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In Re the Marriage of Judy Deboer v. Judy Deboer

January 9, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JUDY DEBOER AND AREND DEBOER UPON THE PETITION OF JUDY DEBOER, PETITIONER-APPELLEE, AND CONCERNING AREND DEBOER, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT. AREND DEBOER & FULL-TIME FARMS, INC., APPELLANTS,
v.
JUDY DEBOER, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Lyon County, Patrick M. Carr, Judge.

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

Appellants file a joint appeal from a refusal to find a former wife in contempt of court and an award of damages. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

Arend DeBoer appeals a district court order refusing to hold his former wife, Judy DeBoer, in contempt, as well as appealing from an award of damages awarded to him and his solely owned company, Full-Time Farms, Inc.,*fn1 claiming the damages to be insufficient.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

The thirty-year marriage between Arend and Judy was dissolved by a decree filed in January 2008. As part of the decree, real estate was to be distributed as follows:

Title to the following real estate shall transfer to Judy DeBoer: Parcel B in the Northeast Quarter of Section Thirty-three, Township One Hundred North, Range Forty-three West of the 5th P.M., Lyon County Iowa; and the Northwest Quarter, EXCEPT Parcel A; AND a tract of 14.22 acres in the Northwest corner of the Northeast Quarter, all in Section Sixteen, Township Ninety-nine North, Range Forty-three West of the 5th P.M., Lyon County Iowa.*fn2

(Emphasis original in decree).

Arend was awarded Full-Time Farms and a Case IH tractor. Arend Could not continue to pay the loan for the tractor because he was serving a prison term on a conviction for operating while intoxicated, third offense. In October 2007, prior to the dissolution trial, Judy obtained a court order, giving her the authority to sell the tractor as long as it was for an amount equal to, or greater than, the appraised value. Rather than immediately selling the tractor, Judy refinanced it, incurring additional interest charges of $443.86 before it was eventually sold the next spring. At the December trial, the district court put a value on the tractor at $45,000. No appeal was taken from the decree. Around the same time as the decree, Judy obtained two appraisals, one valued the tractor between $38,000 and $40,000, and the second appraisal set a value between $28,500 and $29,000. In March 2008, Judy sold the tractor for $38,000 to the couple's son. She used the proceeds from the sale to pay off the tractor loan and then put the remainder towards the money Arend owed her from the settlement under the dissolution decree.

During Arend's incarceration, Judy retained possession of the corporate checkbook and used the corporate checkbook for some personal expenses; however, once Judy was notified by the bank of the mistake, she transferred money back into the corporate account and paid all of the related overdraft charges. Judy also arranged for the 2008 crop to be tended and cleaned Arend's home. Also, while Arend was incarcerated, the couple's son farmed a 3.3 acre parcel after making an arrangement with Arend's attorney-in-fact to pay for a survey of the land in lieu of paying rent.

Arend filed two separate actions that have been consolidated for this appeal. First, he filed a civil suit for damages and injunctive relief brought by both Arend, in his individual capacity, and on behalf of Full-Time Farms. This action claimed Judy misappropriated funds before, during, and after the dissolution, including allowing their son to farm the 3.3 acre parcel without paying rent. The second action was an application for rule to show cause claiming Judy was in contempt of court for (1) refinancing the tractor then selling it, (2) misappropriating funds in violation of the dissolution decree, and (3) failing to tender a quit claim deed for the 14.22 acre plot.

The district court determined that while the legal description in the dissolution decree was "slightly ambiguous," the 14.22 acres in question were awarded to Judy. Therefore, she could not be held in contempt for failing to convey title to Arend. The district court also found Judy complied with the court order regarding the sale of the tractor, and the "mix-up" with the checkbooks was not a willful violation of the decree. Regarding the civil suit, the district court awarded Arend and Full-Time Farms $1724.11 in damages for post-dissolution personal expenses Judy paid from the Full-Time Farms account. Arend and Full-Time Farms appeal these two rulings that have been consolidated before us.

II. Contempt

Arend argues that the trial court erred in finding Judy not to be in contempt for selling the tractor for less than valued at trial, misappropriating funds, and not transferring title to the disputed land. In this respect, an action for contempt of court is treated in the nature of a criminal proceeding. Amro v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 429 N.W.2d 135, 140 (Iowa 1988). No person may be punished for contempt unless the allegedly contumacious actions have been established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. Contempt is sufficiently shown if some of the default was willful. Id. When a trial court refuses to hold a party in contempt in a dissolution proceeding, our review is not de novo. In re Marriage of Anderson, 451 N.W.2d 187, 191 (Iowa Ct. App. 1989). Instead, we review the record to determine if substantial evidence exists to support the trial court's finding. In re Marriage of Wegner, 461 N.W.2d ...


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