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Petersen v. Nielsen

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 6, 2017

REESE R. PETERSEN, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
STACIA M. NIELSEN, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, Marlita A. Greve, Judge.

         A father appeals the physical care and visitation provisions of a paternity decree. AFFIRMED.

          James D. Bruhn of Farwell & Bruhn, Clinton, for appellant.

          Robert J. McGee of Robert J. McGee, P.C., Clinton, for appellee.

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

          BOWER, Judge.

         Reese Petersen appeals the physical care and visitation provisions of a paternity decree. We find the district court properly placed physical care of the parties' two children with Stacea Nielsen. We make no adjustments to the visitation schedule. We do not address Reese's claim regarding the no-contact order. We affirm the decision of the district court. We determine Stacea should be awarded $4800 for appellate attorney fees.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Reese and Stacea previously lived together but never married. They are the parents of two children, L.R.P., born in 2014, and W.R.P., born in 2016.[1] The parties separated prior to the birth of W.R.P. On May 6, 2016, Reese filed a petition to establish paternity of the two children.

         The parties initially had a joint physical care arrangement for L.R.P. but this caused the child behavioral problems. On August 9, 2016, the parents entered into a stipulated temporary order placing the children in the physical care of Stacea and granting Reese visitation. The order provided the parents "shall have no personal contact with one another except for exchanging the children."

         The paternity hearing was held on October 18, 2016. Reese, who was then thirty years old, was the sole practitioner in a chiropractic clinic. Stacea was twenty-six years old at the time of the hearing and was employed as an occupational therapist. Reese has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder, and takes medication for his condition. Stacea testified Reese did not function very well when he did not take his medication. She also testified Reese sometimes exhibited aggressive behavior. There was an incident while Stacea was pregnant with W.R.P., where Reese and Stacea were in a tussle on the floor, Reese would not get off of Stacea's abdomen, and she bit him on the back so he would get up. Stacea obtained a protective order after an incident where Reese pushed Stacea into a corner while she was holding W.R.P. and yelled at her.

         After the parties separated, Reese would often go to the children's daycare, which was operated by Stacea's relatives, and sit in the kitchen area. He would cry and discuss his relationship with Stacea, keeping the daycare providers from their jobs watching the children. Eventually, the daycare obtained a restraining order to keep Reese from the premises.

         The district court entered an order on December 7, 2016. The court found Stacea's testimony to be more credible than Reece's testimony. The court granted the parties joint legal custody and placed the children in Stacea's physical care. The court found joint physical care would be inappropriate based on the parties' inability to communicate and Reese's history of domestic abuse. The court noted Stacea had been the children's primary caretaker. Reese was granted visitation on alternating weekends, one night during the week, alternating holidays, and two weeks in the summer.[2] He was ordered to pay child support for the children. Reese now appeals the district court's decision.

         II. ...


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