IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF LORI A. LEO AND MICHAEL A. LEO Upon the Petition of LORI A. LEO, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning MICHAEL A. LEO, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Buchanan County, John J.
Leo appeals various economic provisions of the decree
dissolving his marriage to Lori Leo. AFFIRMED.
A. Dillon of Dillon Law, P.C., Sumner, for appellant.
J. Boveia of Boveia Law Firm, Waverly, for appellee.
Considered by Tabor, P.J., Mullins, J., and Goodhue, S.J.
Leo appeals various economic provisions of the decree
dissolving his marriage to Lori Leo. We affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings
and Lori were married in Oelwein, Iowa, in February 1982,
when neither party had any assets of note. Shortly
thereafter, they moved to Austin, Texas. During that time,
Lori attended college, worked part time and bore the
parties' first child. After graduating in 1985 with a
bachelor of science degree in education, Lori worked in Texas
as a middle school teacher. Michael has not received any
postsecondary education. Instead, while in Texas, Michael was
employed in various jobs: as an electrician's assistance,
as an employee and part-owner of a construction business, and
as an owner of a pizza business. All of Michael's
business ventures, which had been funded by loans from
Mike's and Lori's relatives, were unsuccessful.
Eventually, their respective family members forgave the
1988, Mike moved back to Iowa to work in his father's
business and open his own pizza place. At that time,
Lori's job in Texas provided the family's health
insurance and financial support, so she joined Mike in Iowa
later that year after the second child was born and she had
completed teaching the school year. Through the end of 1988,
the parties worked on opening the pizza business, which
launched in January 1989. Lori continued to work at their new
business until the fall of 1989. At that time, Lori resumed
teaching and she has continued to teach through the date of
trial. Lori has been very successful in her field and has
received a number of honors and recognitions for her work,
one of which included an annual financial
award. While teaching, Lori worked less at the
restaurant but helped as a hostess on the weekends when
running the pizza business, Michael also made and sold food
products including Italian sausage and bread. However,
Michael's business became competition for his
father's business, so Michael closed his business and
went to work with his father. When that arrangement ended,
Michael formed Leo Foods, Inc., through which Michael sells
bread bowls, and opened Leo's Italian Restaurant. Michael
also spent a couple of years working as a food broker. In
2007 to 2008, Michael expanded Leo's Italian Restaurant,
adding Generation's Lounge. Michael financed this
expansion by mortgaging the parties' residence as
security for the loan; Lori also signed this mortgage. The
district court found Lori had worked in the restaurant and
lounge on a very limited, as needed basis. Throughout the
couple's time in Oelwein, both parties were active in the
community, which garnered goodwill for Michael's
decree, the district court noted Michael received substantial
inheritances from his uncle and aunt, some of Michael's
relatives filed suit against him during the administration of
the uncle's estate, and the litigation was resolved by a
settlement agreement. The first issue Michael raises on
appeal is an argument the district court's treatment of
gifts and inheritances was inequitable. Thus, the
parties' briefs discuss at length their respective views
of their involvement with Michael's uncle and aunt and of
the money received.
parties generally agree that, from early on in their
marriage, both Lori and Michael would, along with their
children, visit Michael's aunt and uncle and Michael
would occasionally make additional visits on his own. At some
point when the parties were living in Oelwein, it became
clear to Michael that his aunt and uncle should no longer be
living by themselves without assistance, so the aunt and
uncle were relocated to Michael's father's empty
home, near to Lori and Michael. Lori contends she spent
considerable time preparing the home for the aunt and
uncle's arrival and, after they moved in during the
summer, went daily to help them shower, dress, and attend to
their daily needs. Michael contends these were joint efforts.
Lori further states that, after she returned to teaching in
the fall, she continued to pick up their groceries and
medications and help them pay their bills. Ultimately, others
were hired to help provide care. The parties state the aunt
and uncle continued to come to Michael and Lori's home
for weekly dinners as well as for holidays and special
events. Eventually, the aunt and uncle entered a nursing
home. Lori claims she and Michael continued to visit them,
purchase clothes and other items for them, and host them.
asserts that during their time in Oelwein his aunt and uncle
gifted him approximately $400, 000. Lori claims she and
Michael approached the aunt and uncle and asked for financial
help in purchasing their home. She further claims the aunt
and uncle provided the requested help and then continued to
provide financial gifts to both Michael and her. In 2005,
Michael's uncle passed away. Ultimately, after some
litigation, the uncle's estate was left to the aunt.
Michael's aunt passed away in 2008. Michael reports he
inherited approximately $103, 000 from his aunt and uncle
after expenses were paid. At the time of trial, approximately
$42, 000 of said monies remained.
also received a $20, 000 inheritance after her mother passed,
which was spent on remodeling the kitchen in the parties'
marital home and paid for a cruise for the parties. Lori also
received an annuity of approximately $19, 500, which still
existed at the time of trial.
March 2015, after thirty-three years of marriage, Lori filed
a petition for dissolution of marriage. At the time Lori
filed, both parties were in their mid-fifties, and their
children were of majority.
trial, the parties disputed, in relevant part, the valuation
of Leo's Italian Restaurant and the marital home, the
status of the debt secured by the marital home, and the
treatment of the gifts received from Michael's aunt and
uncle. In March 2016, following trial, the district court
entered its decree of dissolution. The district court adopted
the valuation of Leo's Italian Restaurant provided by
Lori's expert, adopted Michael's valuation of the
marital home, and found it would be inequitable not to
include a substantial portion of the gifts and inheritances
in the division of the assets. In the decree, the ...