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Debower v. McDowell

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 12, 2013

DOUGLAS WAYNE DEBOWER, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
SAMANTHA MCDOWELL, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Bremer County, James M. Drew, Judge.

A father appeals from the district court's order granting physical care of his two minor children to their mother.

Andrew Howie, of Hudson, Mallaney, Shindler & Anderson, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

William Duane Werger, of Leslie, Collins, Gritters, & Werger, P.L.L.C., Waverly, for appellee.

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

DANILSON, J.

Douglas DeBower appeals from the district court's order granting physical care of his two minor children to their mother, Samantha McDowell. He argues the court erred in its determination that Samantha was the children's primary caregiver and contends the best interests of the children would be better served by residing with him. Upon review, we affirm the order of the district court.

I. Background Facts.

Doug and Samantha met and began dating in high school. Immediately after finishing school in January 2008, Samantha moved in with Doug and his extended family. Their first child was born in October 2008. During 2009 and 2010, Doug, Samantha, and their child lived in a variety of homes throughout Waverly. Doug was employed full-time and worked from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.; Samantha was unemployed and took care of their child. In December 2010, Samantha learned she was pregnant with the couple's second child. Around this time, they moved back into the home of Doug's extended family. Their second child was born in August 2011. The family of four continued living with Doug's family until Samantha moved out in December 2011. In February 2012, the court entered an order for temporary custody granting Samantha physical care of the children. The final order, entered after trial in November 2012, similarly granted Samantha physical care.

Throughout his and Samantha's relationship, Doug worked hard to provide for the family and he has continued to do so. At the time of trial he was employed in Cedar Falls. His regular shift was from 11 p.m. through 7 a.m. Sunday through Thursday. He also worked a few hours overtime each week on Fridays. Samantha was employed at a Golden Corral restaurant and worked approximately thirty hours a week.

During the course of their relationship Doug and Samantha relied heavily on Doug's family for assistance taking care of the children. Doug's aunt, in particular, provided a great deal of care for the children. Because of Doug's work schedule, he has continued to rely heavily on his family for assistance. Although he no longer resides with his extended family, Doug moved to the property just next door. While he sleeps during the day, his aunt cares for the children at one of the two homes. Once Doug wakes up in the evening, he spends some time with the children before returning to work. Doug's aunt estimated that the extended family was responsible for the children's care approximately nine hours per day, not including nights.

II. Standard of Review.

We review custody decisions de novo. In re Marriage of Olson, 705 N.W.2d 312, 313 (Iowa 2005). We give weight to the district court's findings, especially regarding the credibility of witnesses, but are not bound by them. Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g). "Precedent is of little value as our determination must depend on the facts of ...


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