IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF LINDA KAY SPENCE n/k/a LINDA KAY WEIR AND TODD ALLEN SPENCE Upon the Petition of LINDA KAY SPENCE n/k/a LINDA KAY WEIR, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning TODD ALLEN SPENCE, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Henry County, John G. Linn,
Judge. The husband appeals from the economic provisions of
the parties' dissolution decree. AFFIRMED.
L. Miller of Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C., Mount Pleasant,
and Sarah S. James of Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C., Des
Moines, for appellant.
J. Engler and Marlis J. Robberts of Robberts & Kirkman,
L.L.L.P., Burlington, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Bower,
Spence appeals from the economic provisions of the
parties' dissolution decree. The district court
determined the parties' home was the inheritance of his
wife, Linda Weir (formerly known as Linda Spence), and set
the property aside as non-marital. Todd maintains setting
aside the entire value of the property was unjust.
Additionally, he maintains it was inequitable for the court
to award Linda the parties' adjoining house and property.
On appeal, Todd asks that we modify the district court's
decree to award him an equalization payment and the second
property. In response, Linda asks that we affirm the decree
of the district court and award her appellate attorney fees.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
and Linda were married in 1990. Linda had two sons from a
previous marriage, Aaron and Jeremy, and the sons lived with
Linda and Todd. The parties had one child together, Ashley,
who had reached majority before Linda filed for dissolution
time of the dissolution hearing, Linda was fifty-six years
old. She was generally in good health, but she had undergone
multiple surgeries on her back, and she continued to have
some back problems. She was employed by the University of
Iowa and earned approximately $60, 000 annually. Todd was
fifty years old and in generally good health. He had
maintained the same job for twenty-five years, and he also
earned approximately $60, 000 annually.
main issue of contention between the two parties at the
dissolution hearing was the value of the home and whether it
was marital property. In 2005, Linda's oldest son,
Jeremy, died during a recreational skydiving incident. At the
time, he was on active duty in the United States military,
and although Jeremy's death was not service connected,
Linda received a number of financial payments as a result.
She also received the benefit of Jeremy's substantial
life insurance policy, in which Jeremy had listed Linda as
the sole beneficiary. Ultimately, Linda received
approximately $507, 000 in death benefits.
testified that she donated $50, 000 of the funds to a local
church. She also used approximately $82, 500 on various
purchases that benefitted both her and Todd-two motorcycles
and a van. She spent the rest of the money, $371, 837,
building and furnishing a new home, which was completed in
2008. The home was built on land the parties had purchased
together for $10, 300- and deeded as "joint tenants with
full rights of survivorship"-in 1998. Todd maintains
that the land was worth $18, 000 at the time of
was competing testimony at trial about the resale value of
the home. It is built in a small community and is apparently
one of the nicer homes in the area. That being said, the
highest priced home sold in the town over the three years
before the trial was for $227, 500. Another property in the
town, priced at $389, 000, had been on the market for more
than a year. Additionally, the home sits next to the city
sewer lagoon and is bordered by a junkyard. Linda's
expert, who valued the home at $238, 000, put more emphasis
on the negative "discounts" or factors. Todd's
expert estimated the home would resell for $269, 000.
home was built approximately 200 feet from the parties'
first home. The parties agreed the second property (and
structure) was worth $20, 000. Linda indicated she wanted to
be awarded the second property, so she could demolish the
house on it. The house was in disrepair-with holes in the
roof and black mold in the bathroom, and Linda maintained the
parties had always intended to tear it down. Todd asked that
he be awarded the property so he could live there while he
built a home somewhere else. He intended to make some repairs
to the house and then give it to the parties' adult
daughter. Linda testified that she did not want to be
neighbors with Todd or her daughter; both Todd and the
daughter were living at the second property at the time of
the dissolution hearing, and the situation had not been
peaceful. Linda felt as if she was being monitored by Todd
and Ashley. Additionally, Ashley had drilled through the
locks of the main home in order to remove things while Linda
was at work, and the police had been called to intervene at
parties agreed to the value of most of the marital property,
and they stipulated to the disposition of most it. The
district court accepted the stipulation, adopted it, and
incorporated it into the dissolution decree. The court
concluded the home was not marital property but rather
inheritance to be set aside. The court considered the marital
property that had been stipulated to, noting that Todd had
received $233, 942 in net marital assets, while Linda had
received $176, 392-a $57, 550 difference. The court then
awarded Linda the second property, indicating that it was
doing so because it "more closely equalize[d] the
division of assets agreed upon by the parties."
"[T]he court [did] not believe it would be practical to
attempt to refurbish the house because of its poor