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In re Marriage of Van Veldhuizen

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 26, 2014


Editorial Note:

This decision is published in table format in the North Western Reporter.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Lyon County, Patrick M. Carr, Judge. Randy Van Veldhuizen appeals from the district court's ruling on Vicki Van Veldhuizen's application to modify the parties' dissolution decree.

Andrew B. Howie of Hudson, Mallaney, Shindler & Anderson, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

Missy J. Clabaugh of Jacobsma & Clabaugh, P.L.C., Sioux Center, for appellee.

Heard bye Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.



Randy Van Veldhuizen appeals the district court's order modifying the dissolution of marriage decree between him and Vicki Van Veldhuizen. Randy's claims on appeal fault the district court for: (1) maintaining the parties' shared physical care of the parties' five minor children; (2) improperly calculating his child support obligation; (3) establishing a " common fund" provision for child-related expenses; and (4) awarding Vicki trial attorney fees. Vicki requests appellate attorney fees. We affirm as modified, and remand for recalculation of child support.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Randy and Vicki Van Veldhuizen divorced in 2011. Vicki is thirty-nine years old and Randy is forty-seven years old. Vicki became pregnant with the parties' oldest child when she was sixteen years old. Over the years, Randy and Vicki had seven more children, five of which are still minors.

In October 2011, the parties signed a nine-page " Stipulation and Agreement" which set forth the terms ending their marriage.[1] They agreed to joint legal custody of their minor children (at that time, six of the children were minors), with the physical care to alternate " on a week to week schedule, exchanging the children at 5:00 p.m. Sunday evening," and with Randy having the children every Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to take them to church.

Paragraph 9(f) of the stipulation provided that each party would be responsible for daycare, food, and clothing expenses when the children were in their respective care, and further stated:

In lieu of paying child support, [Randy] shall be responsible for all of the children's expenses including allowance, school tuition, " field trips and lunches, extracurricular activities, vehicle insurance[,] and prom expenses. The parties further agree [Randy] shall be responsible for up to $12,000 per child to purchase a vehicle for each minor male, and to pay for wedding expenses for each minor female. The parties shall equally split any graduation expenses.

The stipulation set forth additional terms, including in part: Randy would maintain medical insurance for the children and would be responsible for any uncovered medical expenses; Randy would be entitled to claim all minor children as tax exemptions; Randy would receive sole ownership and responsibility of the family home, farmland, farm products, farm equipment, and other farm-related assets and liabilities; Randy would purchase a $185,000 home for Vicki; the parties would divide the marital household goods, personal property, and vehicles; Randy would pay Vicki a property settlement of $720,000 in monthly distributions of $4000.

The district court entered a three-page decree of dissolution incorporating the parties' stipulation. The decree included a finding that the parties' stipulation with regard to child expenses is " in compliance with the Guidelines and any variance is justified and appropriate as [Randy] will pay for the children's expenses as provided under paragraph 9(f) of the Stipulation and Agreement along with being responsible for their medical insurance coverage."

Less than one year after the dissolution decree was filed, Vicki filed a petition to modify the physical care arrangement for the parties' (now five) minor children. Vicki alleged a substantial and material change in circumstances had occurred, claiming Randy had " badmouthed" her to the children, interfered with and not supported the children's relationship and time with her, failed to share information with her, " and in all other ways attempted to alienate the children from [her]." Vicki further alleged the parties' " lack of communication and lack of mutual respect does not support shared physical care and is detrimental to the children." Vicki claimed it was in the best interests of the children to be placed in her physical care " so that they have an open relationship with both parents without any interference and or badmouthing about the other parent as such conduct hinders their relationship with both parents." Vicki also requested a modification of child support, medical support, and dependency exemptions, and an award of attorney fees.

Randy filed an answer denying a change of circumstances, and stated if the court found there has been a material and substantial change of circumstances, then he should be awarded physical care of the minor children.

By the time of the modification hearing, both parties had changed their positions. At the direction of the district court, the parties completed a pretrial stipulation, which provided in part:

Wife: Vicki believes it would be in the best interests of children that the parties continue with joint/shared physical care under which they currently operate with the exception of her Sundays no longer being interrupted and the children remaining in her care all day on the Sundays when the children are in her physical care. . . . If the court does not find it to be in the best interests of the children that joint/shared physical care continue to be exercised, Vicki would then propose that she be ...

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