IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MBONGYA SALEHE AND FITINA CHARLOTTE Upon the Petition of MBONGYA SALEHE, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning FITINA CHARLOTTE, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Randy V.
former wife appeals the economic provisions of the decree
dissolving her marriage. AFFIRMED.
G. Warutere of Warutere Law Firm, P.L.L.C., Clive, for
Mbongya Salehe, appellee pro se.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
divorce appeal involves Iowa residents who married twenty
years ago while living in central Africa. Fitina Charlotte
challenges the decree dissolving her marriage to Mbongya
Salehe, claiming (1) the court inequitably divided marital
property, (2) Salehe dissipated marital assets, (3) she is
entitled to reimbursement alimony, and (4) she should receive
all, not just a portion, of her trial attorney fees.
Charlotte also seeks appellate attorney fees. Recognizing the
district court's superior ability to observe the parties
and evaluate their credibility, upon our de novo review, we
affirm. We also decline Charlotte's request for appellate
Facts and Prior Proceedings
1996, the parties were married in the country currently known
as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Because war broke out
soon after their marriage, the parties fled to a refugee camp
in Tanzania and did not live together continuously. In 2008,
Charlotte moved to the United States with her two
children. Salehe stayed in Tanzania and studied to
be a teacher, although he did not complete the program. Two
years later, Charlotte helped Salehe relocate to the United
States. Salehe lived with Charlotte and her two children in
central Iowa for about eighteen months before he moved to a
parties are employed at Tyson Foods, with Charlotte earning
$33, 000 and Salehe earning $43, 800 in 2015. Charlotte
testified she added Salehe's name to a joint checking
account and they divided some expenses, but he devoted his
earnings to helping his family members move from the refugee
camps to Kenya.
March 12, 2015, Salehe filed a petition to dissolve the
marriage. The case proceeded to trial on March 14 and 30,
2016, and the court entered a dissolution decree on April 6,
now appeals. Salehe declined to file an appellee's brief.
Scope and Standards of Review
review the challenge to the dissolution decree de novo.
See In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676
(Iowa 2013). We examine the entire record and decide anew the
legal and factual issues properly presented. See In re
Marriage of Rhinehart, 704 N.W.2d 677, 680 (Iowa 2005).
But "we recognize that the district court was able to
listen to and observe the parties and witnesses." In
re Marriage of Gensley, 777 N.W.2d 705, 713 (Iowa Ct.
App. 2009). Consequently, we give weight to the district
court's findings of fact, especially when considering
witness credibility, but we are not bound by them. See In