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In re Marriage of Hinshaw

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 26, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF LORI LINN HINSHAW AND JAMES DEAN HINSHAW Upon the Petition of LORI LINN HINSHAW, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning JAMES DEAN HINSHAW, Respondent-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Poweshiek County, Annette J. Scieszinski, Judge.

James Hinshaw appeals the decree dissolving his marriage to Lori Hinshaw.

Lee M. Walker of Walker, Billingsley & Bair, Newton, for appellant.

Donald J. Charnetski of Charnetski, Olson & Lacina, Grinnell, for appellee.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

TABOR, J.

James Hinshaw challenges various aspects of the decree dissolving his marriage to Lori Hinshaw. He argues the district court inequitably divided the marital estate by overestimating his impending annual bonus and by failing to account for Lori's pretrial attorney fees and his post-separation debt payments. James also contends the court erred by awarding spousal support and by modifying the parties' visitation schedule with their twin daughters.

Based on a request from both parties, we modify James's equalization payment from $40, 853 to $7420. We leave the remaining property distribution unchanged. Considering each party's financial circumstances and contributions to the marriage, we elect not to disturb the spousal support award. Because an alternating week physical-care cycle will offer the twins more continuity than the previous two-day, two-day, three-day rotation, we affirm the physical care ruling. Last, we award Lori $2000 in appellate attorney fees.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Lori and James married in October 2004. Their twin daughters are now eight years old.

James is a forty-eight-year-old high school graduate. Since 1999, James has worked as a site supervisor for an egg-production complex owned by Fremont Farms of Iowa, located near Malcom. James has two adult daughters from a previous marriage. Lori is forty-four years old. In 2002 she earned a two-year accounting degree from Indian Hills Community College. She has since worked as an accountant for several companies, including Fremont Farms. She currently works full-time as a senior accountant at Engineered Plastic Components, Inc. in Grinnell.

In 2004 James and Lori created a limited liability company (LLC), which is ostensibly involved in farming. Fremont Farms pays James's annual bonus to the LLC so the amount does not appear on his regular payroll. The LLC then writes off farm expenses from horses, cattle, hay, and equipment. The farm is comprised of twelve acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land, twenty-four acres of pasture, and thirty-three tillable acres. James, Lori, and James's older daughters are listed as the putative owners, but the daughters do not receive any profit. In 2010 the LLC was administratively dissolved by the Iowa Secretary of State, though the Hinshaws continue to use it as a tax shelter.

On April 29, 2011, Lori filed a petition to dissolve the parties' marriage. When she moved out of the marital residence the following month, she and James signed an agreement they would share physical care of the children on a two-day, two-day, three-day rotation. The court filed a stipulated order setting physical care on those agreed-to terms. Then on May 23, 2011, the court entered a temporary order requiring James pay $956.15 per month in child support, $500 per month in temporary spousal support, and $5000 for Lori's attorney fees.

The district court held trial from April 18-19, 2012. The parties largely stipulated to the property distribution. Under the stipulation James would receive sole title to the farm real estate subject to the mortgage, and Lori would receive a $267, 500 cash payment. They agreed to sell all jointly owned farm machinery at auction as soon as possible, using the proceeds to pay the debt against the equipment and splitting the remaining amount between them. They would also sell their hay and cattle. James would receive all CRP payments, which total roughly $12, 700 per year.

Each party would retain their personal vehicles and the debt associated with them, with James paying Lori $2500 to account for the difference in value between the two cars. Because Fremont Farms owns the marital home, it was not included in the marital estate. The parties agreed James would keep the majority of the personal property in the house except for a few items Lori listed and all other property she brought into the marriage. Lori would retain her entire pension, and James would pay $15, 000 from his pension to her.

The parties disputed the estimated amount of James's 2011 bonus, which had yet to be paid at the time of trial. They also disagreed whether the property distribution should be adjusted to reflect James's pretrial $4840 cash gift to one of his older daughters to fund her vehicle purchase.

The district court's July 6, 2012 ruling ordered James and Lori to adjust their shared care schedule for the twins to a week-by-week rotation and to split the cost of childcare. In addition to providing health and dental insurance for the twins, James was ordered to pay $1072 per month in child support and three years of "transitional alimony" at $1000 per month. After confirming the stipulated property distribution, the court ordered James to pay an additional $40, 852 property equalization payment[1] to Lori, plus an additional $15, 000 for her attorney fees.

Both parties submitted motions to amend and enlarge the July 6, 2012 order. The court regarded the motions as being filed after the August 30, 2012 decree dissolving the marriage. On September 12, 2012, James and Lori auctioned off their equipment and paid the associated $90, 135.81 debt. The court held a hearing five days later at which it addressed both post-trial motions. The court denied James's motion in full, and he now appeals.

II. Scope and Standard of Review

We review challenges to a dissolution decree de novo. In re Marriage of Kimbro, 826 N.W.2d 696, 698 (Iowa 2013). We examine the entire record and adjudicate anew the issues presented. In re Marriage of Rinehart, 704 N.W.2d 677, 680 (Iowa 2005). Although we defer to the district court's fact-findings, especially concerning witness credibility, we are not bound by them. In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). This deference acknowledges the district court has a ...


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