Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Marriage of Stanley

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 5, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JOANNA L. STANLEY AND TYLER L. STANLEY Upon the Petition of JOANNA L. STANLEY, n/k/a JOANNA L. LINN, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning TYLER L. STANLEY, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, David M. Porter, Judge.

         The petitioner appeals the order modifying the child custody and support provisions of the parties' dissolution decree. AFFIRMED.

          S.P. DeVolder of The DeVolder Law Firm, Norwalk, for appellant.

          Meegan Keller of Keller Law Office, Altoona, for appellee.

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

          DOYLE, Judge.

         Joanna Stanley, now known as Joanna Linn, appeals the modification of the decree dissolving her marriage to Tyler Stanley. She challenges the modification of the child custody provisions of the decree to grant Tyler sole legal custody and physical care of the children. She also challenges the trial court's calculation of her child support obligation and asks for an award of her trial and appellate attorney fees.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Joanna and Tyler were divorced in September 2013. The terms of the dissolution decree, to which they stipulated, granted them joint legal custody of their two children and placed the children in Joanna's physical care. Under the parties' agreement, the decree provides that the children will remain in the Carlisle School District unless Joanna and Tyler mutually agreed to a change in enrollment.

         The parties adhered to the custody arrangement until the summer of 2015. However, after Joanna moved to live with her boyfriend, Loren Cramblit, the parties' ability to communicate and co-parent eroded. In August 2015, Joanna enrolled the children in a different school district without Tyler's knowledge or consent, which prompted Tyler to initiate a contempt action. Ultimately, the court ordered the children remain in the Carlisle School District, found Joanna had violated the dissolution decree by withholding the children from Tyler and making unilateral decisions regarding the children, and ordered Joanna to serve a total of sixty days in jail. Although the court withheld mittimus provided that Joanna allowed Tyler to make up his missed visits with the children, Joanna continued violating the decree and, as a result, served three days in jail.[1]

         While the contempt action was pending, Tyler moved to modify the child custody provisions of the dissolution decree, requesting physical care of the children. Joanna cross-petitioned to modify the provisions of the decree regarding the children's schooling, how custody was to be exchanged, visitation, and child support. The court appointed a guardian ad litem for the children.

         The modification action came to a hearing in July 2016. The guardian ad litem recommended that the court grant Tyler physical custody of the children. In its September 2016 order, the trial court modified the dissolution decree to grant Tyler sole legal custody and physical care of the children and ordered Joanna to pay $545.07 per month in child support. Joanna appeals.

         II. Scope of Review.

         We review orders modifying dissolution decrees de novo. See In re Marriage of McKenzie, 709 N.W.2d 528, 531 (Iowa 2006). In doing so, we give weight to the trial court's fact-findings, especially those concerning witness credibility, though we are not bound by them. See id. "We recognize that the district court 'has reasonable discretion in determining whether modification is warranted and that discretion will not be disturbed on appeal unless there is a failure to do equity.'" See id. (quoting In re Marriage of Walters, 575 N.W.2d 739, 741 (Iowa 1998)). We afford the district court "considerable latitude" in its determination "and will disturb the ruling only when there has been a failure to do equity." In re Marriage of Okland, 699 N.W.2d 260, 263 (Iowa 2005).

         III. Custody.

         Before modifying the custody provisions of a dissolution decree, the court must find the parties' circumstances have substantially changed in a way the parties had not contemplated at the time of the decree's entry. See In re Marriage of Walton, 577 N.W.2d 869, 870 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). The change must be more or less permanent and relate to the welfare of the child. See id. If a substantial change in circumstances is established, the party seeking modification must show the ability to minister more effectively to the children's needs. See In re Marriage of Frederici, 338 N.W.2d 156, 158 (Iowa 1983).

         A. Legal Custody.

         Joanna first argues the district court erred by modifying the decree to grant Tyler sole legal custody of the children.

         Joint legal custody is preferred in Iowa. See In re Marriage of Bartlett, 427 N.W.2d 876, 878 (Iowa Ct. App. 1988) ("Our statutes express a preference for joint custody over other custodial arrangements."). However, joint legal custody requires parents to agree on basic decisions concerning their children's upbringing. See In re Marriage of Miller, 390 N.W.2d 596, 601-02 (Iowa 1986). Therefore, hostility and inability to communicate between the parents can have a severe impact on their children. See id. If the parents are unable to cooperate after joint legal custody is ordered, modification is appropriate. See In re Marriage of Rolek, 555 N.W.2d 675, 677 (Iowa 1996).

          Joanna and Tyler's inability to communicate and cooperate under a joint legal custody arrangement is a substantial change in circumstances that warrants modifying legal custody of the children. Joanna has demonstrated an unwillingness to work with Tyler regarding basic parenting issues. In fact, she has obstructed Tyler's ability to participate by denying him his scheduled visits with the children and by failing to consult with him on matters relating to the children. For instance, Joanna acted unilaterally to change the children's school district-in violation of the decree-and to decide it was unnecessary to provide therapy for the children. Her actions ultimately led the court in the contempt action to find Joanna was violating the provisions of the dissolution decree in multiple ways and in an ongoing manner.

         Joanna has demonstrated her refusal to cooperate with Tyler in parenting the children by insisting on making custody exchanges as difficult as possible for Tyler, to the detriment of the children. She refused to allow Tyler to temporarily park his vehicle in her driveway or in the alley behind her home, and she claimed her neighbors refused to allow Tyler to briefly pull into their driveway for exchanges. As a result, Tyler was required to park a block and a half away. Joanna sent Loren to accompany the children, who were fourteen and nine years old. During these exchanges, Loren was aggressive and threatening toward Tyler. As the district court found based on "the testimony of the credible witnesses, every custody exchange is fraught with tension and peril." (Emphasis in original). Joanna's claims she was acting on her fear of Tyler, who she claims was abusive and stalked her, are not substantiated by the record.

          The parties' correspondence also demonstrates Joanna's inability to communicate and cooperate with Tyler regarding the children. She failed to reply to multiple emails inquiring about extracurricular activities, as well as medical and dental concerns. In one reply, Joanna wrote to Tyler: "If I choose to sign [our child] up for any extracurricular activities, you will know about it. If your emails don't pertain to something important, I'll block you from my email too." ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.