IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF KELLY MARIE VAUGHN AND ANDREW JOSEPH VAUGHN; Upon the Petition of KELLY MARIE VAUGHN, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning ANDREW JOSEPH VAUGHN, Respondent-Appellee
This decision is published in table format in the North Western Reporter.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Ian K. Thornhill, Judge. A mother challenges the provision in the dissolution decree granting the parents joint physical care of their son.
Richard F. Mitvalsky of Gray, Stefani & Mitvalsky, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.
Constance Peschang Stannard of Johnston, Stannard, Klesner, Burbidge & Fitzgerald, P.L.C., Iowa City, for appellee.
Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.
Kelly and Andrew Vaughn are the parents of W.A.V., who was three years old at the time of the dissolution trial. The decree granted the parents joint physical care. Kelly argues W.A.V.'s best interests would be served by placing physical care with her and allowing Andrew liberal visitation. After weighing all of the pertinent factors, we affirm the physical care arrangement set forth in the decree.
Kelly and Andrew dated for more than five years before getting married in September 2004. Kelly is a teacher at St. Pius Elementary School in Cedar Rapids. Andrew is a human resources supervisor at GEICO insurance company in Coralville. Both are thirty-four years old and in good health. Kelly has a master's degree in education from the University of Northern Iowa. Andrew has an associate of applied science degree and has been working on and off toward his bachelor's degree, but has yet to complete it.
Kelly filed a petition to dissolve the marriage on January 30, 2012. She has remained in the marital home in Marion with W.A.V. since the separation. Andrew has lived in a few different locations, but has now settled back in Marion. The district court issued a temporary order on March 27, 2012, giving Kelly physical care and awarding Andrew visitation. Following trial, the district court issued its dissolution decree on December 23, 2013. The decree gave Andrew and Kelly joint legal custody and joint physical care of W.A.V.
The only issue on appeal is the grant of joint physical care. Kelly argues the district court should have placed W.A.V. in her physical care because she has been the boy's primary caregiver during his first three years. Andrew asserts the court properly awarded joint physical care because both parents have much to contribute to their son's daily upbringing.
We review dissolution of marriage cases do novo. In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). We give weight to the district court's findings, especially regarding the credibility of witnesses, but are not bound by them. Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g).
Custody decisions need to assure a child of divorce the " maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents" insofar as is reasonable and in the child's best interests. Iowa Code § 598.41(1)(a) (2011). We examine the joint physical care issue " in each case on the unique facts and not subject to cursory rejection" based on outdated presumptions. See In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 695 (Iowa 2007). The consideration of joint physical care is based on " Iowa's traditional and statutorily required child custody standard--the best interest of the child." Id. The goal is to place the child in the environment most likely to bring him to health, both physically and mentally, and to social maturity. See id. In making decisions about joint physical care, we avoid gender bias toward either mothers or fathers. Id. at 700.
The legislature set out factors for courts to consider when determining the optimal care arrangement. See Iowa Code § 598.41(3). We also look to the non-exclusive considerations articulated in In re Marriage of Winter, 223 N.W.2d 165, 166-67 (Iowa 1974) (including the needs of the children, the characteristics of the parents, the relationship between ...