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In re Marriage of Ludwig

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 5, 2013

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MELISSA ANN LUDWIG AND PETER GERARD LUDWIG Upon the Petition of MELISSA ANN LUDWIG, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning PETER GERARD LUDWIG, Respondent-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas A. Bitter, Judge.

Peter Ludwig appeals from the economic provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Melissa Ludwig.

Natalia H. Blaskovich of Reynolds & Kenline, L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellant.

Robert L. Sudmeier of Fuerste, Carew, Juergens & Sudmeier, P.C., Dubuque, for appellee.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., Mullins, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*]

MAHAN, S.J.

Peter Ludwig appeals from the economic provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Melissa Ludwig, claiming the property division is inequitable. He also appeals the district court's dismissal of his application for rule to show cause, arguing Melissa intentionally interfered with his visitation rights. Finally, he argues the district court abused its discretion in denying his request for trial attorney fees. Both parties request they be awarded their appellate attorney fees.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Melissa and Peter were married in 1992 and have two minor children. Melissa filed a petition to dissolve the marriage in 2010. The parties agreed on the matters of child custody and support, as well as the division of most of their property, and a partial decree memorializing this agreement was entered August 14, 2012. Three issues were left for the court to decide: how to allocate a $27, 760 debt owed to Melissa's parents and a $13, 515 overdraft loan from Wells Fargo, the amount of any equalization payment that may be necessary, and whether to award attorney fees.

Before the court settled the remaining issues in the dissolution action, Peter filed an application for rule to show cause that alleged Melissa was violating the court's August 14, 2012 decree in several respects. Specifically, Peter alleged Melissa failed to inform and include him in the children's medical treatment, intentionally scheduled parent-teacher conferences during his visitation, forced the children to act as the parties' go-between by refusing to communicate with him, and unreasonably refused to accommodate his request to extend visitation by fifteen minutes on one occasion.

On January 23, 2013, the court issued a supplemental decree on the remaining dissolution issues and ruled on Peter's application for rule to show cause. The court reviewed the net assets awarded to both parties in the August 14, 2012 decree and found Melissa received $347, 030.42 in net assets while Peter received $128, 523.37. The court then ordered Melissa to be solely responsible for both the debt to her parents and the Wells Fargo overdraft loan— which total $41, 275—because it was unable to determine how the funds were used. It then ordered Melissa to pay Peter $88, 616 to equalize the property settlement. Neither party was awarded attorney fees.

With respect to Peter's application for rule to show cause, the court had "no doubt" Melissa intentionally tried to limit Peter's contact with and information about the children. The court found that although these acts could support a modification action, they did not violate a court order and therefore did not support a finding of contempt. The court found the only act that violated the decree was the scheduling of a parent-teacher conference during Peter's visitation. However, the court was unable to find that violation was intentional and could be avoided. Accordingly, the court dismissed the application for rule to show cause.

Peter filed a motion to enlarge or reconsider pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904(2). He argued that in addition to requiring Melissa to be solely responsible for the debt owed to her parents and the Wells Fargo loan, the court should find the debts were non-marital and allocate them only to Melissa. On this basis, he asked the court to increase the equalization payment by $20, 637.50. Peter also asked the court to find Melissa in ...


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