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In Re the Marriage of Robert L. Harris and Lauralei L. Harris

February 13, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Jeffrey L. Poulson, Judge.

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

Robert Harris appeals his dissolution decree's property distribution and allocation of debt. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.

Robert Harris appeals the property distribution and allocation of debt in the decree dissolving his marriage to Laura Harris Kemblowski. He contends the district court improperly found he dissipated assets from the marital estate and, as a result, inequitably assigned the majority of the debt to him.

Because Robert depleted the marital estate in violation of the court's pre-trial order and failed to show the disputed debts were incurred for marital obligations rather than his company or personal expenditures, the district court appropriately allocated those amounts to him. Also, because Laura did not appeal from the decree, we decline to award Robert's entire retirement account to her. We also deny Laura's request for attorney fees.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Robert and Laura married in 1971. Having a bachelor of science degree

in manufacturing, Robert worked in senior management for various companies. The couple moved across the country on several occasions to accommodate Robert's career. Laura stayed home to raise their three children, but also worked outside the home during the span of the marriage. At the time of trial, Robert was sixty-six years old and Laura was sixty-two. Their children are now adults.

In 2000 the parties moved to Sioux City, where Robert worked for Gateway Computers and the couple purchased an historic home known as the Wetmore Mansion. They took out two mortgages on the property to fund renovations: one for $233,000 through CitiMortgage, and a second for $150,000 through Wells Fargo.

In 2004 Robert experienced a hemorrhagic stroke while working for a hospital in a Chicago suburb. He moved back to the Sioux City house, where Laura was living at the time. Deemed permanently disabled by the Social Security Administration, he qualified for disability benefits of approximately $6500 per month until he turned sixty-five and is now receiving social security retirement benefits of $2179 per month. He further supplements his income with a $486 monthly pension from GenCorp, one of his former employers. By rolling over his 401k plans over his career, he now owns an Edward Jones investment retirement account (IRA), which was valued at $140,376 when the marriage was dissolved.

Robert's mother died in September 2004 and bequeathed roughly $360,000 to Robert, who used the funds to establish the Robert Harris Revocable Trust of 2005. With $98,703 of that inheritance, the parties purchased a row house located at 3936 Stratford Road in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. To cover unrelated expenses, Robert and Laura took out a mortgage on the property, which at the time of dissolution, had a remaining balance of $104,348. The parties used marital funds to purchase a second row house at 3924 Stratford Road, which has a $34,594.27 mortgage balance remaining. They originally purchased the houses to serve as residences for two of their children who attended school in Pennsylvania.

In 2005 Robert financed Harris Speed Works, an aftermarket automotive performance enhancer for late model muscle cars. He invested between $280,000 and $300,000 in the company, the majority of which came from his trust. Robert was president of the company and his two sons ran the business. At the time of trial, the business was insolvent and defunct.

While in Sioux City, Laura worked at Bath & Body Works and MCI. In September 2008, Limited Brands, the parent company of Bath & Body Works, offered her a promotion to manage a larger store in Philadelphia. Ambitious to advance her career, Laura departed for Pennsylvania. She lived at the 3936 Stratford home while Robert stayed in Sioux City to sell their residence there.

Robert filed for divorce on April 2, 2009. Laura has since moved to Des Plaines, Illinois to care for her father. After both mortgagors foreclosed upon the Sioux City house, Robert moved ...

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