IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF AMANDA ABD EL KRIM AND MOHAMED KHALIL AMIN Upon the Petition of AMANDA ABD EL KRIM, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning MOHAMED KHALIL AMIN, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Story County, John J. Haney,
Dale E. Ruigh, and James A. McGlynn, Judges.
Egyptian father contests the Iowa court's jurisdiction
over the dissolution of his marriage and related custody and
property issues. AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.
B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, P.C.,
West Des Moines, for appellant.
Kathryn E. Davis, Cedar Rapids, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
divorce appeal, we consider the arguments of an Egyptian
citizen contesting the jurisdiction of the Iowa courts to
consider his ex-wife's petition. Mohamed Khalil Amin
challenges the decree dissolving his marriage to Amanda Abd
El Krim, alleging the district court lacked subject matter
jurisdiction under the residency requirement at Iowa Code
section 598.5(1)(k) (2013) and the Uniform Child-Custody
Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), codified in Iowa
Code chapter 598B. If we find jurisdiction, Mohamed asks us
to modify the decree's provisions on the following
issues: custody, visitation, child support, spousal support,
and the property award. Finally, Mohamed seeks attorney fees
and court costs.
threshold claims, we conclude the Iowa district court had
jurisdiction to dissolve this marriage and decide the related
custody and property issues. Accepting the strong credibility
findings reached by the district court in the decree, we
affirm the decree in all but one respect. We modify the
decree's visitation provision to incorporate the more
specific language used in the order on temporary
matters-allowing only supervised visitation in Iowa. We
decline Mohamed's request for fees and costs.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
2009, Amanda and Mohamed were married in Alexandria, Egypt.
The family moved temporarily to Dubai, United Arab Emirates,
where Mohamed worked as a computer systems engineer. Amanda
testified the parties were still citizens of Egypt while
living in Dubai. Mohamed testified: "Dubai is not a
permanent place for me to live. Just for job." They
travelled to the United States in the spring of 2010 and
lived in Chicago when their son, A.M.A., was born in May
2010. A few weeks after his birth, they returned
to Dubai. Mohamed is a citizen of Egypt. Amanda's parents
are Egyptian, but she was born in New York and, therefore,
has dual citizenship. Because A.M.A was born in the United
States, he also has dual American and Egyptian citizenship.
and Mohamed separated in October 2011 while living in Dubai.
Amanda returned with A.M.A. to Egypt for three months before
moving to Iowa in December 2011. Amanda testified she
resettled in the Midwest because Chicago was the only place
she had lived in the United States: "I chose Iowa
because it's the same culture but less expensive,
family-oriented. I can raise a kid here and also to go to
school." Mohamed testified Amanda came to Iowa because
she was romantically involved with an old college classmate
from Egypt who was obtaining a degree here. In January 2012,
Mohamed came to the United States.
and Mohamed are both well-educated. Amanda, who was
twenty-nine years old at the time of this dissolution action,
received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of
Alexandria. She testified her Egyptian degree was not
recognized in this country, so she enrolled in pre-med
classes at Iowa State University. Mohamed, who was
thirty-nine years old, has an engineering degree and has
worked in high-paying jobs in the computer industry.
to Amanda's testimony, A.M.A. has been diagnosed on the
autism spectrum and has experienced developmental delays. At
trial, Amanda attributed A.M.A.'s "birth
defects" to physical abuse inflicted by Mohamed during
her pregnancy. She has sought therapy and clinical services
for A.M.A in Iowa, and those interventions have improved his
ability to interact with others.
September 16, 2013, Amanda filed a petition for separate
maintenance, seeking sole custody of A.M.A., as well as child
and spousal support. The petition alleged Mohamed resided in
California. Mohamed was adamant the petition should not go
forward in the Iowa courts. He filed at least six separate
motions to dismiss. When the district court denied those
motions, Mohamed asked for appellate review, which the
supreme court repeatedly denied as interlocutory.
of his motions to dismiss, filed November 6, 2013, Mohamed
alleged Amanda provided inaccurate information in her
petition, specifically that no custody proceedings were
pending in any other state. The motion alleged custody
litigation was pending in the parties' home country of
Egypt, and under Iowa Code section 598B.105, the Iowa
district court was to treat a foreign country as if it were a
state and apply the UCCJEA articles concerning jurisdiction.
