Family Law Mediation Services


Trial-Court Experience in Family Law

Mr. Ryan is well-versed in the principles governing marriage-dissolution cases. In addition to handling more than 50 appeals in family-law cases for his own clients and other law firms and researching and writing more than 70 appellate briefs in family-law cases, Mr. Ryan has for the past 25 years researched and drafted countless trial-court memoranda and related documents (motions, proposed findings, motions for amended findings and new trial, motions to modify judgments and decrees, etc.) for his own clients and those of other law firms, covering all issues which arise in marriage-dissolution proceedings, including:
  • Property Division
    • Valuation and division of assets commonly involved in marriage-dissolution cases (homesteads, other real estate, business interests, retirement accounts, personal property, etc.)
    • Valuation and division of closely-held corporations, family businesses, professional practices, etc.
  • Marital versus nonmarital property determinations
    • Classification of particular assets
    • Tracing issues pertaining to nonmarital claims
  • Antenuptial agreements
    • Validity and enforceability
  • Spousal Maintenance
    • Initial awards and post-decree motions to modify
  • Custody and Visitation
    • Initial awards and post-decree motions to modify
  • Child Support
    • Initial awards and post-decree motions to modify
  • Attorney’s Fees
    • “Need-based” fees under Minn. Stat. §518.14
    • “Bad-faith” fees under Minn. Stat. §518.14, §549.211, and Rule 11 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure
  • Contempt Proceedings
    • Motions and Orders to Show Cause

Appellate Experience in Family Law

(Appeals Listed in Alphabetical Order Within Each Category)

Ryan Clients

Roehrdanz v. Roehrdanz, 438 N.W.2d 687 (Minn. App. 1989) (respondent/affirmed). OVERVIEW: Custody modification was not allowed where children’s custodial preference was clearly influenced by their father’s manipulation, and psychiatrist affidavit that their preference should be honored did not evidence a change endangering their welfare. Ryan was awarded $4,000 in bad-faith attorney’s fees on appeal in this frequently-cited case.

Roehrdanz v. Roehrdanz, 410 N.W.2d 359 (Minn. App. 1987), pet. for rev. denied (Minn. Oct. 28, 1987) (respondent/affirmed). OVERVIEW: Although the father may have been the primary caretaker during the last year of the marriage, the trial court properly awarding custody to the mother where she was the primary caretaker during the marriage. Also at issue were the value of the husband’s pending cases in his law practice and other property-valuation and -division issues.

Smith v. Williams, No. C8-90-2144 (Minn. App. Mar. 19, 1991), 1991 WL 34692, 1991 Minn. App. LEXIS 240 (respondent/affirmed). OVERVIEW: In ex-husband’s dissolution of marriage suit against ex-wife, trial court did not err in denying ex-wife’s request for a portion of the equity in homestead because she failed to show that improvements were acquired in exchange for marital property. Custody award also affirmed.

Uhl v. Uhl, 395 N.W.2d 106 (Minn. App. 1986) (appellant/reversed). OVERVIEW: In determining the best interests of the children, the trial court correctly considered the primary parent factor even though the children were also old enough to express a preference; however, a custody evaluator should have been given the opportunity to examine allegations of physical abuse carefully before making a final recommendation on the fitness of the proposed custodial parent.

Appeals for Other Law Firms in Family Cases

Minnesota Supreme Court

Auge v. Auge, 334 N.W.2d 393 (Minn. 1983) (respondent/reversed) OVERVIEW: A referee’s findings that concerned a custodial parent’s request to take a child out of-state for part of each year was deficient where they did not reflect aspects of the child’s welfare other than assumptions made about his educational needs.

Ayers v. Ayers, 508 N.W.2d 515 (Minn. 1993) (appellant/reversed) OVERVIEW: Where children were under the joint custody of a mother and father with the primary residence with the mother, the mother’s attempt to remove the children from Minnesota was a modification subject to the best interests of the children analysis.

Baker v. Baker, 753 N.W.2d 644 (Minn. 2008) (appellant/reversed) OVERVIEW: This decision resolved a long line of conflicting decisions of the Minnesota Court of Appeals and held, inter alia (a) that the single test for whether appreciation in the value of nonmarital property is marital or nonmarital is the extent to which marital effort generated the increase and (b) that only the effort of the spouses themselves, and not that of third parties (such as money managers), is relevant to the assessment of marital effort.

