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In re Marriage of Fedorchak

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 20, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Marlita A. Greve, Judge.

Husband appeals the district court's failure to award him spousal support and attorney fees.

Lynne C. Jasper of Stafne, Lewis & Jasper, Bettendorf, for appellant.

Catherine Zamora Cartee of Cartee Law Firm, Davenport, for appellee.

Considered by Vogel, P.J. and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.


Bernard Fedorchak appeals from the decree dissolving his twenty-seven-year marriage to Virginia Fedorchak. Bernard asserts the district court erred in not awarding him spousal support based on Virginia's educational advances and increased income during the marriage. Bernard also asserts the district court erred by not ordering Virginia to pay Bernard's attorney fees. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Bernard and Virginia married in 1985 in Pennsylvania. They have two adult children. When the parties married, Virginia had an associate's degree. Bernard had a high school diploma and was employed as a nuclear plant technician. For the first seventeen years of their marriage, Virginia worked part-time and raised the children while Bernard travelled for work, sometimes spending months at a time away from the family. In 1996, the family relocated to Iowa where Bernard worked for a train manufacturing company. In 1997, Virginia began a pharmacy degree at the University of Iowa. She graduated with honors in 2002, and began working full time as a pharmacist, eventually earning $120, 000 a year. Bernard testified he was primarily responsible for care of the children while Virginia was in school. Virginia testified that although there were times Bernard would transport the children to activities, she was the primary caregiver—she prepared the children's meals, paid for a babysitter with student loans and scholarships, and attended the children's activities. While she was in pharmacy school, Virginia was a Girl Scout leader and a church choir director; she coached her son's soccer team and took the children to tae kwan do, piano, and violin lessons.

In 2003, Bernard was fired from the railroad job. In 2004, Bernard and Virginia decided to open a pizza franchise, which Bernard would run. The franchise failed[1] five years later and left a $120, 000 debt, which the parties paid by remortgaging their home, cashing out Bernard's retirement fund, and borrowing around $40, 000 against Virginia's retirement fund. After cashing out his retirement fund, Bernard purchased a car with the proceeds and used the remainder to pay down the debt, a contribution of around $10, 000. In the years following the failure of the business, Bernard worked a number of manufacturing jobs and repeatedly was fired from them. Virginia continued to work full time and repay the failed business loan from her salary. Virginia also paid the mortgage, car insurance for both her car and Bernard's car, health insurance for herself, Bernard, and their two children, and her daughter's student loan repayments. The parties had no savings account.

In its ruling following trial, the district court made explicit findings regarding the credibility of the parties' trial testimony. The district court found, "Overall . . . Bernard was not as credible as Virginia." It further found, "Bernard blamed Virginia for everything that has gone wrong . . . . His excuses did not make sense and his perceptions are questionable. . . . He was elusive, argumentative and simply unbelievable." The court also found Bernard's Affidavit of Financial Status differed from his testimony by overstating the value of the marital residence by $20, 000 and understating his income by half.

At the time of trial, Virginia was forty-nine years old and had an annual salary of around $120, 000. Bernard was sixty-two years old and was working as a quality specialist at an industrial rack-manufacturing plant, earning $35, 000 a year. The district court divided the parties' property as follows: the parties would sell the marital home and split the proceeds after repayment of the failed business loan; the parties divided their credit card debt; the parties split the nearly $300, 000 net value of Virginia's retirement fund; Virginia retained her own and her daughter's student loan debt, totaling around $44, 000. The court also noted that Virginia had paid substantially more of the pizza business debt than Bernard. The court awarded no spousal support. Ultimately, Bernard left the marriage with half the proceeds of the home sale, half of Virginia's retirement funds, a car, and only $6500 of debt. Bernard appeals, arguing the court should have awarded him spousal support and attorney fees.

II. Standard of Review

We review dissolution proceedings de novo. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; In re Becker, 756 N.W.2d 822, 824-25 (Iowa 2008). We give weight to the factual findings of the district court, especially when considering the credibility of witnesses, but are not bound by them. Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g). "Prior cases are of little precedential value, except to provide a framework for analysis, and we must ultimately tailor our decision to the ...

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