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Upon Petition of Bates

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 5, 2013

Upon the Petition of VALERIE ANN BATES, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning TIMOTHY GEORGE MYERS, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Page County, Mark J. Eveloff, Judge.

Valerie Ann Bates appeals the district court order modifying physical care.

DeShawne Lee Bird-Sell of Sell Law, P.L.C., Glenwood, for appellant.

Jon H. Johnson of Johnson Law, P.L.C., Sidney, for appellee.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Valerie Ann Bates appeals the district court order modifying physical care. Following Bates's attempted suicide, the district court determined there had been a substantial change in circumstances requiring modification. Bates argues the petition for modification did not allege a substantial change in circumstances, the district court erred in finding a temporary situation constituted a substantial change in circumstances, and the district court failed to give proper weight to Myers's history of domestic abuse. We find Bates's suicide attempt and her mental health issues support a modification of physical care. We also find Myers's history of domestic abuse, while serious, does not preclude granting his request for modification.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Valerie Ann Bates and Timothy George Myers are the unmarried parents of a child. Following the end of their relationship, they agreed to joint legal custody of the child and Bates was granted physical care.

Bates subsequently married. Since the order establishing custody and physical care, Bates has endured a number of tragedies. Her mother passed away in 2009 and a close personal friend died in 2012. After being informed by her husband that he would be seeking a divorce, Bates attempted suicide by shooting herself in the chest with a handgun.[1] Bates was taken to a local hospital leaving Myers to care for the child. The child was transferred to a school closer to Myers where an individualized education program was put in place to address concerns with the child's educational development.

Bates claims Myers strictly limited her contact with the child following her suicide attempt and exerted inappropriate control over the mother-child relationship. Myers expresses concern with allowing Bates unsupervised visitation with the child due to her suicide attempt, history of mood disorder, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and her failure to seek professional help for her illnesses.

The parties' history is also complicated by two separate instances of domestic violence for which Meyers was convicted. Bates claims the child personally witnessed one of the incidents.[2]

On August 27, 2012, after the suicide attempt, Myers filed a petition for modification. In it, he requested a temporary and permanent order granting him physical care of the child. In granting modification on a temporary basis, the district court found a substantial change in circumstances based upon Bates's mental health issues. The court later granted Myers permanent ...


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