IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF FRANCIS NEIL SADLER AND JULENE MARRE SADLER Upon the Petition of FRANCIS NEIL SADLER, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning JULENE MARRE SADLER, n/k/a JULENE MARRE CHRISTENSEN, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Madison County, Randy V.
Sadler, now Julene Christensen, appeals the economic
provisions of the decree dissolving her marriage to Francis
Marre Christensen, Bucklin, Missouri, appellant pro se.
Francis Neil Sadler, Winterset, appellee pro se.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.
DANILSON, Chief Judge.
Sadler, now known as Julene Christensen, was married to
Francis Sadler on August 7, 2010. Julene is a self-employed
landscaper. Francis is an accountant. Julene and Francis had dated
for about two years prior to getting married. Julene came to
the marriage with her business and no debts. Francis owned a
house before they married, which did not sell for quite some
time during which Francis made no payments on it. Two weeks
before they married, Julene and Francis moved into a house on
an acreage, which was titled in Francis's name only. The
couple maintained animals (including chickens) on the
property and sold them, which allowed the couple to deduct
farming expenses from their taxes. Julene kept items on the
acreage used in her landscaping business, including tools,
fencing, and flagstone.
and Francis separated in December 2013. Julene sought a
protective no-contact order, asserting domestic abuse. No
finding of abuse was made; however, the two consented to a mutual
no-contact order during the pendency of dissolution
proceedings. Julene stayed in the marital residence and used
a 2009 Silverado truck titled to Francis.
and Julene testified about their various assets, the values
of those assets, and whether each considered the assets
premarital, gifted, or marital. Francis introduced market
analyses of the house and acreage,  one determined the fair
market value was $236, 000; the other valued the property
between $248, 000 and $252, 000. After the dissolution trial,
the district court dictated its findings of fact and
conclusions of law into the record. A written decree
followed. The court found the marital residence to be a
marital asset and valued it at $250, 000, subject to a
mortgage debt of $122, 142. The court found Francis entitled
to a credit of $29, 653 against the marital equity for his
down payment on the property and acknowledged the
residence's remaining net equity should be divided
between the parties. The division was via an equalization
payment as the residence was awarded to Francis.
court placed values on the disputed items. The court ordered
Julene to return the Silverado to Francis. The court
distributed items and debts, and ordered an equalization
payment of $29, 325 to Julene, less payment of utilities for
the time she occupied the marital residence during the
separation, a portion of a tax debt, and ten months of
vehicle payments on the Silverado, for a net total of $25,
205 owed by Francis to Julene, which Francis was to pay
within one year. The court allowed Julene two weeks to
retrieve her items from the marital property.
appeal, Julene takes issue with the court's valuation and
the distribution of the parties' assets. Francis's
appellate brief was stricken by the supreme court.
"[T]he appellant is not entitled to a reversal as a
matter of right, but the court may, within its discretion,
handle the matter in a manner most consonant with justice and
its own convenience." Bowen v. Kaplan, 237
N.W.2d 799, 801 (Iowa 1976). We will not "search the
record to find a theory upon which to affirm the
judgment" but confine ourselves to the objections raised
by the appellant. Id.
our de novo review, see Iowa R. App. P. 6.907, we
find no failure to do equity here. See In re Marriage of
Romanelli, 570 N.W.2d 761, 763 (Iowa 1997)
("Although our review of the trial court's award is
de novo, we accord the trial court considerable latitude in
making this determination and will disturb the ruling only
when there has been a failure to do equity." (citation
omitted)). The court's valuations were within the range
of the evidence presented. See In re Marriage of
Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 703 (Iowa 2007). We are unable
to reopen the record for an appraisal of the value of the
farm. The court considered the parties' testimony and
equitably distributed the property, rejecting Julene's
claims that a four-wheeler and several tons of flagstone were
gifts that should not be considered to be marital property.
We give weight to the trial court's implied credibility
finding in this regard. See In re Marriage of
Hoffman, 867 N.W.2d 26, 38 (Iowa 2015) ("It is
well-settled that '[b]ecause [the] trial court was
present to listen and observe the witnesses, we give weight
to its findings.'" (citation omitted)).
we acknowledge some difficulty in following the district
court's financial calculations of the equalization
payment, we note Julene is leaving the marriage without any
obligation to pay the marital debt and with an equalization
payment that is reasonable in light of the short marriage and
the other facts and circumstances. See In re Marriage of
Hansen, 886 N.W.2d 868, 873 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016) (noting
that to achieve equity between the parties in a short-term
marriage, an equalization payment is not always required).
Consequently, we affirm the decree in all respects.
contends she was unable to retrieve her property in the time
allotted and Francis subsequently "sold, damaged, lost
and hid items in the timber." This issue is not a proper