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In Re the Marriage of Ryan Patrick Mcalister and Heather Raine

January 9, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Carroll County, Gary L. McMinimee, Judge.

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

Heather Shelton appeals the custodial provisions of the district court's decree dissolving her marriage to Ryan McAlister. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

Heather Shelton appeals the district court's April 2012 decree dissolving her marriage to Ryan McAlister. Heather contends the district court erred in awarding physical care of the parties' three children to Ryan. Upon our de novo review, we agree with the district court's assessment of physical care in this case. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Heather and Ryan were married in December 2004, and have three children, H.M., M.M., and O.M., who were five, four, and two at the time the dissolution decree was entered. Heather was twenty-seven; Ryan was thirty-one. Both were in good health. The parties met in 2003, when Heather was nineteen and Ryan was twenty-three. Heather had a difficult home life and moved from her mother's home during her senior year of high school. Heather and her mother maintained a relationship, albeit strained at times. The parties dated for two years. When they married, they rented a home in Carroll before purchasing a new home in Arcadia in 2007.

Heather completed high school, but has no post-secondary education. She held a number of part-time jobs for short periods during the marriage, but was not consistently employed. At the time of the dissolution trial, Heather was unemployed. Heather testified she hopes to attend college for accounting, but did not have a plan for paying for college.

Heather admitted to smoking cigarettes. Ryan alleged Heather used marijuana with her friends, which Heather denied. Heather testified she drinks alcohol, except during her pregnancies. Ryan alleged Heather does not drink socially, but rather, drinks to get drunk and then becomes violent.

Ryan graduated high school and attended the University of Northern Iowa from 2001-2002. He was expelled because of marijuana usage. Ryan earned an associate's degree from Des Moines Area Community College. Throughout the marriage, Ryan was the primary income earner. Ryan worked at Pella Corporation until he was terminated in December 2007. He drew unemployment until March 2008, when he began working at the Arcadia Coop. Ryan was terminated from the Coop in August 2011 due to a drug charge against him based on marijuana found in his vehicle. Ryan denied the drugs were his and that charge was later dismissed. At the time of the dissolution trial, Ryan remained unemployed and collected $370.60 in unemployment benefits per week. He also received food stamps. Ryan testified he had some "good leads" on a job, but was waiting for the decree in this case to be entered before pursuing them.

Ryan was also a partner in the North Side Bar in April 2011. Ryan's involvement in the business was limited to the weeks he did not have the children or when he arranged for childcare after the children went to bed. Ryan testified he did not earn a salary from the business, but "occasionally" could get "gas money." In August 2011, Ryan was charged with selling/serving alcohol after hours and with interference with official acts. In December 2011, he entered Alford pleas to those charges.

Ryan admitted to occasionally smoking cigarettes. Heather alleged Ryan used marijuana daily beginning in 2003 and throughout the marriage and at times sold marijuana. Ryan testified he used marijuana no more than once or twice per month when Heather's brother, Jacob, a confirmed marijuana user, gave it to him; Ryan denied ever paying for marijuana. The Manning Family Recovery Center evaluated Ryan in August 2011 and based upon a negative drug test and information provided by Ryan, concluded Ryan did not fall "within the medically recognized criteria for chemical dependency." Another drug test in January 2012, which was arranged by Ryan, was also negative.

Ryan's extended family lives in the area. His parents live in Bayard. Ryan is the oldest of seven children. He maintains a close relationship with his parents and siblings. Heather and Ryan regularly went to Ryan's parents' home with the children. Ryan's mother also visited the parties and the children at their home in Arcadia. Heather had a good relationship with Ryan's mother during the parties' marriage. Ryan's mother assisted Heather with the children when there was an illness or when Heather needed to catch up on things. Heather's parents were far less involved.

Heather testified she was the primary caretaker of the children. Testimony suggests Ryan was also involved and was nurturing to the children. Heather alleged she was primarily responsible for the cooking, laundry, and cleaning. Heather indicated she kept the home clean, but there was testimony from Ryan and his mother that the home was dirty at times. Heather took the children to doctor's appointments. Both parties did activities with the children and went to church as a family.

The allocation of child care and homemaking responsibilities was an issue between the parties. Heather believed Ryan should share equally in these tasks, whereas Ryan believed in sharing responsibilities in accordance with the parties' work schedules. Heather believed Ryan was on the computer too much and that he did not properly supervise the children. Ryan also believed Heather did not properly supervise the children,*fn1 and alleged she was not responsible and was ...

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