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In re Marriage of Tripp

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 19, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF PATRICIA SUE TRIPP AND CRAIG ALAN TRIPP Upon the Petition of PATRICIA SUE TRIPP, Petitioner-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, And Concerning CRAIG ALAN TRIPP, Respondent-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Gregory W. Steensland, Judge.

         The husband appeals, and the wife cross-appeals, from the decree dissolving their marriage.

          Thomas D. Hanson and Regan E. Wilson of Dickinson, Mackaman, Tyler & Hagen, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          J.C. Salvo of Salvo, Deren, Schenck, Gross, Swain & Argotsinger, P.C., Harlan, for appellee.

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

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         Craig Tripp appeals, and Patricia Tripp cross-appeals, from the decree dissolving their marriage. Craig maintains the equalization payment he was ordered to pay Patricia-$200, 890-is inequitable and should be reduced by $100, 000. As part of his justification, he maintains the district court over-valued the marital home that was awarded to him. Additionally, Craig claims he should have been awarded the entirety of his pension. On cross-appeal, Patricia challenges the numbers the court used in the formula to determine her portion of Craig's pension. She asks that we otherwise affirm the decree and award her appellate attorney fees.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Patricia and Craig were married in 1988. They had two children during their marriage, who were both adults by the time Patricia filed for divorce in 2011.

         The district court dissolved the parties' marriage on June 6, 2013. At that time, no decision was made regarding the division of property because Craig had serious federal criminal charges pending. Craig was ultimately convicted of tax evasion involving a bar the couple owned. Patricia was not charged, and at the dissolution hearing in July 2016, Craig testified Patricia had not been involved. Additionally, Craig testified the back taxes, interest, and penalty that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) levied as a result of the conviction was solely his obligation. Craig's attorney made a professional statement that it was estimated Craig owed $174, 000 to the government, based on $86, 000 in back taxes, a 75% fraud penalty, and the compounding interest on the debt. However, when the court asked if Craig was precluded from negotiating the amount with the IRS, his attorney stated, "No, I don't mean to say that we're not going to have a scrap with them, Your Honor." When the court reiterated that the amount was "not a done deal yet, " counsel responded, "Well, it sure isn't, as far as I'm concerned."

         At trial, the parties agreed each had received some inheritance from their parents and they agreed on the value of all properties bought during the marriage, except that of the marital home. Patricia opined the home was worth $130, 000. She reached that opinion after considering the assessed value- $80, 751-and the recommended listing price from the "market analysis" completed by a third party-$149, 583. Craig testified the marital home was worth $65, 000. He stated the home was one of the oldest ones in the area and needed new siding and windows. He also testified the house next door was then for sale, that it had the same size lot with "a lot nicer" house, it was listed at $130, 000, and no one had looked at it yet.

         During Craig's testimony, he mentioned that he had a pension through his employer. The pension had not been listed on any of his financial disclosures, and Patricia testified she was unaware that Craig had it. Patricia requested a share of the pension during her testimony.

         The district court entered the "decree of dissolution of marriage" on September 12, 2016. It set aside as non-marital property both parties' inheritances as well as the undetermined amount Craig owed the IRS. In setting aside the debt, the court noted it believed the $174, 000 estimate was "artificially high, " as Craig had not yet tried to negotiate for a lower amount. The court also found

the payment of these back taxes is due entirely to conduct of Craig, and equity demands that he should pay it. As previously stated, he will have every opportunity to negotiate this to a potentially lower figure. Whether he is able to do ...

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