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Baker v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

MANUELA BAKER, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL R. JONES, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Edward A. Jacobson, Judge.

         A father appeals the decree that placed the parties' child in the physical care of the mother. AFFIRMED.

          Craig H. Lane, Sioux City, for appellant.

          Andrew B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, P.C., West Des Moines, and Jacquelyn Johnson of Vonnahme Law, P.C., Sioux City, for appellee.

          Heard by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         Michael Jones appeals the court's decree that granted the parties joint physical care of the parties' five-year-old son until such time as Manuela (Mandie) Baker relocates to Louisiana. When Mandie relocates, the court ordered the child to be in Mandie's physical care subject to Michael's visitation during the summer and three-day weekends during the school year. Michael contends the court should have granted him physical care of the child when Mandie moves to Louisiana because all of the child's support system is in Iowa, including the child's half-sibling. Because we agree with the district court that the child's best interests favor placing the child in Mandie's physical care if and when she moves to Louisiana, we affirm the district court's decision.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Michael and Mandie are the parents of five-year-old E.J. The parties never married, but when their romantic relationship ended in 2014, the parties agreed to joint physical care, alternating the care of E.J. on a weekly basis and agreeing no child support would be paid by either party. In November 2015, Mandie filed a petition to establish custody, visitation, and support because she anticipated relocating to Louisiana for her employment and wanted to have physical care of E.J. In response, Michael asked for the joint physical care to continue and, alternatively, requested physical care of E.J. if Mandie relocates to Louisiana.

         The case proceeded to trial in April 2016. The district court issued its decision in June, concluding in light of Mandie's proposed relocation,

joint physical care is not physically possible in this case and therefore is not appropriate. The court finds that although the parties have successfully shared joint physical care thus far in the child's life, the primary caregiver in times of need and in times of crisis for the child has always been Mandie. Although the court, like Mike, has concerns that the move to Baton Rouge will disrupt the child's life, Mandie appears to have taken into consideration every detail, and the court believes that as long as the child is with Mandie, the child will be fine. Children of such tender years are extremely flexible, and the court has no doubt that Mandie will give the child the attention needed to adjust to the move to Baton Rouge.
The court awards primary care of the minor child to [Mandie] subject to visitation with [Michael]. The court awards joint physical care of the minor child on a week-to-week basis until [Mandie] moves, at which time, the court awards her primary physical care of the minor child.

         The court granted Michael visitation from three days after the child begins his summer break from school until one week before school resumes, though Mandie was granted one weekend per month during June and July. The court also granted Michael visitation every spring break and every extended weekend during the school year when E.J. has a Monday or Friday off. In addition, Michael is allowed to exercise visitation with E.J. in Louisiana one weekend per month and two weeks during the school year. The court also ordered Mandie to pay for the cost of E.J.'s travel that she schedules for visitation. The court ordered Michael to pay child support but required Mandie to provide the health insurance for E.J. since E.J. will be living with her in Louisiana.

         Michael asserts on appeal the district court should have granted him physical care of E.J. in the event Mandie moves to Louisiana because neither Mandie nor the child has a support system in Louisiana and ...


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