Farrell v. Farrell, No. C7-83-1046 (Minn. 1984) (respondent) – summary affirmance

Goff v. Goff, No. 82-97 (Minn. 1982) (appellant) – summary affirmance on valuation and division of property and child support

Hansen v. Hansen, No. 94711 (Minn. 1982) (appellant) – summary affirmance on spousal maintenance

Janssen v. Janssen, 331 N.W.2d 752 (Minn. 1983) (appellant) OVERVIEW: A nonvested, unmatured pension was marital property subject to division between the former husband and former wife, although the pension did not gain its greater value until the husband completed his requisite years of service.

Kasdan v. Kasdan, No. C0-83-353 (Minn. 1983) (respondent) – summary affirmance on asset valuation, property division, and child support

Larson v. Larson, No. C4-83-1070 (Minn. 1984) (respondent) – summary affirmance on property division and spousal maintenance

Lindeland v. Lindeland, No. C7-82-1599 (Minn. 1983) (respondent) – summary affirmance on property valuation and division, spousal maintenance, and child support

Moylan v. Moylan, 423 N.W.2d 402 (Minn. App. 1988) (respondent) OVERVIEW: The child support guidelines in state law applied in all child support cases including modifications. A trial court had to make specific findings of fact regarding the factors it considered in formulating the award.

McClelland v. Pierce, 376 N.W.2d 217 (Minn. 1985) (appellant) OVERVIEW: Reassignment of husband’s dissolution-of-marriage actions based on their affidavits of prejudice was not proper. The affidavits were untimely filed because reconsideration of the actions on remand was a continuation of the original proceedings.

Minnesota Court of Appeals

Abuzzahab v. Abuzzahab, 359 N.W.2d 329 (Minn. App. 1984) (respondent) OVERVIEW: The former husband’s increase in living and educational expenses after the dissolution of his marriage to the former wife did not justify a reduction in monthly maintenance payments by the husband.

Ayers v. Ayers, 494 N.W.2d 306 (Minn. App. 1993) (respondent) [rev’d, 508 N.W.2d 515, see Minnesota Supreme Court above] OVERVIEW: Even though a former husband and wife stipulated to having “joint physical custody” of their children, the “best interest of the children” standard did not apply to the wife’s request to move the children, and there was a presumption in her favor.

Baker v. Baker, 733 N.W.2d 81 (Minn. App. 2007), reversed at 753 N.W.2d 644 (Minn. 2008) (see Minnesota Supreme Court, above)

Baker v. Baker, No. A06-1252r (Minn. App. Dec. 9, 2008), 2008 WL 5135117 (after remand from Minnesota Supreme Court)

Boisclair v. Boisclair, C8-91-2154 (Minn. App. Aug. 4, 1992), 1991 WL 271552, 1992 Minn. App. LEXIS 778 (respondent/affirmed) OVERVIEW: Appellant challenges the trial court’s rulings on custody, maintenance, support, property division, and attorney fees. Appellant also challenges the trial judge’s refusal to take additional evidence and to recuse himself.

Buchanan v. Buchanan, No. CX-88-1979 (Minn. App. May 30, 1989), 1989 WL 55454, 1989 Minn. App. LEXIS 997 (appellant/affirmed) OVERVIEW: In a dissolution suit, trial court did not abuse its discretion in its property and debt division, in awarding sole legal custody to an ex-wife, or in considering the ex-wife’s needs and the substantial disparity in hers and the ex-husband’s income.

Ciresi v. Ciresi, C1-93-282 (Minn. App. Jul. 27, 1993), 1993 WL 276861, 1993 Minn. App. LEXIS 746 (appellant/affirmed) OVERVIEW: Appellant challenges the trial court’s refusal to reopen a dissolution decree incorporating a marital termination agreement which contains a waiver of the right to modify the stipulated support obligation and divests the trial court of any further jurisdiction in the matter.

Coakley v. Coakley, 400 N.W.2d 436 (Minn. App. 1987), 87 A.L.R.4th 339 (appellant) OVERVIEW: Although a former husband’s property settlement with his former wife was dischargeable in bankruptcy, a trial court did not err when it reopened and modified the maintenance and support awards in favor of the wife.

