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In re Marriage of Snider

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 19, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MELISSA LYNE SNIDER AND JONATHAN EDWARD SNIDER Upon the Petition of MELISSA LYNE SNIDER, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning JONATHAN EDWARD SNIDER, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Lee County, Mary Ann Brown, Judge.

         Jonathan Snider appeals the property-valuation provision in the decree dissolving his marriage. AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.

          Beau A. Bergmann of Bergmann Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Carl A. Saunders of Saunders & Braden Law Firm, Fort Madison, for appellee.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., Tabor, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          TABOR, Judge.

         In this appeal from the decree dissolving the marriage of Jonathan and Melissa Snider, Jonathan contests the district court's valuation of three assets- his tools of trade and shop equipment, a GMC Acadia, and two checking accounts. He argues the court's valuations resulted in an inequitable division of marital property. Although we find the valuations of the vehicle and bank accounts fell within the permissible range of the evidence, we agree with Jonathan that the trial record does not support the district court's valuation of his tools of trade and shop equipment. Accordingly, we modify the decree to award Jonathan a larger equalization payment.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Melissa and Jonathan were married in September 2000. They have three children together. Throughout their marriage, Melissa stayed at home and cared for the children, while Jonathan, who owned his own business, worked as a blacksmith and farrier. Jonathan's average income was approximately $51, 967. In the later years of the marriage, Jonathan and Melissa began to disagree about whether she should be working outside the home, with Jonathan urging Melissa, who had an associate's degree in equine science, to work while the children were in school. After the parties separated, Melissa began working at a hog-confinement business where she earned thirteen dollars an hour and worked an average of approximately twenty-eight hours each week.[1]

         Melissa filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in August 2014. By the time of trial on August 19, 2015, Melissa and Jonathan had agreed to several aspects of the dissolution decree, but the issues of property valuation and division remained unresolved.[2] The day before trial, the parties submitted a stipulation of assets and liabilities. In compliance with local court rule 24 of Iowa's Eighth Judicial District, the stipulation included valuations the parties agreed upon and disputed, including the following values for the items at issue on appeal:

         ASSETS

Description
Owner
Agreed Recipient
Melissa's Value
Jonathan's Value
Agreed Value
2010 GMC Acadia
Melissa
Melissa
$13, 192

Pilot Grove Savings

Bank Checking
Jonathan
Jonathan
Unknown
$4420

Pilot Grove Savings

Bank Checking
Joint
Melissa
Unknown
$1015.62

Tools of Trade and

Shop Equipment
Jonathan
Jonathan
$20, 000
Unknown

         One week earlier, Melissa's attorney had filed a different stipulation of assets and liabilities, which assigned different values to the listed items.[3]Neither Jonathan nor his attorney signed this earlier version. At trial, Melissa's attorney admitted the older stipulation as an exhibit, explaining that the parties had filed a revised stipulation the day before: "The Court has the Rule 24 that we struggled with yesterday. The one that's in the exhibits, . . . that's not the one that we came up with yesterday, but the numbers and the items are the same on both."

         Neither Melissa nor Jonathan admitted the new stipulation as an exhibit, but the district court indicated it would "take judicial notice of the entire court file." On October 23, 2015, following trial and post-trial written argument, the district court issued the dissolution decree. The court addressed how it used the second stipulation in determining the value of the parties' assets and liabilities, explaining: "For some of the assets, one of the parties gave a value for the asset and the other gave no information about it. The value that the court . . . utilize[d] for said assets [was] that which had the most support in the record." Under this framework, the court allocated the disputed assets as follows, adopting the values provided in the second stipulation, whether agreed-upon or disputed:

         ASSETS

Description

Recipient

Value

2010 GMC Acadia

Melissa

$13, 192

Pilot Grove Savings Bank Checking

Jonathan

$4420

Pilot Grove Savings Bank Checking

Melissa

$1015

Tools of Trade and Shop Equipment

Jonathan

$20, 000

         The court concluded: "The values for the assets are those that were supported by the evidence.[4] In addition, some of the assets had no evidence about their value. As a result, no value was attached to them." Because Melissa left the marriage with more equity than Jonathan, the court ordered Melissa to pay Jonathan an equalization payment of $9000.[5]

         Jonathan appeals the district court's order.

         II. Scope and ...


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