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Carlsen v. Noble

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 8, 2017

CHAD MICHAEL CARLSEN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
RACHAEL RENEE NOBLE, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Monona County, Jeffrey A. Neary, Judge.

         A father appeals a district court decision that modified a paternity decree to place physical care of the parties' children with the mother. AFFIRMED.

          William H. Larson of Klass Law Firm, L.L.P., Sioux City, for appellant.

          Steven C. Kohl of Nymann & Kohl, Sioux City, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J., and Goodhue, S.J.

          GOODHUE, Senior Judge.

         Chad Michael Carlsen appeals from the decree of modification transferring physical care of the parties' three minor children from Carlsen to the children's mother, Rachael Renee Noble.

         I. Factual Background

         Carlsen and Noble were never married but lived together from February 2004 until October 2009. Three children were born as the result of the relationship. They are M.C., a boy, born in 2004, and twin girls, C.C. and C.C., born in 2005. Noble moved out of the family home, and after two weeks, she returned the three children and left them with Carlsen. In addition, Noble left her older daughter, M.N., a child from a previous relationship, with Carlsen.

         Noble felt Carlsen might become violent and, to memorialize the separation and custody arrangement, filed a request for a no-contact order. Carlsen consented to the no-contact order, and no evidence of physical abuse was presented. The no-contact order confirmed the custodial relationship adopted by the parties and granted Noble visitation rights.

         Later, Carlsen filed a formal petition requesting custody and support for the children. A trial was held on November 8, 2011, and on January 17, 2012, a formal order was entered granting physical care of the parties' minor children to Carlsen, granting visitation rights to Noble, and providing for support. Noble appeared and participated in the trial but did not have counsel.

         At the time of the November trial, Carlsen was living with Karen Bartelson, a divorcee who had custody of four children born to her during a prior marriage. Bartelson was a fourth-grade teacher at the time and testified on Carlsen's behalf at the trial. The court gave weight to her testimony and noted she had testified that Carlsen was "a caring parent . . . patient, mindful, and respectful" and ministered to the children's physical needs. The court also noted "the children were doing very well and their report cards and progress reports seemed to indicate that they have adjusted well to the current living situation." It was noted that "Ms. Bartelson is a positive influence on Chad and the children."

         At the time of the November 2011 trial, Noble was living with Ryan Shepard in a town nearby to Carlsen, and had given birth to two more children as the result of the new relationship. One son had been born in 2010 and the second in 2011. Noble had not exercised all the visitation set out in the no-contact order, and the court stated, "Rachael has not stepped up to the plate as a parent relative to her visitations, school, medical or any of the other major factors that a court might look to to pick an appropriate custodian." Noble expressed an interest in moving to Idaho, which was interpreted by the court to be her intent, and visitation was designed to accommodate her move.

         On August 26, 2013, Noble filed an application to modify the physical care provision of the paternity decree. Since the November 2011 trial, Bartelson and Carlsen separated. Bartelson was found to have possession of marijuana and methamphetamine and was prosecuted accordingly. Her children are no longer living with her. She has resigned her teaching position. She testified at the current trial that she and ...


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