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In re Marriage of Shaffer

Court of Appeal of Iowa

August 7, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF TINA SHAFFER AND LEE WILLIAM SHAFFER Upon the Petition of TINA SHAFFER, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning LEE WILLIAM SHAFFER, Respondent-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mary E. Howes, Judge.

A father appeals the district court's refusal to modify the physical placement provisions of the dissolution decree.

Lynne C. Jasper, Bettendorf, for appellant.

Patricia Zamora of Zamora, Taylor, Woods & Frederick, Davenport, for appellee.

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

MULLINS, J.

Lee Shaffer appeals the district court's denial of his request to modify the physical care provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Tina Shaffer. Lee claims the district court erred in concluding he had not met his burden to demonstrate a superior ability to care for the children and in finding the children's best interests do not preclude Tina's relocation to Texas. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the decision of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS.

Tina and Lee were divorced in 2007. The dissolution decree provided for joint legal custody for their two minor children, Austin (born 2001) and Emilee (born 2002). The decree designated Tina as the physical caretaker of the children and provided Lee with visitation every other weekend and for a few hours two evenings each week. In 2011, the decree was modified to provide Lee with additional visitation, including overnight visits during the week. The parties have both lived in Davenport, Iowa, since the dissolution. Lee has since remarried and has a daughter with his second wife.

On January 11, 2012, Tina filed a petition to modify visitation, as she had accepted a job in Corpus Christi, Texas, and planned to move there with the children. The district court denied Lee's request for a temporary injunction to prevent the relocation, and Tina made the move with the children in February 2012. Lee filed an amendment to his answer to Tina's petition, seeking a modification of the decree to grant him physical care of the children. The district court found the move to Texas created a substantial change in circumstances.

The court, however, concluded Lee had not demonstrated he possessed a superior ability to care for the children and denied his request for a modification of physical care. The court granted Tina's petition for modification of visitation, granting Lee visitation for eight weeks in the summer, on each spring break, and on alternating school winter breaks. Lee now appeals from the district court's refusal to modify the physical care provisions of the decree.

II. SCOPE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW.

Because an action to modify a dissolution decree is heard in equity, our review is de novo. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; In re Marriage of Brown, 778 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Iowa Ct. App. 2009). We give weight to the district court's findings of fact, especially with regard to witness credibility, but we are not bound by them. 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 decision on the particular circumstances of the case before us. Melchiori v. Kooi, 644 N.W.2d 365, 368 (Iowa Ct. App. 2002). "The trial court has reasonable discretion in determining whether modification is ...


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