IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF ANGELA MAY THOMAS AND STEVEN RAY THOMAS Upon the Petition of ANGELA MAY THOMAS, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning STEVEN RAY THOMAS, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Jasper County, Randy V.
husband appeals from the economic provisions of the
parties' dissolution decree. AFFIRMED.
S. Kaplan and C. Aron Vaughn of Kaplan & Frese, L.L.P.,
Marshalltown, for appellant.
W. Otto of Otto Law Office, P.L.L.C., Newton, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.
Thomas appeals from the economic provisions of the decree
dissolving his marriage to Angela Thomas. In response, Angela
asks us to affirm the district court's decree and award
her $2500 in appellate attorney fees.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
and Steven were married in May 2009, when they were
approximately thirty-five and forty-four years old,
has a high school degree and "some college." He has
been unemployed at times during his adult life, but he has
been employed generally in the construction industry. At the
time the parties were married, Steven had been recently
injured at a construction job; he was receiving $1400 each
month in worker's compensation benefits as well as some
unemployment benefits. After the parties married, Steven
underwent surgery for his back injury; he has not returned to
work since. He testified he remains in
"considerable" pain and is able to work "only
intermittently." In 2011, Steven received a lump sum
settlement of $200, 000 that was placed in the parties'
joint account. By the time of the dissolution
hearing-September 2016-the settlement funds had been
exhausted. Steven testified he has no income and no way to
support himself; he intended to apply for Social Security
Disability but was advised to wait until after the
dissolution proceedings were completed.
works approximately twenty hours per week stocking shelves at
a local grocery store and earns approximately $12, 000
annually. Angela is in good health; however, she has a
sixteen-year-old son (from a previous relationship) with
severe physical and intellectual disabilities who requires
around-the-clock care. Angela was receiving approximately
$745 per month in Social Security benefits on behalf of her
son until sometime in 2014 or 2015, when Social Security
informed Angela it was seeking approximately $25, 000 from
her for overpayment of benefits. While there is a dispute
over whether Angela reported Steven's lump sum settlement
to Social Security when he received it in 2011, it is
undisputed the debt was caused by the receipt of the
settlement funds. Once the debt is paid, Angela will begin
receiving monthly benefits again, but she receives nothing
while the outstanding debt remains. She testified she
currently has no way to pay the debt.
the parties knew each other, Angela's parents bought the
home next door to their own. They intended for Angela and her
son to live there so they could help her when she needed
them. The parents put $3000 down and financed $27, 000 in the
form of a mortgage. Angela was responsible for making the
monthly mortgage payments. Additionally, before Angela moved
in, Angela's parents spent approximately $15, 000 on
updates and repairs, including putting in a new furnace,
replacing all of the windows, and fixing a water line. The
home has been made accessible for Angela's son by adding
a ramp and installing a shower into which his wheelchair can
be rolled directly.
part of the $200, 000 settlement, Steven and Angela paid off
the remaining mortgage on the home-approximately $21, 500-and
paid Angela's parents $5000. Steven estimated the parties
spent another $50, 000 in additional repairs and renovations
to the home, including redoing the kitchen and a bathroom and
adding insulation. In his pretrial report, Steven claimed he
had completed $50, 000 worth of labor on the home.
Nevertheless, at the time of trial, the home was worth $66,
the parties bought a second property, which they intended to
"flip." They spent $16, 500 purchasing the home in
a foreclosure action and at the time of trial, the home was
worth $34, 000. Steven testified the home could not be sold
without further work completed because in its current state,
it did not qualify for a mortgage. Steven did not testify as
to the amount of money spent on repairing the home,
he claimed in his pretrial report that he had "put in
hundreds of hours of sweat equity on [the] property." He
believed the home ...