Laurita A. Werven, Plaintiff and Appellee
Ralph M. Werven, Defendant and Appellant
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from the District Court of Pembina County, Northeast Judicial
District, the Honorable Michael G. Sturdevant, Judge.
L. Laaveg, Park River, N.D., and Cameron D. Sillers, Langdon,
N.D., for plaintiff and appellee.
F. Longtin, Cavalier, N.D., for defendant and appellant.
Ronning Kapsner, Lisa Fair McEvers, Daniel J. Crothers,
Gerald W. VandeWalle, C.J. Opinion of the Court by Kapsner,
Justice. Dale V. Sandstrom, concurred in the result.
Ronning Kapsner, Justice.
[¶1] Ralph Werven appeals from a divorce
judgment dividing the marital estate and awarding Laurita
Werven spousal support. Ralph Werven also appeals from
post-judgment orders denying his motion to alter or amend the
judgment or for a new trial, denying his motion to stay the
judgment, and holding him in contempt. We affirm the divorce
judgment, the order denying the motion to alter or amend the
judgment or for a new trial, and the order denying the motion
to stay the judgment. The order holding Ralph Werven in
contempt is affirmed as modified.
[¶2] Ralph Werven and Laurita Werven were
married in 1993 and divorced in 2014. At trial, Ralph Werven
was fifty-five years old and was a fifty percent owner and
vice president of Grain Systems Repair, Inc. ("
GSR" ) and earned approximately $64,000 annually.
Laurita Werven was fifty-three years old, suffered from knee
and back problems, and was not employed outside the home
since 2002. The district court awarded Ralph Werven $657,748
in assets and $641,997 in debt, and awarded Laurita Werven
$67,075 in assets and $30,360 in debt. Two specific items of
property awarded to Laurita Werven were a parcel of real
estate referred to as Parcel Three and a decal cutting
machine she used to make custom vinyl decals for individuals
and businesses. The court also awarded Laurita Werven $1,000
of spousal support per month until her 65th birthday,
remarriage, cohabitation with another individual for longer
than nine months, or the death of either herself or Ralph
Werven, whichever occurs first.
[¶3] After the divorce judgment was entered,
both parties filed post-judgment motions. Laurita Werven
moved for an
order to show cause against Ralph Werven for failure to pay
spousal support on December 1, 2014, and for failing to
convey Parcel Three and deliver the decal cutter.
[¶4] Ralph Werven filed a motion to alter or
amend the judgment or for a new trial, requesting the court
to reconsider its decisions on the property distributions and
spousal support. He also moved to stay the judgment. In his
affidavit supporting the motion, he stated that on the day
after the trial ended, he was removed as an owner and vice
president of GSR. He stated without his GSR salary, he no
longer had the ability to pay spousal support. He stated he
was unable to convey Parcel Three because his daughters were
supposed to receive it under an earlier divorce judgment, and
he could not deliver the decal cutter because it was owned by
[¶5] At a hearing on the motions in December
2014, Ralph Werven testified he was not removed from GSR. He
testified GSR was struggling financially and he did not have
the financial resources to take over GSR on his own. He
testified he transferred his shares of stock and an interest
in real property to the other owner of GSR. In exchange, the
remaining owner of GSR agreed Ralph Werven would not be
personally liable for any corporate debt. He also testified
an upcoming shoulder surgery would further limit his ability
to pay spousal support. The district court found Ralph
Werven's transfer of his GSR stock was suspicious. At the
conclusion of the hearing, the court ordered him to transfer
the decal cutter and Parcel Three to Laurita Werven or he
would be held in contempt. The court stated it would prepare
a written order regarding spousal support following the
[¶6] In January 2015, Laurita Werven again
moved for an order to show cause against Ralph Werven for
failure to pay spousal support and failure to deliver the
decal cutter. At a May 2015 hearing on the order to show
cause, the district court indicated it failed to issue a
written order after the hearing in December 2014. The court
stated its intent was to deny Ralph Werven's
post-judgment motions after the December hearing. The court
heard testimony from Ralph Werven regarding his inability to
pay spousal support and found his testimony was not credible.
The court found he voluntarily transferred his GSR stock and
deliberately failed to pay spousal support since entry of the
divorce judgment. The court held him in contempt for failing
to pay spousal support and failing to transfer the decal
cutter to Laurita Werven. He was ordered to pay the overdue
spousal support and deliver the decal cutter before June 2,
2015, or he would be arrested and incarcerated. The court
also issued an order denying Ralph Werven's motion to
alter or amend the judgment or for a new trial and motion to
stay the judgment. The parties subsequently agreed Ralph
Werven would pay $2,500 to Laurita Werven for the value of
the decal cutter.
[¶7] As an initial matter, we address
Laurita Werven's contention that Ralph Werven's
appeal of the divorce judgment is untimely and not properly
before this Court.
[¶8] The time for filing an appeal is
governed by N.D.R.App.P. 4(a)(1). Under N.D.R.App.P. 4(a)(1),
a party has 60 days from service of notice of entry of the
judgment to file an appeal. Under N.D.R.App.P. 4(a)(3)(A), if
a party timely files a post-judgment motion under
N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(b), 59, or 60, " the full time to file
an appeal runs for all parties from service of notice of the
entry of the order disposing of the last such remaining
motion." See also N.D.R.App.P. 4, Explanatory
Note (" a post-judgment motion under any of the listed
rules, whether titled as a motion to alter, amend, or vacate,
for relief from judgment, or for reconsideration, will toll
the time period to file a notice of appeal" ). A
post-judgment motion is timely if it is filed within 28 days
after notice of entry of the judgment. See N.D.R.App.P.
4(a)(3)(A)(vi); N.D.R.Civ.P. 52(b), 59(j).
[¶9] The notice of entry of the divorce
judgment was served on November 19, 2014. Ralph Werven's
post-trial motion to alter or amend the judgment or for a new
trial, requesting the court to reconsider its decisions on
the property distributions and spousal support, was filed on
December 4, 2014. The post-judgment motion was filed within
28 days of notice of entry of judgment, so the time to file
an appeal from the divorce judgment was tolled until the
motion was disposed of. The notice of entry of the order
disposing Ralph Werven's post-judgment motion was served
on May 12, 2015, and the notice of appeal was filed on July
9, 2015. We conclude Ralph Werven's appeal of the divorce
judgment and post-judgment motion is timely.
[¶10] Ralph Werven argues the district court
erred in its property distributions. He argues the court
erred in awarding Parcel Three and the decal cutter to
[¶11] A district court's property
distribution is treated as a finding of fact subject to the
clearly erroneous standard of review. Kosobud v.
Kosobud,2012 ND 122, ¶ 6, 817 N.W.2d 384. A finding is
clearly erroneous if it is induced by an erroneous view of
the law, there is no evidence to support it, or if, based on
the entire record, we are left with a ...