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In Re the Marriage of Perrian Locke

December 12, 2012

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF PERRIAN LOCKE AND ROBERT LOCKE UPON THE PETITION OF PERRIAN LOCKE, PETITIONER-APPELLEE, AND CONCERNING ROBERT LOCKE, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, John D. Telleen, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bower, J.

Robert Locke appeals from the economic provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Perrian Locke. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

Robert Locke appeals from the economic provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Perrian Locke. Robert contends the district court erred in (1) awarding spousal support of $350 per month to Perrian, (2) requiring him to pay COBRA medical insurance premiums for Perrian for three years, and (3) requiring him to pay an additional $1000 toward Perrian's attorney fees. Perrian seeks an award of her appellate attorney fees. Upon our review, we find the district court's award of spousal support and medical insurance premiums to be fair and equitable under the facts and circumstances of this case. We further conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Robert to pay $1000 toward Perrian's trial attorney fees. We decline to award Perrian attorney fees on appeal.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Robert and Perrian were married in January 1978. They have four adult children. Robert was born in 1958 and is in good health. Perrian was born in 1960 and is in good health. Robert is a high school graduate. He has worked for HNI Corporation in Muscatine for thirty-four years. Robert earns $16.58 per hour and works some overtime. He makes approximately $50,000 annually. HNI Corporation also pays approximately seventy-five percent of his insurance premiums.

During their marriage, the parties jointly agreed Perrian would for the most part take herself out of the work force to act as a homemaker and the caregiver for the parties' four children. With Robert's support, Perrian earned a college degree in 2007. In March 2010, Perrian began her current job as a dental office manager, where she works twenty-eight to thirty hours per week and earns fourteen dollars per hour, or $21,840 annually.

Perrian filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in January 2011. Trial was held in December 2011. In February 2012, the district court entered a decree dissolving the parties' marriage. The decree set forth the property division stipulated by the parties, including dividing the household contents, the vehicles, the $90,000 net equity in the marital home, and splitting the $270,000 in Robert's 401(k) retirement account through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Perrian assumed sole obligation of her student loan debt, which totaled approximately $22,000.

The primary issues for the district court to decide were in regard to Perrian's request for spousal support, medical insurance coverage, and attorney fees. In regard to these issues, the district court ordered Robert to pay: (1) spousal support in the amount of $350 per month until he reaches the age of sixty-five or dies, Perrian dies, or Perrian remarries, whichever happens first; (2) monthly premiums for COBRA medical insurance for Perrian for a period of three years; and (3) an additional $1000 toward Perrian's attorney fees.*fn1 Robert now appeals these economic provisions of the parties' decree.

II. Scope and Standard of Review.

We review dissolution cases de novo. In re Marriage of Okland, 699 N.W.2d 260, 263 (Iowa 2005). We examine the entire record and adjudicate the rights of the parties anew on the issues that are properly preserved. In re Marriage of Jones, 653 N.W.2d 589, 592 (Iowa 2002). However, we accord the trial court considerable latitude in making an award and will disturb its ruling only where there has been a failure to do equity. Okland, 699 N .W.2d at 263. We give weight to the trial court's fact findings, especially when considering the credibility of witnesses, although we are not bound by them. In re Marriage of Duggan, 659 N.W.2d 556, 559 (Iowa 2003).

III. Discussion.

A. Spousal Support. The district court ordered Robert to pay Perrian spousal support of $350 per month until Robert reaches the age of sixty-five or dies, Perrian dies, or Perrian remarries, whichever happens first. Robert argues this award should be eliminated. Robert contends Perrian "has voluntarily chosen to be employed at something less than her maximum earning capacity." Robert alleges Perrian "acknowledged a failed drug test" in 2008 "that lost potential employment at HNI [which would have been] a full-time job at a wage of $14.50 per hour that would have included insurance benefits." Robert also notes Perrian is 51 years old and "has a significant period of time to supplement [her] retirement package through full-time employment." Robert further contends Perrian leaves the marriage with "$64,099 of readily available liquid cash assets with absolutely no tax consequences attached."

There is no absolute right to spousal support. In re Marriage of Schenkelberg, ___ N.W.2d ___, ___ (Iowa 2012). Rather, whether it is awarded depends on the circumstances of each particular case. Id. Iowa Code section 598.21A(1) sets forth the criteria for determining spousal support. This includes the length of the marriage, the age and physical and emotional health of the parties, the property distribution, the earning capacity ...


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