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In re Marriage of Barendt

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 10, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JEFFREY M. BARENDT AND STEPHANIE M. BARENDT Upon the Petition of JEFFREY M. BARENDT, Petitioner-Appellee/ Cross-Appellant, And Concerning STEPHANIE M. BARENDT, Respondent-Appellant/ Cross-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Jeffrey A. Neary, Judge.

Stephanie M. Barendt appeals and Jeffrey M. Barendt cross-appeals the decree issued by the district court dissolving their marriage.

John S. Moeller of John S. Moeller, P.C., Sioux City, for appellant.

Sabrina L. Sayler, of Crary, Huff, Ringgenberg, Hartnett & Storm, P.C., Sioux City, for appellee.

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

DOYLE, P.J.

Stephanie Barendt appeals and Jeffrey Barendt cross-appeals the economic and custodial provisions of a decree dissolving their marriage. Stephanie contends the district court erred in granting the parties joint physical custody of their children. Jeff asserts the court erred in: (1) imputing income to him for child support purposes based on the court's determination of his "earning capacity, " (2) determining money the parties received from Stephanie's parents was a marital debt and not a gift, (3) determining his tax obligation was a marital debt, and (4) valuing the parties' real estate. Upon our review, we affirm.

I. Scope and Standards of Review.

We review dissolution of marriage cases de novo. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; In re Marriage of Veit, 797 N.W.2d 562, 564 (Iowa 2011). We decide the issues raised anew, but we do so with the realization that the district court possessed the advantage of listening to and observing firsthand the parties and witnesses. In re Marriage of Zabecki, 389 N.W.2d 396, 398 (Iowa 1986). Consequently, we credit the factual findings of the district court, especially as to the demeanor and believability of witnesses, but are not bound by them. Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g); In re Marriage of Fennelly, 737 N.W.2d 97, 100 (Iowa 2007). Finally, we note that because we base our decision on the unique facts of each case, precedent is of little value. In re Marriage of Brown, 776 N.W.2d 644, 647 (Iowa 2009).

II. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Jeff and Stephanie were married in 2007. They have two children, born in 2004 and 2007. The parties separated in July 2011, and Jeff filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in August 2011. The court entered a temporary order thereafter giving the parties joint custody and shared care of the children.

Trial was held in April 2012. Jeff was thirty-six years old, and was employed full-time with a home improvement store, where he had worked since 2000. Prior to the parties' separation, Jeff held a supervisory position at the store and worked many hours. He also received some bonus pay in that position. After the parties separated, Jeff stepped down from that position and took a non-supervisory position at the store, cutting back his hours so that he had more flexibility in his schedule to spend more time with the children.

Stephanie was thirty-four years old. During the parties' marriage, Stephanie worked part-time as a collection representative. She moved to a fulltime position after the parties' separation. The children were often cared for by their maternal grandparents when the parents were working, and the grandparents are very involved in the children's lives.

In August 2012, the district court entered its decree dissolving the parties' marriage. The court concluded that although there was animosity between the parents, it was in the children's best interests that the parents have joint custody and shared care. The court found Jeff's gross annual income was $39, 893, and it determined Jeff's monthly child support obligation to be $100. Additionally, the court, in distributing the parties' marital assets and debts, found the parties' home should be valued at $65, 000, monies given to the ...


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