IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MARY J. NELSON AND KENNETH L. NELSON Upon the Petition of MARY J. NELSON, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning KENNETH L. NELSON, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Mitchell County, Colleen D.
former husband appeals the property division and spousal
support provisions of the decree that dissolved his marriage
to his former wife.
R. Murphy of Walk & Murphy, P.L.C., Osage, for appellant.
J. Nelson, St. Ansgar, appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.
Nelson appeals certain provisions of the decree that
dissolved his marriage to Mary Nelson. Kenneth claims the
district court's property division and award of spousal
support is inequitable.
Background Facts and Proceedings
born in 1958, and Mary, born in 1961, were married in 1981
and made their marital home in St. Ansgar. Throughout the
marriage, Kenneth and Mary worked a farming operation that
included both livestock and crops. Kenneth performed most of
the labor, in cooperation with his family members. Mary
handled bookkeeping for the farming operation up to the time
of their separation in 2011 and helped with labor
occasionally. Kenneth also worked fulltime at St. Ansgar
August 25, 2011, Mary filed a petition to dissolve the
marriage, seeking an equitable property distribution and
spousal support. Prior to trial, the district court entered
multiple orders relating to temporary matters that awarded
Mary between $1500 and $2000 per month in temporary spousal
occurred over five days in August 2013 and September 2013.
After trial, the court left the record open so the parties
could supplement their financial records; the parties did so
up to March 5, 2014. On December 26, 2014, the court entered
an order that concluded the record was still incomplete and
again reopened the record for further supplementation based
on the court's specific requests. The order also
increased Mary's temporary spousal support award to $2300
per month. One day of trial was held on the re-opened record
on May 5, 2015. On December 31, 2015, the court entered a
decree that dissolved the parties' marriage but left the
findings of fact, conclusions of law, and resolution of the
property-distribution and spousal-support issues for a later
time of trial, Mary was living with her mother and was
working part time in a seasonal agricultural job. Kenneth
continued to live in the marital home with a paramour,
remained employed at St. Ansgar Mills, and continued farming
both individually and informally with other family members.
January 15, 2016, the court entered a supplement decree. The
court accepted the parties' stipulation to the existence
and value of many of the marital assets although the sheer
passage of time since the first day of trial caused great
fluctuations in values, as well as the existence of many
assets. Regarding the categorization and valuation of several
disputed assets, the court noted: "The longstanding
sharing, trading, and in-kind transfers between Ken and his
family members render determination difficult. Compounding
the difficulty is the less-than-forthcoming testimony offered
by Ken and his family members." The court repeated its
skepticism regarding Kenneth's testimony in valuing
several of the disputed assets.
dividing the marital property, the court, while concluding
Mary had overstated some valuations, agreed with Mary's
claim Kenneth had dissipated marital assets:
There is sufficient evidence for me to conclude that, whether
innocently or maliciously, Ken failed to disclose all of the
marital assets under his control for purposes of appraisal,
the parties' stipulation, or presentation to the court.
His testimony was vague and obtuse about information that
would have clarified assets or values. He and his family,
before and during the separation, engaged in a variety of