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In re Marriage of Bouchard

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 8, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF TIFFANY KAY BOUCHARD AND JEREMY WILLIAM BOUCHARD Upon the Petition of TIFFANY KAY BOUCHARD, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning JEREMY WILLIAM BOUCHARD, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cass County, James M. Richardson, Judge.

         Jeremy Bouchard appeals the district court's denial and dismissal of his petition to modify his and Tiffany Bouchard's dissolution decree to change the visitation provisions and reduce his child support obligation. AFFIRMED.

          P. Shawn McCann of McGinn, Springer & Noethe, P.L.C., Council Bluffs, for appellant.

          Jonathan Mailander of Mailander Law Office, Atlantic, for appellee.

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

          DOYLE, Judge.

         Jeremy Bouchard appeals the district court's denial and dismissal of his petition to modify his and Tiffany Bouchard's dissolution decree to change the parenting time provisions and reduce his child support obligation. Upon our de novo review of the record, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In December 2013, the district court approved Jeremy and Tiffany's joint stipulation and entered a decree dissolving their marriage. The parties agreed to joint legal custody of their child, I.B., born in 2011. They also agreed to joint physical care, with Tiffany having care of their child every Monday beginning at noon through Friday at noon, and Jeremy having care of the child from noon on Friday through Monday at noon. They also agreed to a holiday visitation schedule. Jeremy agreed to pay Tiffany $400 per month in child support. Additionally, the parties agreed Jeremy would be responsible for providing health insurance for their child should the child become ineligible for Medicaid coverage, in which case "[c]hild support shall then be adjusted accordingly."

         In March 2016, Jeremy filed a petition to modify the parties' dissolution decree. His petition stated there had been a substantial change in circumstances since entry of the original decree warranting modification. Specifically, he asserted their child would be starting kindergarten in the fall of 2016, which required a new parenting schedule. He maintained it would be in the "child's best interest that [he] be awarded the parenting time during the school week and [Tiffany] be awarded parenting time on the weekends" because he worked from home and would not have to place the child in the care of others, unlike Tiffany, who worked during the week. Additionally, he advised he was now providing medical insurance for their child, and he requested his child-support payment be adjusted accordingly. Tiffany answered and denied there had been a substantial change in circumstances.

         A hearing on the petition was held in June 2016. The court asked Jeremy to clarify his requested relief, and Jeremy advised he was seeking a change of the parties' shared care visitation schedule[1]-he was not seeking physical care of their child. He argued a lower burden would therefore apply, and he would only need to show a material change in circumstances.

         Following the hearing, the district court entered its ruling denying and dismissing Jeremy's modification petition in its entirety. The court explicitly concluded that Jeremy failed to establish the necessary proof for modification of custody and implicitly concluded Jeremy failed to meet his burden of proof to modify his parenting schedule. See In re Marriage of Brown, 778 N.W.2d 47, 51 (Iowa Ct. App. 2009) (discussing the applicable burden of proof in both circumstances). The court found that the child becoming school age was not a significant or substantial change in circumstances, and because the parties originally agreed Tiffany had custody of the child Monday through Friday, the court reasoned that Tiffany's choice of school for the child should prevail. Finally, the court declined to modify Jeremy's child support obligation, explaining the parties previously agreed to the amount of child support, which "was not supported by financial documentation at the time of the decree, " and it would not disturb the amount now.

         II. Standard of Review.

         Jeremy appeals the district court's ruling on both points. He also asserts the district court applied the wrong standard of proof in reaching its decision. Our review on appeal is de novo, which requires that we "make our own findings of fact." In re Marriage of Hoffman, 867 N.W.2d 26, 32 (Iowa 2015). This also means the application of the wrong standard of proof by the district court, if it did so, is obviated by our de novo review. See Brown, 778 N.W.2d at 54. We do give the district court's fact-findings weight, especially any credibility determinations made, though we are not bound by them. See In re Marriage of Sisson, 843 N.W.2d 866, 870 (Iowa 2014); see also Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. "The district court has reasonable discretion in ...


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