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In re Marriage of Schultz

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 6, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF ERIC SCHULTZ AND AUBREY SCHULTZ Upon the Petition of ERIC SCHULTZ, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning AUBREY SCHULTZ, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, John D. Telleen, Judge.

Eric Schultz appeals the dissolution decree, contesting the grant of joint physical care, the determination of the parties' incomes, the award of spousal support, and the valuation and distribution of assets.

Jennifer Olsen of Olsen Law Firm, Davenport, and Richard Farwell, Clinton, for appellant.

J. David Zimmerman of J. David Zimmerman P.C., Clinton, for appellee.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.


Eric Schultz challenges both the physical care and economic aspects of the decree dissolving his marriage to Aubrey Schultz. First, he claims he should have received physical care of their three children because Aubrey does not offer sufficient stability to be a primary caregiver. Next he disputes the court's determination of each party's income. He also contests the valuation and distribution of martial assets and debts. Finally, he challenges the award of spousal support. Because we agree with the district court's reasoning on all of the issues, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Eric and Aubrey were married in 1999. They have three children together, ages fourteen, twelve, and five at the time of trial. Eric, who is thirty-six years old, is employed at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Company, where he is a machinery operator. Eric works twelve-hour swing shifts, often returning home after 7:00 p.m. if he works the day shift or 7:00 a.m. if he works the night shift. His schedule is two days on, then two days off. He typically works eighty-four hours in a two-week period. His 2010 tax return showed his income as $68, 859. In 2011 his tax return indicated an income of $72, 328.

Aubrey, who is thirty-three years old, has limited work experience and at the time of trial was attending classes at Clinton Community College to become an ultrasound technician. At the time of the divorce proceeding she was not employed. Aubrey has suffered from numerous medical issues during the marriage. She has undergone two bowel resections, gall bladder surgery, a partial hysterectomy, and removal of her ovaries. She also had three cesarean sections. As a result of the many procedures, she developed an addiction to pain medication. She would go to various doctors and receive prescriptions for different narcotics. Aubrey successfully completed drug treatment and her family reports she is doing well in recovery. At the time of trial, she had mycobacterium avium complex, which is an infection of her lungs, liver, and spleen. She was taking non-narcotic medications under the care of a doctor for this condition.

The couple faced serious financial difficulties. Creditors often garnished Eric's paycheck to recoup overdue medical bills related to Aubrey's illnesses and numerous prescription pain drugs. The couple consulted a bankruptcy attorney but did not file a petition.

During the marriage Aubrey was not employed because she was the primary caretaker of the children. Aubrey also took charge of the household finances. Pressured by the family's increasing debt, she failed to make the monthly mortgage payments. Eric did not realize the extent of their delinquency until their house went into foreclosure and their utilities were turned off. He moved out of the marital home with the children, taking most of the furniture and appliances. According to the district court, "The only property that Aubrey was left with was a refrigerator, two chairs, and two beds."

On November 1, 2011, Eric filed for divorce. On December 19, 2011, he obtained temporary custody of the children. On April 24, 2012, the district court issued a ruling on temporary spousal support and specific visitation. It also ruled on Aubrey's motion to amend and application for citation for contempt. That ruling denied respondent's request for overnight visitation because she had yet to find suitable living arrangements for the children and due to her ongoing battle with addiction to narcotic pain medication.

The court held trial on September 12, 2012. On October 17, 2012, the district court issued its findings of fact, conclusions of law and decree of dissolution of marriage. The court granted the parties joint legal custody as well as shared physical care. It awarded Aubrey $854.33 a month in child support with that amount decreasing as each child reached the age of eighteen. The district court initially granted Aubrey $300 per month in spousal support. The court also divided the marital assets and debts. Eric filed a motion for new trial and a motion under Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904. ...

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