IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JENNIFER LYNN SCHOEPSKE AND NATE S. SCHOEPSKE Upon the Petition of JENNIFER LYNN SCHOEPSKE, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning NATE S. SCHOEPSKE, Respondent-Appellant.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Bradley John Harris, Judge.
Nate Schoepske appeals from custody and economic provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Jennifer Schoepske.
D. Raymond Walton of Beecher Law Offices, Waterloo, for appellant.
Kevin D. Engels of Correll, Sheerer, Benson, Engels, Galles & Demro, P.L.C., Cedar Falls, for appellee.
Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.
Nate Schoepske contests custody and economic provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Jennifer Schoepske. He contends the district court erred in awarding Jennifer physical care of their three children. In the alternative, Nate contends he should receive more visitation and a recalculation of his income for child support purposes. Finally, he argues the property distribution was inequitable.
After considering the entire record, we find joint physical care is not in the children's best interests and agree Jennifer should be granted physical care. We also affirm the visitation and child-support provisions of the decree. As for the property distribution, we find the district court's division achieved equity, including its acceptance of the parties' agreement concerning Jennifer's student loan debt. We modify the decree only to correct a miscalculation of Nate's equalization payment.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
Nate and Jennifer married in July 2004. They have three children, who are now ages eight, six, and three. The parties cohabitated before the marriage and purchased a home together in Waterloo in 2001. At the time of the dissolution, the home was valued at $132, 000. The parties owed $109, 517 on the mortgage, which is paid in monthly installments of $862.
Jennifer was thirty-years old at the time of dissolution and in good health. She is employed as a financial analyst for a Waterloo hotel, typically working from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Two nights per month, Jennifer must work up to an hour later, but overall she enjoys flexibility in her schedule, which allows her to attend to the children's needs. Her annual salary at the time of dissolution was $53, 000.
Before the marriage, Jennifer earned an accounting degree from the University of Northern Iowa. She earned credit toward a master's degree after marrying Nate, but needs about eighteen more hours to finish. Jennifer took out student loans to pay for her schooling. She estimates she borrowed $45, 000. Of that amount, $23, 000 went to tuition and education costs and the remainder paid living expenses. Jennifer used $6000 of her student loans to cover closing costs when the parties purchased their home. She still owed $37, 808 on her student loans at the time of the dissolution trial, which she repays in monthly installments of $250.
Nate was thirty-four-years old at the time of dissolution. He is employed as a quality inspector at John Deere, where he has worked for six years. His work schedule has changed over the years,  but at the time of dissolution he worked three twelve-hour shifts per week—from 6:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Nate was paid for forty hours of work at a rate of approximately twenty-one dollars per hour. John Deere also compensates him with profit sharing and incentive pay. He earned $46, 000 in 2010 and just over $59, 000 in 2011. In the nine months leading up to trial, Nate earned $43, 372.32.
Although Nate is in good health, he suffers from sleep apnea. This condition—coupled with his work schedule—left him tired, and on occasion he fell asleep while the children were alone in his care. A few months before trial, Nate purchased a "C-Pap" device, which helps him sleep better, allowing him to feel more refreshed during the day.
Jennifer and Nate separated in November of 2011. On November 17, 2011, Jennifer filed a petition to dissolve the marriage. Jennifer remained in the marital home, and in January 2012 Nate moved into a three-bedroom home in Cedar Falls with his girlfriend and her seven-year-old daughter. Nate and his girlfriend share a bedroom, and when the parties' children are in Nate's care, they share a bedroom with his girlfriend's daughter. A basement bedroom is used by his girlfriend's son, with whom she has weekend visitation.
On March 7, 2012, the district court granted Jennifer temporary physical care of the children. Nate moved for the temporary order to be modified due to a change in his work schedule. The court modified the order on July 2, 2012, to grant the parties joint physical care, with the children in Nate's care from Tuesday afternoon until 6:00 p.m. Friday or 2:00 p.m. Saturday in alternating weeks.
The court held trial on September 12, 2012. Much of the testimony focused on the children. In addition to the testimony about Nate falling asleep while the young children were alone in his care, Jennifer presented evidence about Nate's temper, including incidents where he punched holes through doors in their home. Just before the parties' separation, Jennifer locked herself in the bedroom, and Nate broke the trim around the doorframe trying to open the door. Jennifer and her mother also testified to incidents where Nate became frustrated or angry in front of the children.
In its October 5, 2012 decree, the court denied Nate's request for joint physical care and granted Jennifer physical care of the children. In doing so, the court cited Nate's "violent outbursts" and his "lack of understanding of the need of stability for his children"—contrasting Nate's approach to Jennifer's willingness to place the children's needs as a priority in her life. The court granted Nate visitation on the first, second, and fourth Fridays of each month until 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, and each Tuesday ...