Coakley v. Coakley, No. C0-93-516 (Minn. App. Aug. 10, 1993), 1993 WL 302136, 1993 Minn. App. LEXIS 801 (appellant) OVERVIEW: Appellant contends the trial court erred in denying her request to substitute a permanent maintenance award for a 1985 order that provided for maintenance through December 1991.

Conlan v. Conlan, No. C0-98-2219 (Minn. App. Jun. 22, 1999), 1999 WL 410308, 1999 Minn. App. LEXIS 695 (respondent) OVERVIEW: The court’s refusal to consider respondent’s income above the statutory guideline cap was not an abuse of discretion, and appellant failed to establish that her own child support obligation under the guidelines was unreasonable.

Conner v. Conner, No. A04-1141 (Minn. App. May 17, 2005), 2005 WL 1153622, pet. for rev. denied (Minn. Jul. 19, 2005) (respondent/affirmed) OVERVIEW: Appellant former wife challenged award of temporary instead of permanent spousal maintenance and denying motion for needs-based attorney’s fees. Court of Appeals affirmed on both issues, and denied wife’s request for attorney’s fees on appeal.

Cummings v. Cummings, 376 N.W.2d 726 (Minn. App. 1985) (respondent) OVERVIEW: Appellant former wife challenged a decision of the District Court, Hennepin County (Minnesota), which granted the dissolution of the parties’ marriage, awarded the former wife custody of the parties’ child, awarded the wife child support, distributed the parties’ property, awarded the former wife attorney fees, and awarded the former wife an unfair hardship award.

Doyle v. Doyle, No. C2-90-1443 (Minn. App. Mar. 5, 1991), 1991 WL 26064, 1991 Minn. App. LEXIS 205 (appellant) OVERVIEW: This is an appeal from an order denying a motion for a new trial and amended findings. Appellant alleges that the trial court erred in valuing the non-homestead property, in determining his amount of net monthly income, in dividing the marital debts and in ordering him to pay attorney fees. Respondent filed a notice of review and appeals from the judgment determining the portion of nonmarital interest in the homestead.

Engelhart v. Engelhart, No. A12-1705 (Minn. App. Jun. 3, 2013), 2013 WL 2372164, 2013 Minn. App. LEXIS 490 (respondent) OVERVIEW: Court of Appeals affirmed (1) denial of former husband’s motion to modify permanent spousal maintenance, (2) denial of his motion to establish that ex-wife pay him child support; and (3) granting of ex-wife’s motion that he pay one-half of their minor child’s private-school tuition.

Ferris v. Szachowicz, No. A05-553 (Minn. App. Jan. 3, 2006), 2006 WL 9576 (appellant) OVERVIEW: Record held to provide adequate support for the consensual special magistrate’s award of spousal maintenance, deviating from Hortis/Valento child-support formula, and requiring appellant to pay portion of capital-gains tax on marital property.

Heffelfinger v. Heffelfinger, No. C2-96-189 (Minn. App. Aug. 13, 1996), 1996 WL 453562, 1996 Minn. App. LEXIS 935 (appellant) OVERVIEW: Former husband was entitled to admit extrinsic evidence to resolve ambiguity whether a dissolution award of his pension payments was a maintenance award that could be modified, or a property award that, absent circumstances, could not be modified.

Hinding v. Hinding, No. C0-88-1442 (Minn. App. Feb. 21, 1989), 1989 WL 12357, 1989 Minn. App. LEXIS 193 (respondent) OVERVIEW: Susan Hinding appeals an order filed June 1, 1988, denying her motions for modification of spousal maintenance, reimbursement of her son’s tuition expenses, and attorney fees.

Kriz v. Kriz, No. C6-95-1853 (Minn. App. Jun. 4, 1996), 1996 WL 291616, 1996 Minn. App. LEXIS 673 (appellant) OVERVIEW: Appellant challenges the district court’s award of spousal maintenance and division of property.

Liebscher v. Liebscher, No. CX-97-1620 (Minn. App. May 26, 1998), 1998 WL 268087, 1998 Minn. App. LEXIS 598 (appellant/reversed in part) (LIEBSCHER I) OVERVIEW: Household goods and furniture could be awarded to either party, and a temporary order did not prejudice rights which were to be litigated in later proceedings, but trial court made several errors that required a remand to divide marital estate.

