Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Marriage of Hute

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 2, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF VALERIE E. HUTE f/k/a VALERIE E. BAKER AND JOSEPH M. BAKER Upon the Petition of VALERIE E. HUTE f/k/a VALERIE E. BAKER, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning JOSEPH M. BAKER, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jackson County, Henry W. Latham, II, Judge.

         Former spouse appeals from the order modifying a decree of dissolution of marriage. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Bradley T. Boffeli of Boffeli & Spannagel, P.C., Maquoketa, for appellant.

          Christopher M. Soppe of Pioneer Law Office, Dubuque, for appellee.

          Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         Valerie Hute and Joseph Baker divorced in 2007. The stipulated decree provided Valerie with sole legal custody and physical care of the parties' children, V.B. and S.B., born in 2002 and 2005, respectively. Joseph was to have visitation "upon the terms and conditions established in" then-pending child-in-need-assistance proceedings. The future then came and went as futures do. The assistance proceedings closed. The parties remained in Maquoketa. Valerie maintained physical care of the children. Joseph paid child support. But Joseph never exercised visitation with the children. And Joseph never attempted to contact the children. Eventually, Joseph met and married a woman who had three children of her own, including two sons and a daughter. Joseph's stepdaughter is approximately the same age as V.B. The stepdaughter and V.B. attended the same school. Joseph testified his stepdaughter told him V.B. once asked her about Joseph. Joseph interpreted this to mean V.B. wanted to have contact with him. In December 2015, Joseph acted on his impulse; he filed a petition to modify the stipulated decree, seeking visitation with the children. The district court granted Joseph's petition, awarded the parties joint legal custody of V.B. and S.B., ordered reunification therapy for Joseph and the children, and ordered supervised visitation upon the recommendation of a counselor. Valerie timely filed this appeal.

         I.

         Our review is de novo. See In re Marriage of Pals, 714 N.W.2d 644, 646 (Iowa 2006). We review the entire record and decide anew the factual and legal issues preserved and presented for review. See In re Marriage of Williams, 589 N.W.2d 759, 761 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). "Prior cases are of little precedential value, except to provide a framework for analysis, and we must ultimately tailor our decision to the unique facts and circumstances before us." In re Marriage of Kleist, 538 N.W.2d 273, 276 (Iowa 1995) (citing In re Marriage of Will, 489 N.W.2d 394, 397 (Iowa 1992)). "Although our review is de novo, we afford deference to the district court." In re Marriage of Morrison, No. 16-0886, 2017 WL 936152, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 8, 2017).

         II.

         We first address the question of legal custody. "Legal custody . . . means an award of the rights of legal custody of a minor child to a parent under which a parent has legal custodial rights and responsibilities toward the child." Iowa Code § 598.1(5) (2015). These "[r]ights and responsibilities . . . include but are not limited to decision making affecting the child's legal status, medical care, education, extracurricular activities, and religious instruction." Id. Joint legal custody includes the right to "equal participation in decisions affecting the child's legal status, medical care, education, extracurricular activities, and religious instruction." Iowa Code § 598.1(3).

         As a general rule, a party seeking to modify the custodial provisions of a decree must prove "by a preponderance of evidence that conditions since the decree was entered have so materially and substantially changed that the children's best interests make it expedient to [change legal custody]." In re Marriage of Frederici, 338 N.W.2d 156, 158 (Iowa 1983). The material and substantial circumstances "must not have been contemplated by the court" and "must be more or less permanent, not temporary." Id. There is a narrow exception to the general rule. In some circumstances, a district court can reserve jurisdiction to modify the custodial provisions of the decree in the absence of proof of a material and substantial change in circumstances. See, e.g., In re Marriage of Ruckman, No. 13-1920, 2014 WL 3748601, at *5 (Iowa Ct. App. July 30, 2014).

         In this case, the stipulated decree provided Valerie would have sole legal custody of the children. The district court modified the stipulated decree and awarded the parties joint legal custody so Joseph could have access to the children's educational information. The district court reasoned modification of the decree's custodial provisions was warranted in the absence of a material and substantial change in circumstances because the decree reserved jurisdiction to revisit the issue. Specifically, the stipulated decree provided, "The court reserves jurisdiction to revisit issues of legal custody, physical care and visitation pending the outcome of the juvenile court proceeding set forth above." The district court also concluded there had been a material and substantial change in circumstances making a change in the custodial provisions of the decree in the best interest of the children.

         We first address the reservation of jurisdiction. Reservation of jurisdiction in child custody matters is heavily disfavored. See In re Marriage of Sjulin, 431 N.W.2d 773, 776 (Iowa 1988) (expressing "distaste for decrees that retain jurisdiction to review . . . custody"); In re Marriage of Schlenker, 300 N.W.2d 164, 165 (Iowa 1981) (stating "we have discouraged the retention of jurisdiction to modify divorce decrees without a showing of change of circumstances"); In re Marriage of Vandergaast, 573 N.W.2d 601, 602 (Iowa Ct. App. 1997) (noting "[t]rial courts should make final disposition of cases in circumstances then existing"); In re Marriage of Kurtt, 561 N.W.2d 385, 388 (Iowa Ct. App. 1997) (noting appellate courts in Iowa discourage the retention of jurisdiction). ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.