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In Re the Marriage of Lisa Jean Looney and Gabriel George Looney

April 10, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF LISA JEAN LOONEY AND GABRIEL GEORGE LOONEY UPON THE PETITION OF LISA JEAN LOONEY, N/K/A LISA JEAN SAWTELLE, PETITIONER-APPELLEE, AND CONCERNING GABRIEL GEORGE LOONEY, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Union County, John D. Lloyd, Judge.

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

Gabriel Looney appeals the district court's modification of his child support obligation and award of trial attorney fees and court costs. AFFIRMED.

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

Gabriel Looney appeals the district court's modification of his child support obligation.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Gabriel and Lisa divorced in 2008 pursuant to a stipulated decree approved by the district court. The court granted the parties joint legal custody and joint physical care of their three children. The court also ordered Gabriel to pay $300 per month in child support.

Less than one year later, Lisa filed an application to modify the decree. She sought physical care of the children and a corresponding increase in child support. The district court granted her requests and ordered Gabriel to pay child support of $1071 per month. In calculating this figure, the court noted that Gabriel was a farmer, "making it difficult to determine his income." The court also stated:

[Gabriel's] tax returns show that he elects to expense certain depreciable assets. . . . [I]t is proper to calculate that amount of expenses over a reasonable depreciation period. Moreover, due to fluctuating income, the Court shall determine [Gabriel's] income based on an average of several years. . . . Lisa has proven [Gabriel's] income is at least $45,000 per year.

Gabriel filed a post-trial motion. He did not challenge the court's estimation of his income but argued he was entitled to an extraordinary visitation credit of twenty percent. The court agreed and decreased his monthly child support obligation to $840.64.

Gabriel subsequently filed an application to modify the decree. He sought physical care of the children and a reduction of his child support obligation. Lisa counterclaimed for sole custody. The district court did not alter the physical care arrangement but increased the child support to $952.40 per month. In calculating this figure, the court used the average of Gabriel's farm income for 2006 through 2010, after an adjustment for straight line depreciation. This method resulted in annual taxable income of $56,138.40. The court also ordered Gabriel to pay $10,000 towards Lisa's trial attorney fees and assessed costs against Gabriel. This appeal followed.

II. Analysis

A. Child Support

Pursuant to Iowa Code section 598.21C (2011), the district court may modify child support orders when there is a substantial change in circumstances. A substantial change exists when the court order for child support varies by ten percent or more from the amount that would be due pursuant to the most current child support guidelines. Iowa Code § 598.21C(2)(a).

Gabriel contends the district court acted inequitably in increasing his child support obligation. He asserts the court improperly calculated his net monthly income by (1) recalculating his depreciation deductions*fn1 and by (2) ...


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