Liebscher v. Liebscher, Nos. C9-99-995 and C4-99-998 (Minn. App. Dec. 21, 1999), 1999 WL 1216917, 1999 Minn. App. LEXIS 1363 (appellant/affirmed) (LIEBSCHER II) OVERVIEW: In affirming a property distribution award, the court held thatonce the state supreme court denied review of a prior appellate decision in the case the trial court was required to follow the instructions on remand.

Mathias v. Mathias, 365 N.W.2d 293 (Minn. App. 1985) (respondent) OVERVIEW: Appeal from an order denying appellant a modification in spousal maintenance and child support without first affording her an opportunity to engage in discovery. Appellant further challenges the trial court’s denial of an evidentiary hearing on the same modification issues of spousal maintenance and child support. We reverse and remand.

Moore v. Moore, 734 N.W.2d 285 (Minn. App. 2007), review denied (Minn. Sep. 18, 2007) (appellant/reversed) OVERVIEW: Case of first impression; jurisdiction was lost when last spoual maintenance payment timely made; order extending maintenance reversed)

Moylan v. Moylan, 368 N.W.2d 353 (Minn. App. 1985) (respondent) OVERVIEW: Appellant father appeals from the trial court’s modification of child support in accordance with the statutory guidelines and the court’s refusal to give credit for noncash payments. Respondent mother seeks review of the trial court’s denial of attorney’s fees to mother.

Patch v. Patch, No. C1-87-1388 (Minn. App. Mar. 01, 1988), 1988 WL 15850 (respondent) OVERVIEW: The modification of child support awards lies in the broad and sound discretion of the trial court, and an appellate court will reverse for an abuse of that discretion only where it finds a “clearly erroneous conclusion that is against logic and the facts on the record.”

Poach v. Poach, 392 N.W.2d 749 (Minn. App. 1986) (respondent) OVERVIEW: The ex-wife appealed from the judgment and decree of dissolution. She claimed the trial court erred by valuing he ex-husband’s non-marital share of his business on December 31, 1974, instead of on the date of the parties’ marriage. On appeal, the court reversed and remanded the judgment to recalculate the property settlement, but affirmed on all other issues. On remand, the court ordered valuation as of the date of the marriage. On remand, the court was also ordered to determine how much of the present value was attributable to appreciation from the non-marital portion of the company and how much to acquisition of buildings and equipment during marriage. There was no fraud on the ex-wife resulting from the ex-husband paying his children substantial sums for their work at the company.

Rosenblum v. Rosenblum, No. A05-1366 (Minn. App. Jun. 27, 2006), 2006 WL 1738061 (appellant) OVERVIEW: Trial court erred in classifying as tax refunds under the decree and awarding half that amount to the respondent, despite decree language providing for same, where the payments were not refunds, but estimated tax payments for a period following the decree. Reversed.

Salstrom v. Salstrom, 404 N.W.2d 848 (Minn. App. 1987) (respondent) OVERVIEW: In a property distribution action, a finding of unfair hardship was not possible where a marital estate had a substantial value, and neither party’s resources were so inadequate as to work an unfair hardship.

Sanborn v. Sanborn, 503 N.W.2d 499 (Minn. App. 1993) (appellant) OVERVIEW: A divorce dissolution decree was properly vacated after a finding that the husband had misrepresented the value of his business resulting in a huge disparity in value of property awarded to each party, and his conduct amounted to fraud on the court.

Stern v. Stern, No. C8-91-1067 (Minn. App. Dec. 24, 1991), 1991 WL 271552, 1991 Minn. App. LEXIS 1210 (appellant) OVERVIEW: Appellant challenges the trial court’s post-dissolution judgment denying his motion to reduce spousal maintenance and awarding maintenance arrearages and attorney fees to respondent.

Stern v. Stern, No. C8-91-1487 (Minn. App. Jan. 28, 1992), 1992 WL 10729, 1992 Minn. App. LEXIS 69 (appellant) OVERVIEW: The ex-husband’s failure to make a complete disclosure of his finances constituted a failure to sustain his burden of proving his inability to paythe past-due spousal maintenance and justified a finding that he was able to meet his obligation.

Weinmeyer v. Weinmeyer, No. C7-98-1262 (Minn. App. Feb. 02, 1999), 1999 WL 43345, 1999 Minn. App. LEXIS 111 (appellant) OVERVIEW: Order requiring ex-husband to pay ex-wife $ 2,500 per month in maintenance secured by life insurance in a divorce action was proper because ex-wife’s gambling habit did not mandate reversal of the maintenance award. Also at issue was the value of the attorney husband’s interest in pending personal-injury contingency cases.

