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In re Marriage of Clark

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 26, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MOLLY J. CLARK AND DARIEN E. CLARK Upon the Petition of MOLLY J. CLARK, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning DARIEN E. CLARK, Respondent-Appellant.

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

A father appeals the district court's ruling granting physical care of the parties' minor children to the mother.

Philip L. Garland, Garner, for appellant.

Sarah A. Reindl, Mason City, for appellee.

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

MULLINS, J.

Darien Clark appeals the physical care provisions of a decree dissolving his marriage to Molly Clark. Darien argues the district court erred in granting physical care of the parties' minor children to Molly. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the decision of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS.

Darien and Molly Clark were married in April 2004. To this union two children were born: Cecilia in 2006 and Abraham in 2008. The parties separated in May 2010. From the time Abraham was born until the separation, Molly stayed at home to care for the children, while Darien worked full time during the week and occasionally on weekends. After their separation Darien and Molly arranged a schedule for parenting time. This schedule gave both parents substantial parenting time, but the children were under Molly's care a majority of the time. Molly's time with the children occurred both at the daycare where she worked at that time and at home.

Molly filed a petition for dissolution of marriage on July 19, 2011. Around this time, the parties began to disagree about a proper parenting schedule. Molly restricted Darien's visitation with the children, and there was a period of over one week in which Darien had no contact with the children at all. In August 2011, the district court approved the parties' stipulation that Darien have parenting time on alternate weekends and on one or two evenings during the week. In November 2011, after a hearing on the issue of temporary custody pending trial, the district court ordered the parties to share parenting time on a roughly equal basis as they had done prior to the filing of the petition.

In the spring of 2012, Molly moved from Forest City, where both parties had previously resided, to Clear Lake as she was unable to secure subsidized housing in Forest City. A dispute arose in August 2012 over where Cecilia would be enrolled in school. After a hearing the district court ruled Cecilia would attend school in Forest City until a final custody determination was made. Since moving to Clear Lake, Molly has been employed at a coffee shop for thirty-five to forty hours per week, with a flexible schedule that is accommodating of her childcare responsibilities. Darien continues to work full time as a fleet manager for a drive-away company in Forest City.

After trial, the district court granted the parties joint legal custody of Cecilia and Abraham. The court found, and the parties do not dispute, joint physical care is not an appropriate arrangement. Instead, the district court's decree awarded physical care of both children to Molly and ordered Darien to pay child support accordingly. Darien now appeals from that ruling.

II. SCOPE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW.

Our review of marriage dissolution decrees is de novo. In re Marriage of Brown, 776 N.W.2d 644, 647 (Iowa 2009). Because of its ability to see and hear witnesses first hand, we give weight to the factual findings of the district court, especially its assessment of the credibility of witnesses, but we are not bound by those findings. Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g); In re Marriage of Will, 489 N.W.2d 394, 397 (Iowa 1992). Prior cases have little precedential value as we must base our ...


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