from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Gregory A.
father appeals the visitation schedule set by the district
court in its order concerning custody, arguing the court
should have followed the parties' agreement. AFFIRMED.
A. Simons of Simons Law Firm, PLC, West Des Moines, for
D. Goedicke of Cooper, Goedicke, Reimer, & Reese, PC,
West Des Moines, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.
Nayou is the mother and Sao Mansaray is the father of three
minor children. Following a trial in August 2016, the
district court entered its custody order placing the
parties' children in Angeline's physical care. The
order set forth a visitation schedule the court found would
assure the children continue to have maximum physical and
emotional contact with both parents while providing the
children stability in their lives. In so finding, the court
did not follow the parties' agreement concerning a
summer-visitation schedule, which essentially provided the
parties would have joint physical care of the children during
the children's summer break.
appeals the decree's visitation schedule, asserting
"the district court erred in refusing to accept the
parties' pretrial stipulation regarding their summer
schedule" and "in reducing Sao's regular
visitation." He notes that the district court, in going
against the stipulation, cited the parties' strained and
ineffective communication, but he argues he and Angeline
have, "on several occasions, agreed to and abided by a
joint physical care parenting schedule." He also claims
the district court's concern "about a domestic
violence incident that occurred in 2008 . . . should not be
determinative of what is in the children's best interest
in light of all [the] other factors."
review the reasonableness of the district court's
visitation award de novo. See Callender v. Skiles,
623 N.W.2d 852, 854 (Iowa 2001); see also Iowa R.
App. P. 6.907. However, we recognize that the district court
was able to listen to and observe the parties and witnesses.
See McKee v. Dicus, 785 N.W.2d 733, 736 (Iowa Ct.
App. 2010). We therefore give considerable weight to the
court's findings of fact, but we are not bound by them.
See Callender, 623 N.W.2d at 856.
child custody cases, the best interests of the [children] is
the first and governing consideration." Yarolem v.
Ledford, 529 N.W.2d 297, 298 (Iowa Ct. App. 1994).
Generally, the children's best interests are served by
liberal visitation. See In re Marriage of Stepp, 485
N.W.2d 846, 849 (Iowa Ct. App. 1992). Although Iowa Code
section 598.41(1)(a) (2016) directs courts to reach a custody
determination with liberal visitation that "will assure
the child the opportunity for the maximum continuing physical
and emotional contact with both parents, " that
directive is in the context of what "is reasonable and
in the best interest of the [children]." See also
Callender, 623 N.W.2d at 855-56.
considering the factors enumerated in Iowa Code section
598.41, as well as other nonexclusive factors enumerated in
In re Marriage of Winter, 223 N.W.2d 165, 166-67
(Iowa 1974), see In re Marriage of Hansen, 733
N.W.2d 683, 696 (Iowa 2007); Callender, 623 N.W.2d
at 856, we affirm the district court's visitation
schedule. Here, the district court explicitly found Sao was
less credible than Angeline. The court's order noted
Angeline also testified to another, more recent incident of
domestic violence between the parties, not just the criminal
incident in 2008. In addition to domestic violence by Sao,
the record supports the district court's determination
that Sao provided minimal assistance in the children's
care and support. These factors, along with the strained
communication between the parties-including communication of
medical issues-support the court's determination that a
more limited visitation schedule was in the children's
best interests. We note the visitation schedule set forth in
the order is the minimum period of visitation allowed; the
parties may agree to a more expansive visitation schedule and
are expected to actively encourage positive relations between
the other parent and the children. See In re Marriage of
Toedter, 473 N.W.2d 233, 235 (Iowa. Ct. App. 1991).
Because we believe the visitation schedule entered by the
court is in the children's best interests, we affirm the
visitation awarded by the district court.
requests appellate attorney fees. Whether to award appellate
attorney fees is within our discretion. See Markey v.
Carney, 705 N.W.2d 13, 26-27 (Iowa 2005). An award of
appellate attorney fees depends on three factors: (1) the
needs of the party making the request, (2) the ability of the
other party to pay, and (3) whether the party making the
request was obligated to defend the trial court's
decision on appeal. Id. After ...