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In Re the Marriage of Diana L. Kimbro and Steven C. Kimbro

February 8, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF DIANA L. KIMBRO AND STEVEN C. KIMBRO UPON THE PETITION OF DIANA L. KIMBRO, APPELLEE, AND CONCERNING STEVEN C. KIMBRO, APPELLANT.


On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals. Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Robert E. Sosalla, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wiggins, Justice.

A spouse seeks further review of a court of appeals opinion affirming, as modified, a decree of dissolution. COURT OF APPEALS DECISION VACATED IN PART AND AFFIRMED IN PART; DISTRICT COURT JUDGMENT AFFIRMED.

On further review, a spouse asks us to determine the fairness of a property distribution and the denial of attorney fees. The court of appeals affirmed the district court decision by upholding the award of an equalization payment, but modified the decision by reducing the amount of the equalization payment from $45,468 to $5000. Additionally, the court of appeals upheld the district court's denial of attorney fees. The court of appeals also denied appellate attorney fees. On the issue of the property distribution, we vacate the court of appeals opinion and affirm the district court decision, because we agree with the district court's calculation of the equalization payment at $45,468. On the denial of trial and appellate attorney fees, we affirm both the court of appeals opinion and the district court decision.

I. Prior Proceedings.

This appeal involves the dissolution of marriage between Steven and Diana Kimbro. The district court entered the decree dissolving the Kimbro marriage. To equalize the property distribution, the district court required Steven to make an equalization payment to Diana totaling $50,060. The district court later amended the decree and reduced the amount to $45,468 to reflect Diana's tax obligation. Second, the district court awarded Diana physical custody of the parties' two minor daughters and granted her child and spousal support.

Steven appealed, arguing the property distribution with the equalization payment was inequitable, because Diana dissipated her share of a joint bank account, which Steven unilaterally divided upon the parties' separation. Diana cross-appealed, contending the district court erred by denying attorney fees. We transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed as modified the district court decision on the property distribution by reducing the equalization payment from $45,468 to $5000. Finally, the court of appeals affirmed the district court by denying trial and appellate attorney fees.

Diana then sought further review, which we granted.

II. Issues.

This appeal involves two issues. Diana claims the court erred by decreasing the equalization payment and by refusing to award attorney fees.

III. Standard of Review.

We review appeals regarding dissolution of marriage de novo, because such actions are equitable proceedings. Iowa Code § 598.3 (2009); Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; In re Marriage of Schenkelberg, 824 N.W.2d 481, _____ (Iowa 2012). Under this standard, we defer to the factual findings of the district court. Schenkelberg, 824 N.W.2d at _____.

However, those findings are not binding upon us. Id.; see also Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g). We will disturb the district court ruling "when there has been a failure to do equity." In re Marriage of Schriner, 695 N.W.2d 493, 496 (Iowa 2005) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

We review the denial of attorney fees for an abuse of discretion. Schenkelberg, 824 N.W.2d at _____. We reverse the district court's ruling only when it rests on grounds that are clearly unreasonable or untenable. Id. A ruling is clearly unreasonable or untenable when it is "not supported by substantial evidence or when it is based on an erroneous application of the law." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

IV. Facts.

On our de novo review, we make the following findings of fact. Steven and Diana Kimbro married in Des Moines on August 21, 1993.

Over the course of their seventeen-year marriage, they raised three children. These proceedings only affect two minor children, age fourteen and sixteen.

When the couple had their first daughter, they jointly decided Diana, who had graduated with a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Northern Iowa, would stay home to care for the children. Steven's role would be to support the family financially. Steven received his bachelor's degree from Iowa State University and has worked as a sales representative for various pharmaceutical companies throughout the marriage.

One position Steven held was for the pharmaceutical company, Genentech. His benefits package included corporate stock options. Genentech bought out Steven's stock options in March 2009, paying him $351,682 after federal and state withholdings. The Kimbros ...


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