from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Stuart P.
from an order establishing physical care and support.
AFFIRMED IN PART AND REMANDED.
J. Parker of Parker Law Office, Clinton, for appellant.
D. McKenrick of Cartee & McKenrick, P.C., Davenport, for
Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
Kaczinski and Adam Welch are the parents of P.K. (born 2007).
The parties never married but maintained an
on-again-off-again relationship after the child's birth.
They separated for good when the child was approximately
two-and-one-half years old. At the time of the parties'
separation, paternity and support had been legally
established but custody and visitation had not. The parties
informally agreed Amber would serve as the child's
primary caregiver with Adam having visitation every other
weekend. This arrangement worked fairly well until December
2015. Adam refused to return P.K. to Amber's care for one
week following a Christmas visitation. Adam contends the
parties agreed to one-week visitation. Amber contends the
parties agreed only to Christmas day. Regardelss, immediately
after this incident, Amber initiated this proceeding to
establish custody, visitation, and support. The district
court granted the parties joint legal custody of the child,
Amber physical care of the child, and Adam reasonable
visitation. The district court ordered Adam to pay
$658.93/month as child support. Adam appeals, requesting
shared care of the child and a reduction in child support.
review of cases in equity is de novo. See Iowa R.
App. P. 6.907. We review the entire record and decide anew
the factual and legal issues presented. See In re
Marriage of Williams, 589 N.W.2d 759, 761 (Iowa Ct. App.
1998). Prior cases have little precedential value; the court
must make its determination based on the unique facts and
circumstances of each case. See In re Marriage of
Kleist, 538 N.W.2d 273, 276 (Iowa 1995); In re
Marriage of Snowden, No. 14-1920, 2015 WL 4233449, at *1
(Iowa Ct. App. July 9, 2015) ("All happy families are
alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
(quoting Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 1 (1873))).
Although our review is de novo, we exercise our review with
deference to the district court. See In re P.C., No.
16-0893, 2016 WL 4379580, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 17,
requests joint physical care of the child. Physical care is
defined as "the right and responsibility to maintain a
home for the minor child and provide for the routine care of
the child." Iowa Code § 598.1(7) (2015). In making
the physical care determination, we look to the factors set
forth in Iowa Code section 598.41(3) and our case law.
See Iowa Code § 598.41(3); Iowa Code §
600B.40 ("In determining the visitation or custody
arrangements of a child born out of wedlock, if a judgment of
paternity is entered and the mother of the child has not been
awarded sole custody, section 598.41 shall apply to the
determination, as applicable, and the court shall consider
the factors specified in section 598.41, subsection 3,
including but not limited to the factor related to a
parent's history of domestic abuse."); In re
Marriage of Winter, 223 N.W.2d 165, 166-67 (Iowa 1974).
In determining whether joint physical care is appropriate, we
consider the following factors: (1) the "stability and
continuity of caregiving"; (2) "the ability of
spouses to communicate and show mutual respect"; (3)
"the degree of conflict between parents"; and (4)
"the degree to which the parents are in general
agreement about their approach to daily matters." In
re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 696-99 (Iowa
2007). "Each factor, however, does not necessarily
impact the decision with equal force." In re
Marriage of Daniels, 568 N.W.2d 51, 54 (Iowa Ct. App.
1997). In considering the factors, our ultimate objective
"is to place the child in the environment most likely to
bring him to healthy mental, physical, and social
maturity." McKee v. Dicus, 785 N.W.2d 733, 737
(Iowa Ct. App. 2010). The controlling consideration is the
children's best interests. See In re Marriage of
Kunkel, 555 N.W.2d 250, 253 (Iowa Ct. App. 1996).
lives with her fiancé, Cody, in DeWitt. Amber and Cody
have two children together, and Cody has physical care of
another child from a previous relationship. Cody is employed
as a builder. Amber was a stay-at-home mother except for a
brief period of time in 2016 when she obtained full time
employment but discovered the cost of child care for the
children offset her earnings. At the time of trial, she had
quit her job to provide in-home daycare services. She
testified she expected to make $200 per week, increasing
"ideally" to $400 per week. Several years prior to
trial in this case, there was an incident of domestic
violence in the home resulting in Cody's arrest and
conviction. Amber testified this was a one-time occurrence.
She and Cody have worked on their relationship and had no
further incidents. Adam testified he has continuing concerns
about Cody's behavior and the stability of Cody and
lives with his girlfriend, Ashley, in Wheatland,
approximately fifteen to twenty minutes from DeWitt. Their
home is a mixed household: the two have a biological child,
and Ashley has physical care of a child from a previous
relationship. Ashley is studying nursing in online courses
and providing care for the children. Adam works as a shift
supervisor at a plastics manufacturer. He had worked second
shift but learned the day before trial he would be moved to
third shift, which would allow him more time home with his
children and which would enable him to provide school
transportation in the mornings. Adam testified he typically
worked forty hours per week at $19.15 per hour and often
worked twenty overtime hours per week at between $28-29 per
hour. He testified he would reduce his overtime hours if
awarded shared care.
most relevant consideration in this case is the history of
caregiving. "In considering whether to award joint
physical care where there are two suitable parents, stability
and continuity of caregiving have traditionally been primary
factors." Hansen, 733 N.W.2d at 696.
"Stability and continuity concepts have been . . .
expressed in terms of an approximation rule, namely, that the
caregiving of parents in the post-[separation] world should
be in rough proportion to that which predated the
[separation]." Id. at 697. Amber has served as
the child's primary caretaker for nine years. Amber and
Adam had an agreed-upon arrangement in which Amber had
physical care of the child and Adam had visitation every
other weekend. Amber was responsible for making the routine
decisions regarding care of the child, including decisions
regarding medical care, education, and extracurricular
activities. Adam has been largely uninvolved in these
decisions or activities. For example, Adam has not attended
any school ...