from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Douglas F.
father appeals the district court's grant of physical
care of his minor child to the child's mother. AFFIRMED.
Matthew G. Sease of Kemp & Sease, Des Moines, for
S. Rieper of Rieper Law, P.C., Des Moines, for appellee.
by Vogel, P.J. and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.
Hyde, Sr., (Justin) and Ontaria Mann (Ontaria) are the
never-married parents of J.D.H.J. In the fall of 2015, Justin
filed a petition to establish paternity, custody, visitation,
and support. Justin sought physical care of J.D.H.J. The
district court granted the parties joint legal custody of
J.D.H.J. and awarded Ontaria physical care of the child.
Justin timely filed this appeal.
and Ontaria met in 2008 and moved in together in 2009. The
relationship was not healthy. The couple separated shortly
after Ontaria became pregnant. After the parties separated,
Justin moved back to his hometown, Dallas, Texas. Justin
returned to Iowa for Ontaria's scheduled delivery.
Ontaria gave birth to J.D.H.J. in March 2010. Justin remained
with Ontaria and J.D.H.J. for several days after birth and
then returned to Texas. Over the next year, Justin returned
to Iowa several times to visit with J.D.H.J. Justin testified
he and Ontaria exercised shared physical care of the child in
three-month intervals starting around the time of the
child's first birthday. The record does not support this
claim. Instead, it appears Justin exercised extraordinary
visitation with the child prior to the time the child started
school. After J.D.H.J. began school, J.D.H.J. spent the
school year with Ontaria and summer and holiday breaks with
time of trial, Ontaria was employed in the Hy-Vee pharmacy
department. She commenced that employment shortly after
Justin filed this action. Before obtaining employment at
Hy-Vee, Ontaria worked as an exotic dancer and attempted to
start a catering business. Prior to her employment with
Hy-Vee, her earnings history is unknown. She did not provide
any documentation or testimony regarding her income. Nor did
she file any tax returns. She testified she did not file tax
returns because of her embarrassment about her past
profession. It appears from the record she received public
assistance in the form of housing and food stamps. At the
time of trial, Ontaria had a suspended license. She testified
she continued to drive, however- sometimes with J.D.H.J. in
time of trial, Ontaria resided in a single-family home on the
south side of Des Moines. It appears Ontaria was living in
public housing until after the time Justin filed this action.
At her new residence, J.D.H.J. has his own room and a yard to
play in. Ontaria's sister lives nearby and helps care for
J.D.H.J. when Ontaria is at work. J.D.H.J. often plays with
Ontaria's sister's children. Ontaria's
sister-in-law also lives in the area and helps Ontaria by
providing her with a car and assisting with care for J.D.H.J.
Ontaria's mother has an active role in J.D.H.J.'s
daily life. She usually picks him up from school and watches
him until Ontaria returns home from work. J.D.H.J. regularly
attends church with his family. Ontaria also has an older
daughter, who spends the majority of her time in Burlington
with her father.
recently went to school to get his x-ray technician's
license and, at the time of trial, worked as a limited x-ray
technician. Previously, Justin worked odd jobs and welded for
his grandfather. In 2013, Justin was ordered to pay child
support. As of trial, he had paid $894 in support out of the
has criminal history. In 2004, Justin pleaded guilty to
assault causing injury after getting into a fight. Justin was
placed on probation, which he violated. In 2011 or 2012,
Justin was arrested and charged with several drug trafficking
offenses, including distribution of cocaine and marijuana. In
2015, to resolve the charges, Justin pleaded guilty to
attempted possession of a controlled substance. He admitted
he bought and sold prescription medications, including cancer
medications he stole from his maternal aunt. He was placed on
probation, which he violated on several occasions when he
tested positive for marijuana. As a result, Justin was jailed
for six days. At the time he was jailed, J.D.H.J. was in his
physical care. While in jail on his probation violation,
Justin got into an altercation with a detention officer and
threatened to kill him. Also, while still detained on his
probation violation, Justin became upset and broke a
sprinkler head off of the fire suppression system and flooded
the jail. He was charged with and pleaded guilty to criminal
offenses arising out of these two incidents.
lives with his fiancée in a single family home in the
Dallas area. Justin has another son from a prior relationship
who is in his physical care. J.D.H.J. tries to emulate his
half-brother, who is three years older. Justin's parents
and grandparents also take an active role in J.D.H.J.'s
life and provide care for J.D.H.J. At times, Justin's
parents even transported J.D.H.J. between Iowa ...