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In re Marriage of Wilson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 8, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF AMANDA JO WILSON AND RYAN EUGENE WILSON Upon the Petition of AMANDA JO WILSON, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning RYAN EUGENE WILSON, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Poweshiek County, Lucy J. Gamon, Judge.

         The mother appeals from the provisions of the district court's dissolution decree concerning her three minor children and spousal support. AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.

          John C. Wagner of John C. Wagner Law Offices, P.C., Amana, for appellant.

          Andrew B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellee.

          Heard by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         Amanda Wilson appeals from the provisions of the district court's dissolution decree concerning her three minor children and spousal support. Amanda challenges the court's placement of the parties' children in Ryan Wilson's physical care. She also challenges the denial of rehabilitative spousal support. We affirm as modified.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Ryan and Amanda were married on January 26, 2006. At the time of trial, Ryan was thirty-seven years old and Amanda was thirty. They have three children born of the marriage: C.M.W., who was ten at the time of trial; C.R.W., who was eight; and C.J.W., who was six. Amanda has a child from another relationship who is not a part of this proceeding. On July 28, 2014, Amanda filed a petition for dissolution of marriage.

         Prior to C.M.W.'s birth, Amanda worked at a retail establishment part-time. She was forced to end her employment after she was put on bed rest during her pregnancy with C.M.W. Following C.M.W.'s birth, Amanda worked as a stay-at-home parent for the majority of the marriage. She was responsible for the care of the children. Her role included keeping the children on a schedule, cleaning, feeding the children, taking the children on vacation, attending school conferences, and other child-rearing activities. Both parties acknowledge that Amanda was successful in her role. In 2012, Amanda helped start a non-profit organization where she eventually became a paid employee, but this role only lasted for two years. At the time of trial, she worked as a part-time substitute teacher in the Sigourney Community School District, where she now lives.

         Ryan earned a technical degree and was subsequently hired as a lineman. In 2008, he achieved journeyman status. His job required long hours and frequent travel. It was not uncommon for him to travel for extended periods. Ryan's average earnings were approximately $104, 000 annually. At the time of trial, however, Ryan was laid off from his employment. He declined to search for additional employment on the belief his employer would recall him. In the event his former employer did not recall him, Ryan testified that he could find new employment quickly. The district court imputed $90, 000 of income for purposes of child support.

         In July 2014, the parties' relationship took an abrupt turn. Amanda decided to move herself and the children with her friend, Brandon Cundiff, [1] to Pennsylvania without giving any notice to Ryan. Amanda claims Ryan's drinking problem forced her to move. She testified that Ryan would drink to the point of passing out on multiple occasions. Ryan disputes his drinking was so excessive. Following Amanda's move, Ryan obtained a temporary injunction requiring that the children be returned to live at the marital home in Brooklyn, Iowa, and attend school in their previous school district, BGM. Ryan then drove to Pennsylvania to pick up the children. The situation caused the children to miss the first day of school.

         A temporary custody order entered on September 2, 2014, [2] awarded Ryan physical care of the three children. Ryan took a week off from work to ensure the children were adjusting to the new arrangement. Ryan also arranged the children's care during work hours and ensured help for the children to prepare for educational and extracurricular activities. According to testimony, the children were thriving under Ryan's physical care. On October 13, 2014, the court entered a temporary visitation order establishing visitation rights for Amanda, who remained in Pennsylvania.

         On or around February 1, 2015, Amanda suffered from a mental-health issue that required a short hospital stay. Following the stay, she continued to seek treatment for depression. Subsequent medical reports indicated that she was "on a positive trajectory towards overall well-being" and did not require any medication as of March 2015.[3] These issues became the center of multiple visitation disputes. In a motion to compel dated June 19, 2015, Amanda claimed Ryan was denying visitation. Ryan claimed he was concerned about the children's well-being under Amanda's care, and he would comply with the visitation requests on the condition Amanda disclosed her medical records. In its June 24, 2015 ruling, the court ordered one week of visitation for Amanda and required Amanda to disclose her medical records through a release.

         On September 1, 2015, after over a year in Pennsylvania, Amanda returned to Iowa with her current fiancé.[4] On September 14, 2015, the court modified the temporary order by increasing Amanda's visitation time with the children. Following the trial, the court awarded physical care to Ryan and denied Amanda's request for spousal support. The court also awarded an equalization payment from Ryan to Amanda for $30, 005.76 payable at $1000 per month until paid in full, and Ryan must pay for $5000 of Amanda's attorney fees at $500 per month. Amanda appeals the physical care and spousal support provisions of the decree. Amanda also seeks appellate attorney fees.

         II. ...


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