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In re Marriage of Harris

Supreme Court of Iowa

September 20, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF ANGELA MARIE HARRIS AND PATRIC DAVID HARRIS; Upon the Petition of ANGELA MARIE HARRIS, Appellant, And Concerning PATRIC DAVID HARRIS, Appellee

Editorial Note:

This decision has been referenced in a "Decisions Without Published Opinions" table in the North Western Reporter.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert A. Hutchison, Judge. Petitioner appeals the district court's denial of her motion to continue trial and the district court's award of joint physical care.

Earl B. Kavanaugh of Harrison & Dietz-Kilen, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

Patric D. Harris, Pro se.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

The mother of two minor children appeals from a dissolution decree. She contends the district court erred in failing to grant her motion for continuance and in ordering joint physical care. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Angela and Patric Harris were married on May 17, 1997. Angela was then twenty years old and Patric was twenty-six. Both had graduated from high school at the time and both have now completed some college education. They had two children during the marriage: a daughter, now eleven, was born in November 2001, and a son, now four, was born in June 2009.

Both parents were employed fulltime when their daughter was born. Angela left her job at Sears and worked at home as a daycare provider. Soon after the daughter reached school age, Angela began working at Iowa Medicaid Enterprise, where she remains today. Patric has worked since April 2010 in part- and full-time positions for several different employers, after having spent about ten years in a sales position at Gilcrest/Jewett Lumber Company.

The record reveals conflicting testimony as to the quantity and quality of parenting responsibilities performed by the respective parents before Angela initiated dissolution proceedings in November 2010. Angela testified she was the primary caregiver for both children throughout the marriage. Some of Patric's relatives reiterated that testimony, suggesting Patric took a less active role and was uninvolved in many of the decisions affecting the children, despite having taken an active role in many other household decisions. Patric's testimony, however, suggests the parties shared parenting responsibilities equally and were equally involved in schooling and other activities with the children.

In December 2010, Angela and Patric--both represented by counsel at that point in the dissolution proceedings--reached a mediation agreement that effectively provided for joint legal custody and joint physical care. Under that agreement, the parents rotated in and out of the marital home every several days to shoulder parenting responsibilities according to a set schedule while the children remained in the home. In a second mediation in April 2011, Angela and Patric--again represented by counsel--reached largely the same arrangement (the mediation agreement), again effectively providing for joint legal custody and joint physical care.

In August 2011, Patric sent Angela a proposed dissolution decree memorializing many of the terms of the mediation agreement. After further inquiries from Patric seeking Angela's approval of the proposed decree, Angela indicated in October she no longer favored joint physical care and would seek primary physical care. The district court then entered a scheduling order setting a two-day trial for April 2012 to resolve issues of legal custody, physical care, child support, marital property, and attorneys' fees.

The parties sold the marital home in January 2012 and divided the proceeds according to the terms of the mediation agreement, in part because of the parties' debt concerns. Patric moved into a home in West Des Moines with his current girlfriend and her two children, where he continues to reside. Angela moved into a townhome in Johnston owned by Patric's stepfather, where she continues to reside. The parties have continued to exercise joint legal custody and physical care, as the children split time between the Johnston and West Des Moines homes. Both parties have taken ...


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