At a December 9, 2013 evidentiary hearing, Amanda testified
she filed for "a divorce of hardship" through her
mother acting as power of attorney in early 2012. But because
the courts in Egypt were not functioning properly and she had
not returned to that country since December 2011, she had
dismissed that action.
January 31, 2014, the district court denied the motion to
because A.M.A. has been residing with his mother in Iowa for
more than the last year, Iowa is the child's "home
state" for purposes of litigation over his custody. Iowa
Code section 598B.102(7). Accordingly, Iowa has jurisdiction
to make an initial custody determination regarding A.M.A.
Iowa Code section 598B.201(1)(a). No impediment to Iowa's
jurisdiction exists under the circumstances described in Iowa
Code section 598B.206.
September 16, 2015, the district court issued an order on
temporary matters. The order stated, due to Mohamed's
"obstinate and obstructionist pleadings, appeals, and
legal maneuvering, " Amanda's 2014 "application
for an order on temporary matters could not be heard until
August 15, 2015." The court found Mohamed (1) "has
worked in high-paying jobs in the computer industry in the
United States and Egypt, but he claims he is unemployed at
this time" and (2) "strongly believes his child
should be with him and the custody and visitation issues
should be addressed in Egypt since he is an Egyptian
citizen." The court also stated:
Mohamed's current whereabouts cannot be verified to the
Court's satisfaction, Mohamed has had no contact with the
child for at least two years and as long as three years,
there is no showing that Mohamed has provided support of any
kind in any amount for Amanda or for A.M.A., through his
legal maneuvering Mohamed has avoided the imposition of a
child support order for two years, and Mohamed is now a
stranger to his child.
court placed temporary legal custody and physical care with
Amanda and ordered any visitation to be supervised. The court
also ordered Mohamed to pay temporary child support of $114
November 3, 2015, Amanda moved for leave to amend the
petition, requesting to dissolve the marriage rather than to
establish separate maintenance. The court granted her motion
on November 4, 2015, and set the matter for a trial
scheduling conference. Trial was set for May 4, 2016. On
April 21, 2016, Mohamed filed another motion to dismiss and a
motion to continue the trial. He alleged for the first time
that the parties' marriage had been "previously
dissolved in Dubai in 2012." At a hearing on the motion
to dismiss, Amanda testified she first learned of the Dubai
divorce in 2015 when a friend did a record search in that
country and sent her a copy. Mohamed asserted the Dubai
divorce only terminated the parties' marital status and
could not resolve child custody and support issues. In an
order denying the motion to dismiss, the district court
At most, the Dubai decree is a termination of the marriage
status. It does not claim to determine child custody,
visitation or support. It does not claim to determine spousal
support, or property division. [Mohamed's] repeated
assertions that the parties remained wife and husband for
more than a year after the Dubai decree was entered casts
serious doubt on whether that decree was actually a divorce
as that term is understood in Iowa. Even if it was, the
issues relating to the child remain and must be resolved.
district court held a dissolution trial on August 10, 2016.
Amanda appeared in person and testified she believed that
Mohamed currently lived and worked in California. She also
presented evidence Mohamed bought a house for $655, 000 in
San Jose, California, in September 2014. Mohamed appeared by
telephone, claiming he currently lived in Egypt, was
"not able to get employment, " and was
"struggling and hunting for opportunities." When
asked whether he held title to the California house, Mohamed
I don't know if-it's my friend's house so I
don't know all my liabilities on this house. I give it to
him. I don't know-we already signed this in Dubai. He was
overseas. I tell you I don't know. I work with agent.
I'm not aware of the real estate. I'm not from U.S. I
just make-provide the paper. I got permission on having to
receive the loan for this home so I don't know.
question of custody, Mohamed testified he was not able to
come to the United States to see A.M.A., so he
"expect[ed] the child to be in Egypt." He testified
that he was living in Cairo at time of trial with a new wife
and they were expecting a baby.
September 8, 2016, the district court issued the dissolution
decree. The court concluded Amanda met the residency
requirements for obtaining an Iowa divorce. The district
court did not find Mohamed to be credible, concluding he had
been "caught in a web of lies." The court expressed
grave skepticism concerning Mohamed's ...