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In re Marriage of Dizdarevic

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 26, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF ELVIR DIZDAREVIC AND ZEMIRA DIZDAREVIC Upon the Petition of ELVIR DIZDAREVIC, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning ZEMIRA DIZDAREVIC, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, George L. Stigler, Judge.

Elvir Dizdarevic appeals from the property distribution provisions of a dissolution decree.

Andrew C. Abbott of Abbott Law Office, P.C., Waterloo, for appellant.

John J. Rausch of Rausch Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Waterloo, for appellee.

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

POTTERFIELD, J.

Elvir Dizdarevic appeals from the property distribution provisions of the parties' dissolution decree. He argues the trial court erred in its assessment of the value of the couple's property in Bosnia, in its division of the proceeds of the sale of his business, and in its award of attorney fees to Zemira. We affirm, finding the property division was equitable and the district court did not abuse its discretion in its award of attorney fees.

I. Facts and proceedings.

Zemira and Elvir were married in Bosnia on September 4, 1997, and moved to the United States in 1999. There is one child of the marriage, born in 2007, whose interests are not at issue on appeal. Elvir operated an auto repair shop, which was established with the profits on the sale of the parties' former home. Zemira worked at a local business. The property on which the auto repair business was located was later sold. They separated in 2008; Elvir filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in 2009.

A dissolution decree was entered in January 2010 by default, as Elvir was absent from the proceedings. This decree, among other things, provided Zemira would claim the income tax exemption for the parties' child in odd-numbered years and Elvir would claim the exemption in even number of years so long as he was current with child support payments (paragraph six), ordered a lien and judgment in favor of Zemira and against Elvir in the amount of $44, 000 for Zemira's share of a house and garage built in Bosnia with funds sent to Elvir's family for that purpose (paragraph eight), awarded Zemira half of the $53, 000 profit from the sale of the building which housed Elvir's car repair business (paragraph nine), assigned Elvir the obligation to pay the remaining balance on a business loan in the amount of six thousand dollars (paragraph ten), and ordered Elvir to pay Zemira's attorney fees in the amount of $1572.62 (paragraph twelve).

Elvir filed a motion to set aside the decree of dissolution of marriage in November of 2010. He asked the court to change the property distribution provisions of the default decree, specifically paragraphs six, eight, nine, ten, and twelve. The parties agreed, and the court ordered, that those paragraphs be set aside and that further hearing on those issues be scheduled. The district court did not set aside the other provisions of the default decree, which remain in effect.

A hearing on the specific aspects of the property division took place September 19, 2012. Elvir argued the home in Bosnia belonged to his father and that the couple had no actual interest in the property. He contended the default decree's award of the proceeds of the business sale was improper, as the district court failed to take into account various costs of sale and payments made by Elvir to Zemira. Elvir, Zemira, Elvir's brother, and three friends of the parties testified. Evidence was presented that during the marriage, Elvir sent money to the couple's family in Bosnia. Zemira asserted much of this money was used to build a home for the couple's eventual return to Bosnia. Zemira presented several witnesses who also testified that the parties built a home in Bosnia where they intended to return. This home was built on Elvir's father's land. Zemira testified the home was worth $80, 000, a value the district court accepted in its credibility determination. Evidence was also presented regarding how the money from the sale of the business was spent.

The court summarized this evidence in its thorough opinion:

[The parties] jointly and severally sent money home to Bosnia. The issue is whether the money was intended solely as support for family members still in Bosnia, or whether the money was only partially intended as support for ...

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