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In re Marriage of Mathis

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF STEVEN J. MATHIS AND DANA P. MATHIS Upon the Petition of STEVEN J. MATHIS, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning DANA P. MATHIS, n/k/a DANA P. WELSH, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Allamakee County, John J. Bauercamper, Judge.

         Respondent appeals the district court decision denying her request to modify the physical care and child support provisions of the parties' dissolution decree. AFFIRMED.

          Erik W. Fern of Putnam, Fern & Thompson Law Office, P.L.L.C., Decorah, for appellant.

          Laura J. Parrish of Miller, Pearson, Gloe, Burns, Beatty & Parrish, P.L.C., Decorah, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Dana Welsh, formerly known as Dana Mathis, appeals the district court decision denying her request to modify the physical care and child support provisions of the parties' dissolution decree. We affirm the district court's decision denying the request to modify the current joint physical care arrangement to grant Dana physical care of the children. We also find the evidence did not support a deviation from the child support guidelines. We find the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Dana's request for trial attorney fees. Both parties request appellate attorney fees, and we deny their requests. We affirm the decision of the district court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Steven Mathis and Dana were previously married. They are the parents of six children. On October 26, 2011, the parties entered into a stipulation providing they would have joint legal custody of the children and joint physical care. The parties lived next door to each other in Lansing, Iowa, and agreed to exchange the children on alternating weeks. Steven agreed to pay child support of $700 per month for the six children and to maintain health insurance for them. The district court incorporated the parties' stipulation into the dissolution decree.

         On May 18, 2015, Dana filed a petition requesting modification of the physical care and child support provisions of the dissolution decree. She claimed the children spent most of their time with her and asked to have the children placed in her physical care. She also requested Steven pay a greater amount of child support even if there was no modification of physical care. In response, Steven asked to have his child support obligation reduced. In addition, Steven filed an application seeking to have Dana found in contempt for failing to send the children to stay at his house during the times specified in the decree.

         A hearing was held on September 28-29, 2016. The oldest child was no longer a minor.[1] Dana was forty-four years old at the time of the hearing. She was employed as a part-time waitress and expected to earn about $19, 000 per year. Dana testified the children spent the majority of their time at her house and she paid for most of their expenses. Steven was forty-seven years old at the time of the hearing. He was employed as a warehouse supervisor at Cabela's in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and had annual income of $52, 000. Steven testified Dana was not cooperative in sending the children over to his house.

         The district court denied the request to modify the physical care provision of the dissolution decree. The court found, "The evidence presented is not sufficient to carry the burden of proof in favor of a change in custody or placement." The court determined Steven's child support obligation for five children should be $490 per month, with the amount decreasing as the number of minor children was reduced over time. The court denied Steven's request to have Dana found to be in contempt, stating there was no evidence she willfully denied Steven his parenting time with the children. Dana now appeals the decision of the district court.

         II. Standard of Review

         In this equitable action, our review is de novo. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. "In equity cases, especially when considering the credibility of witnesses, the court gives weight to the fact findings of the district court, but is not bound by them." Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g). Our controlling consideration is the best ...


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