Upon the Petition of JOHN BURDETTE MEYER, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning JESSICA RENEE LEFRANCES SOULES, Respondent-Appellant
This decision is published in table format in the North Western Reporter.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Mitchell E. Turner, Judge. A mother appeals the district court's physical care decision.
James T. Peters, Independence, for appellant.
Joseph G. Bertroche Jr. of Bertroche Law Office, Cedar Rapids, and Randy E. Trca, Iowa City, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
Jessica Soules appeals the district court's decision granting John Meyer physical care of their daughter. Jessica claims the district court erred by failing to require John to satisfy the higher burden applicable in custody modification actions before placing the child in John's care. She also claims placing the child in John's care is not in the child's best interest. After reviewing the briefs and the record in this case, we affirm the decision of the district court.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
A daughter was born to Jessica and John in 2003. The parties never married but lived together for approximately a year after the child was born. In the fall of 2004, the parties separated, and John moved to a neighboring town. Both parties worked full time and shared physical care of the child with John caring for her after work until the next morning when he would return the child to Jessica's care. The parties alternated caring for the child on weekends. This care arrangement continued until 2006 when John went back to school at the University of Iowa and moved to Iowa City. John voluntarily paid Jessica child support, and a support order was subsequently entered. However, this order did not address custody or care.
Jessica, along with the child, moved in with Nick Soules in 2008, and Jessica and Nick were married in 2009. Jessica and Nick separated in 2011 and divorced in 2012. John married Suyapa Yaneth Manueles Ventura (Janet) in 2008, and they have two children, ages five and two at the time of the trial in this case.
John enlisted in the military to assist in paying for school and in 2010 was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. While he was deployed, Jessica was arrested and convicted of second offense operating while intoxicated. The child was in the vehicle with her at the time, and Jessica received a deferred judgment on a child endangerment charge as a result. Jessica was found to have failed to provide proper supervision for the child after a department of human services (DHS) investigation, and Jessica was placed on the child abuse registry.
After returning from his deployment, John filed a petition to establish custody, care, visitation, and support. During the pendency of the case, the parties filed, and the court approved, a temporary joint stipulation, placing the child in Jessica's care subject to John's weekend visitation. The case proceeded to trial in April 2014. The district court granted the parties joint legal custody and placed the child in John's physical care " after considering the conduct of the parties, their past decisions, their stability, and their likelihood to promote [the child's] relationship with both parents."
Jessica now appeals, asserting the court should have required John to satisfy the higher burden applicable in child custody modification actions rather than the lower burden applicable in initial custody determinations. She also claims the child's ...