Winter v. Winter, 375 N.W.2d 76 (Minn. App. 1985) (respondent) OVERVIEW: The trial court incorrectly applied a statute in evaluating whether the terms of a decree for child support were fair, by refusing to consider a husband’s financial resources and relative contribution to the support of his children.

Yount v. Yount, No. CX-89-311 (Minn. App. Sep. 12, 1989), 1989 WL 103249, 1989 Minn. App. LEXIS 997 (appellant) OVERVIEW: Appellant argues that the trial court’s findings are insufficient for appellate review. He also maintains that the trial court abused its discretion in dividing the marital estate, awarding excessive child support, awarding excessive permanent spousal maintenance, restricting visitation and awarding attorney fees.

Zamberletti v. Zamberletti, No. C3-89-411 (Minn. App. Nov. 07, 1989), 1989 WL 131558, 1989 Minn. App. LEXIS 1190 (respondent/affirmed) OVERVIEW: Appellant asserts that the trial court erred in its valuation of the marital asset interest in CenterTherapy. He argues that it was error not to find that the marital asset interest was only 50% of the corporation and that the dollar figure valuation of the marital interest is erroneous. He argues that the trial court’s findings are inconsistent with the evidence, documentary and otherwise.

Zamberletti v. Zamberletti, No. A04-562 (Minn. App. Dec. 14, 2004), 2004 WL 2857532, pet. for rev. denied (Mar. 15, 2005) (respondent/affirmed) OVERVIEW: Appellant asserts trial-court err in (a) denial of his motion to reduce or eliminate spousal maintenance, (b) denial of his motion to eliminate life-insurance requirement as security for maintenance, (c) issuance of order directing appellant to deposit $400,000 cash in trust account as security for maintenance due to his failure to comply with life-insurance security provision, and (d) award of attorney’s fees to respondent. Affirmed in all respects.


University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.A., 1974

University of Wisconsin
J.D., 1978

University of Minnesota
Graduate studies (not completed) in Philosophy Ph.D. Program, 1979 – 1983

Professional Experience

Sole Practitioner (1997 – present)
Partner, Mavity & Ryan (1984 – 1997)

Admissions and Certifications

2000 Qualified neutral under Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice
1987 Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
1984 U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota
1984 Supreme Court of Minnesota
1978 Supreme Court of Wisconsin
1978 U.S. District Court, Western District of Wisconsin

Relevant Honors and Activities

Top 20 Appellate Attorneys in Minnesota (Law & Politics)

Top 40 ADR Attorneys (mediation/arbitration) in Minnesota (Law & Politics)

Top 40 Employment Litigation Attorneys in Minnesota (Law & Politics)

Selected as a “Super Lawyer” each year during the 22-year period 1998 – 2019,
(Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Business Monthly, Law & Politics)

Selected as a “Leading Minnesota Attorney” by American Research Corporation in each of the following areas:

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”)
  • Civil Appellate Law
  • Employment Law Individual
  • Employment Law Management

Board Certified Labor and Employment Law Specialist (MSBA)

Member of Employment Law Advisory Subcommittee for the Civil Jury Instruction Guides (5th ed. 2006)

Member of the Minnesota Continuing Legal Education Planning Committee for the Upper Midwest Employment Law Institute (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001)

Minnesota State Bar Association – Labor and Employment Governing Council (2000-01)

Martindale Hubbell Ratings: “a”/”v”

ADR Training and Experience

Certified Civil Mediation
Minnesota State Bar Association
March 10, 11, 13, and 14, 2000
Minneapolis, Minnesota
ADR I.D. # 3391

Advanced Negotiation/Mediation
National Institute for Trial Advocacy
September 29-30 & October 1, 2004
Louisville, Colorado

Certified Civil Arbitration Training
Minnesota State Bar Association
May 26, 2005
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Family Mediation Skills Training
Southern Metropolitan Mediation Services
November 14, 15, and 16, 2003
St. Paul, Minnesota

Domestic Violence Issues in Mediation
Southern Metropolitan Mediation Services
November 21, 2003
St. Paul, Minnesota

Advanced Mediation and Advocacy Skills Institute
American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution
October 15-16, 2009
Philadelphia, PA