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In re Marriage of Van Genderen

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 21, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JANA JA VAN GENDEREN AND MICHAEL LEE VAN GENDEREN Upon the Petition of JANA JA VAN GENDEREN, Petitioner-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, And Concerning MICHAEL LEE VAN GENDEREN, Respondent-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jasper County, Richard B. Clogg, Judge.

         Respondent appeals the parties' dissolution decree on the issues of property division, spousal support, child support, and guardian ad litem fees. Petitioner cross-appeals. AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.

          Matthew B. Moore of The Law Offices of Matthew B. Moore, P.L.L.C., Oskaloosa, for appellant.

          Andrew B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellee.

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

          BOWER, Judge.

         Mike Van Genderen appeals the parties' dissolution decree on the issues of property division, spousal support, child support, and guardian ad litem fees. Jana Van Genderen cross-appeals, claiming both spousal and child support payments should be increased and requesting appellate attorney fees. We affirm the district court as modified.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Jana and Mike Van Genderen were divorced on March 17, 2016, after seven and a half years of marriage, including nearly a one-year separation. By agreement, Jana was granted physical care of the parties' children subject to Mike's visitation rights. The dissolution decree also divided the parties' property, established spousal and child support, and assessed court costs and guardian ad litem fees.

         In the dissolution decree, the district court set out the testimony of the parties regarding the value of property. However, on many items, including personal property removed from the marital residence by Jana, the corporation owned by Mike, and the marital residence and adjacent shop, the district court did not make a conclusive finding of value, but simply disposed of the property to one party or the other. On other items, the district court entered valuations that did not specify the amount of marital appreciation, assigned values corresponding to documents dated years before the trial even though more up-to-date valuations were provided, and noted it would not consider assets Mike had liquidated during the marriage to pay debts. The district court also granted Jana spousal support in the amount of $500 per month for thirty-six months. The district court required Mike to pay child support of $908.06 per month for two children and $657.79 when only one child remained eligible for support.

         At Mike's request, a guardian ad litem (GAL) was appointed as the issues surrounding the children were fiercely contested prior to trial. In the decree, the district court did not explicitly state how the GAL fees should be paid but did order "the costs of this action shall be paid by Michael." Jana testified she was unable to pay the GAL fees. Mike asked the fees be divided equally between the parties.

         Following the decree, Mike filed a motion to amend and enlarge. The district court corrected some portions of the decree, amended others, and denied others, including Mike's request for the division of the GAL fees. Mike appeals, claiming the court inequitably divided the parties' property, improperly granted spousal support, improperly calculated child support, and improperly denied his request concerning the GAL fees. Jana cross-appeals, claiming spousal and child support should be increased and asking for appellate attorney fees.

         II. Standard of Review

         Our review of equitable actions is de novo. Iowa R. Civ. P. 6.907. We are bound to examine the record and adjudicate the rights of the parties anew. In re Marriage of Williams, 589 N.W.2d 759, 761 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). We will defer to the district court's determinations of credibility, as the court has a unique opportunity to hear the evidence and view the witnesses. In re Marriage of Brown, 487 N.W.2d 331, 332 (Iowa 1992).

         Regarding the allocation of court costs and GAL fees, the law "is straightforward." See German v. Metcalf, No. 09-1470, 2010 WL 1875640, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. May 12, 2010). The district court "has a large discretion in the matter of taxing costs and we will not ordinarily interfere therewith." Neubauer v. Newcomb, 423 N.W.2d 26, 27-28 (Iowa Ct. App. 1988). Therefore, in addressing those issues our standard of review is for abuse of discretion. German, 2010 WL 1875640, at *4.

         III. Property Division

         Mike claims the district court acted improperly by failing to find the value of assets or making ambiguous valuations of assets resulting in an inequitable division of the marital property. Mike claims the district court failed to make valuations for the following: (1) the personal property Jana was awarded; (2) Gendel, Inc., Mike's race promotions business; (3) the marital residence, including how much, if any, should be deducted for cracks in the basement wall; (4) Mike's workshop; and (5) the amount of debt for a car formally in Jana's possession but titled and subject to a loan in Mike's name. Mike also claims the district court made ambiguous valuations regarding: (1) Jana's premarital IRA, (2) Mike's premarital annuity and IRA, (3) Mike's mutual fund, and (4) the property equalization payment.

         Our supreme court has noted specific valuation of marital property by the district court is important "(1) to enable the reviewing court to assess whether an equitable division of property was effected; and (2) to aid the parties in better understanding their respective property awards, which would, in some cases, dispense with the need for an appeal." In re Marriage of Bonnette, 584 N.W.2d 713, 714 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). The district court failed to make sufficiently specific valuations of the marital property in this case. From the district ...


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