $50,000.  Even subtracting the money he claimed came from the refinancing of his home, his deposits were $33,576.63, more than his stated income.  Appellant claimed some of the difference came from the home-equity loan, but did not provide verification of that claim.  Further, appellant requested that his child-support obligation be temporarily suspended or, at least, based on minimum-wage levels.  However, the evidence seemed to indicate that his claimed income was approximately $20,244, which would be double the minimum wage.  At that income level, the child-support guidelines would result in a payment of $670 per month, a difference of less than 20% from the prior order.  The CSM concluded appellant had failed to meet his burden to prove that his actual income had decreased enough to make the child-support order unfair. 

            Appellant moved for review of the CSM’s order in district court.  Appellant disputed the findings that his income had not been verified, arguing that his testimony and the documents presented proved that his income was what he claimed, as well as clarified the discrepancy between his income and the amounts deposited into his bank account in 2002.  Appellant renewed his request to have his child-support obligation suspended until he had more income, or to be re-calculated at minimum-wage level.  He also asked to be allowed to submit receipts and corporate earnings information to support his previous testimony and submissions.  He also requested a new hearing on the matter.  The district court adopted the CSM’s findings, denied appellant’s motion for review, and affirmed the CSM on all issues.  This appeal follows.

D E C I S I O N

I.

            A district court reviews the decision of a child-support magistrate de novo.  Davis v. Davis, 631 N.W.2d 822, 825 (Minn. App. 2001).  “We review the district court’s decision confirming the CSM’s order under an abuse-of-discretion standard.”  Id. at 826.  Appellant argues that the district court abused its discretion by denying his motion to reduce his child-support obligation. 

            To have his child-support obligation modified, appellant had the burden of showing that his circumstances had substantially changed, and that the changed circumstances rendered the existing support obligation unreasonable and unfair.  Minn. Stat. § 518.64, subd. 2 (2002).  Under this section, a substantial change in circumstances is presumed, and the existing support obligation is rebuttably presumed to be unreasonable and unfair, when the application of the child-support guidelines to a party’s current income would result in an obligation that is at least 20 percent and $50.00 higher or lower than the current obligation.  Id., subd. 2(b)(1). 

The record indicates the district court’s decision was primarily based on the fact that appellant did not submit (to the satisfaction of the court) sufficient verification of his claimed income and expenses.  He did not provide bank statements from his corporate accounts or proof that other cash deposits into his personal accounts were from his home-equity loan.  The district court found the submitted documents and appellant’s testimony did not provide a reliable indication of appellant’s income. 

Overall, the district court found that appellant had not met his burden of proof that he had a substantial change in his income and, thus, his original child-support obligation was not unfair and unreasonable.  Appellant stated his case, and the case is close.  But based on a review of the testimony and the documents submitted at the hearing, we cannot conclude the district court either abused its discretion or committed any plain error when it denied appellant’s motion for relief.  See Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988) (stating appellate courts defer to district court credibility determinations).

II.

Appellant argues to this court that the child-support magistrate abused her discretion by failing to hold the record open after the motion hearing so that appellant could submit further documents supporting his motion.  But, in his motion for review to the district court, appellant asked that he be permitted to submit “new evidence which [appellant] was unable to obtain at the time of the prior hearing.”  The district court affirmed the magistrate’s order, implicitly declining to hold a new hearing or to accept new evidence.  It is the district court’s order that this court must review for abuse of discretion.  Davis, 631 N.W.2d at 826.

At the motion hearing, appellant stated several times that he “could provide” receipts or other documents in support of his claims, but did not specifically request that the record remain open for such submissions.  As the moving party, appellant bore the burden of bringing sufficient evidence to the hearing to support his motion.  See Johnson v. Fritz, 406 N.W.2d 614, 616 (Minn. App. 1987).  Appellant provided no explanation as to why he could not have provided the new evidence he sought to submit after the hearing any sooner; we cannot conclude the district court abused its discretion in refusing to consider further evidence.

Affirmed.

 



*  Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.