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In Re the Marriage of David A. Myers and Jody R. Myers

February 13, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF DAVID A. MYERS AND JODY R. MYERS UPON THE PETITION OF DAVID A. MYERS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE, AND CONCERNING JODY R. MYERS, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Howard County, Richard D. Stochl, Judge.

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

Jody Myers appeals from the district court's modification of the spousal support and insurance provisions of the decree dissolving her marriage to David Myers. AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.

Jody Myers appeals from the district court's modification of the spousal support and insurance provisions of the decree dissolving her marriage to David Myers. We affirm as modified.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On July 1, 2008, the district court entered its decree dissolving David and Jody's thirty-year marriage. David appealed, asserting the court erred in ordering him to pay spousal support to Jody of $1000 per month until she dies or re-marries, and he argued the court's division of property was unjust and inequitable. See In re Marriage of Myers, No. 08-1310, 2009 WL 928708, at *1-*2 (Iowa Ct. App. April 8, 2009). In our affirming opinion, we set forth the facts as follows, in relevant part:

David was fifty-one years of age at the time of trial. He has been employed at R.R. Donnelley since 1984 and has farmed for twenty-four years. David's 2007 W-2 form shows gross pay of $43,027.91, from which $4,302.79 went into a 401(k) plan, and another $6,602.24 was used to purchase additional "cafeteria" benefits. He had a retirement account with a value of $247,111. The district court found that although David has some pain in his knees and back the pain was not inconsistent with his age and the type of work he does, and it did not preclude him from continuing any of his work. The parties agreed David would receive the family homestead at the appraised value of $137,000, subject to the debt on it, and that he would keep certain equipment that he would need to continue farming.

Jody was forty-eight years of age at the time of trial. She completed school only through the eighth grade and never received a GED. She reads at approximately a third grade level, does math at a fifth grade level, has difficulty spelling words beyond the third grade level, and has an overall IQ of eighty. She has done manual labor her entire working life, and during the parties' marriage worked in a hog confinement facility as well as on their farm.

In January 1999 Jody injured her back while working at the hog confinement facility and has not been employed since. Under the Social Security Administration's rules and regulations Jody was classified as totally disabled as of March 1999. She receives $669 per month in social security disability benefits as a result of this classification, but is required to pay $100 per month of that for Medicaid, giving her a net monthly amount of social security benefits of $569.

Jody also received a worker's compensation award in November 2001 as a result of her work-related injury. The Iowa Worker's Compensation Commissioner assigned her a seventy-five percent industrial disability and awarded her 375 weeks of permanent partial disability at $311.28 per week, effective January 11, 2001. We note that based on this date and the number of weeks of benefits Jody's worker's compensation benefits ended approximately a month before trial in this case.

Jody continues to have several health problems, including chronic back pain and chronic pain syndrome, and takes a multitude of prescription medications for these and other problems.

The district court found that her limited education and health issues are significant and permanent problems that will preclude her from obtaining employment and make it highly unlikely that she will ever become self-supporting in any work, let alone be in a position to enjoy the standard of living she enjoyed during the marriage.

Regarding the spousal support award, David contended "the district court's award of $1,000 per month [of] traditional alimony to Jody was excessive relative to his income and ability to pay, and particularly so given the court's property division." Id. at * 3. We disagreed, explaining:

David was in relatively good health other than some minor knee, back, and hip problems, which the district court found were not inconsistent with his age and work, and no substantial evidence indicates these problems will prevent him from working and continuing to farm, now or in the foreseeable future. The evidence shows that David's gross income for 2007 was $43,027.91.

Jody, on the other hand, has been found by the Social Security Administration to have become permanently disabled in 1999, has been found by the worker's compensation commissioner to have a seventy-five percent industrial disability, and suffers from several work-related and other health problems. She attended school only through the eighth grade, and reads, writes, and performs math at very low levels. Jody has not worked outside the home since her 1999 work injury. Although she has attempted to obtain other employment she has been unsuccessful due to her physical conditions and her limited reading, writing, and math abilities. Jody's only sources of income at the time of trial were her social security disability benefits and temporary spousal support. Accordingly we, like the district court, find Jody's health problems and her low level of education and functioning to be significant and permanent problems that severely limit her earning capacity and ability to work, even if they perhaps do not entirely prevent her from some work. Further, Jody is only forty-eight years of age and her health problems may only worsen with age. It is highly unlikely she will ever become self-supporting at a standard of living comparable to the one she enjoyed during marriage.

Applying the factors under [Iowa Code] section 598.21A(1) [(2007)], and for the reasons set forth above, we conclude Jody is entitled to the award of traditional spousal support of $1,000 per month until she dies or remarries. Although we agree with the district court that the amount of $1,000 per month of traditional alimony is rather high, based on the particular facts and circumstances of this case as detailed above we conclude the district court did not act inequitably or abuse its discretion in awarding the amount and duration of alimony. As noted above, in marriages of long duration where the earning disparity between the parties is great, such as here, both spousal support and nearly equal property division may be appropriate. [In re Marriage of Weinberger, 507 N.W.2d 733, 735 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993)]. David's alimony payments will be deductible from his gross income in calculating his income tax obligation, giving him some income tax benefit. See I.R.C. §§ 62(a)(10), 215(a) (2007). David received a substantial property award, including the homestead, which will allow him to continue working and farming, thus enjoying a lifestyle approaching the one he enjoyed during the course of the marriage, even after his alimony payments. The alimony award was not excessive in relation to David's current income and earning capacity.

Id. at *3. We likewise concluded the court's property division was not unjust or inequitable

[c]onsidering the fact David received the homestead, thus allowing him to continue the farming operation, the length of the marriage, Jody's poor health, and the great disparities in income and earning capacities of the parties . . . . [W]e believe the property division, while somewhat favorable to Jody, would nevertheless remain equitable. The economic provisions of a dissolution decree are "not a computation of dollars and cents, ...


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