Upon the Petition of ALBERT R. MEYERS, Petitioner-Appellant,
And Concerning JOHNA L. OLSON, Respondent-Appellee.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Boone County, Steven J. Oeth, Judge.
Albert Meyers appeals the district court ruling denying his application to modify placement, and the court's award of attorney fees.
Gina Badding of Neu, Minnich, Comito & Neu, P.C., Carroll, for appellant.
Steven Nalean of Nalean & Nalean, Boone, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
Albert Meyers appeals the district court ruling denying his application to modify placement, and the court's award of attorney fees. Both parties request appellate attorney fees. We find Meyers has failed to prove a substantial change in circumstances warranting modification. We also find Meyers's substantially higher income merits partial payment of Olson's trial and appellate attorney fees. We affirm.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings
Meyers and Olson were never married, but have a six-year-old child together. The parties ended their relationship when Olson was six months' pregnant. In 2007, by agreement, the court approved joint legal custody of the child with Olson having physical care.
Meyers lives in rural Carroll on a farmstead with his wife, their child, and a step-child. He also has a child from a previous relationship with whom he has regular visitation. Meyers is employed full-time by Union Pacific Railroad and farms part-time. The district court determined he earns $50, 148 per year.
Olson's life has been complicated since the birth of the child. She has maintained a number of residences and relationships over this time. Additionally, at the time of trial, Olson was married but in the process of a divorce. She is currently involved in another relationship and hopes to relocate with the child and her new boyfriend. Olson is presently employed at Lowes, taking as many hours as she can. The district court determined she earns $17, 553 per year.
Two events of concern arose while the child was in Olson's care. First, the child was able to negotiate a childproof lock on an apartment door, allowing the child to be unsupervised by Olson's then boyfriend. The child went into the yard and was found a short time later, unharmed. Olson's relationship with the boyfriend ended soon thereafter. The other event occurred in March 2012. During a disagreement the child bit Olson, drawing blood and causing pain. In an ill-conceived attempt to teach the child a lesson, Olson bit the child leaving a mark which was later discovered by Meyers. Meyers contacted law enforcement, who notified the department of human services (DHS). DHS conducted an investigation and determined the incident was isolated, somewhat minor in seriousness, and unlikely to happen again. Olson met with DHS on multiple occasions convincing them she had learned from her mistake. All evidence indicates she has done so.
Meyers sought modification of physical care due to Olson's frequent moves, the abuse complaint, and concerns with her ability to parent the child safely. The district court declined to ...