IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF CAROL A. TINKER AND GEOFFRY A. TINKER Upon the Petition of CAROL A. TINKER, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning GEOFFRY A. TINKER, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Andrea J.
appeals from the district court's entry of a qualified
domestic relations order. REVERSED AND
D. Engels of Correll, Sheerer, Benson, Engels, Galles &
Demro, PLC, Cedar Falls, for appellant.
A. Tinker, Waterloo, appellee.
Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
case involves a challenge to a qualified domestic relations
order (QDRO). The QDRO at issue divided an account in the
Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System (IPERS) pursuant
to the decree dissolving the marriage of Geoffry and Carol
Tinker. On appeal, Geoffry contends the QDRO impermissibly
modified the dissolution decree in directing Geoffry to
select a particular IPERS benefit option, designate Carol as
the beneficiary of his preretirement death benefit, and name
Carol as a contingent annuitant. Our review of equitable
proceedings is de novo. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907;
In re Marriage of Morris, 810 N.W.2d 880, 885 (Iowa
2012) (stating review of QDRO is de novo); Wilker v.
Wilker, 630 N.W.2d 590, 594 (Iowa 2001).
relevant facts are few. The parties married in 1995 and
divorced in 2016. Some of the issues related to the
dissolution of the parties' marriage were resolved by
pretrial stipulation and other issues were resolved following
trial to the district court. One of the issues resolved by
pretrial stipulation was the division of Geoffry's and
Carol's respective retirement accounts.
With respect to Geoffry's IPERS account, the pretrial
The parties further agree that the proceeds of Geoffry's
IPERS plan shall be divided pursuant to the Benson
formula, with Carol receiving a fraction of Geoffry's
IPERS plan equal to the following: 50% of the gross monthly
or lump sum distribution payable to the member, multiplied by
a 'service factor' where the numerator is the number
of quarters covered during the marriage period of 12/23/95
through the date the Decree is entered in this matter and the
denominator is the member's total quarters of service
covered by IPERS and used in calculating the member's
trial, the district court stated it accepted the stipulation
and would incorporate it into the terms of the decree. With
respect to Geoffry's IPERS account, the decree provided:
Carol is awarded an interest in Geoffry's IPERS plan
benefits. Pursuant to the Benson formula, Carol
shall receive an amount or amounts equal to fifty percent
(50%) of a fraction ("service factor") of the gross
monthly or lump sum distribution(s) payable to Geoffry under
the plan. The numerator of the fraction ("service
factor") shall be the number of quarters covered during
the marriage, not to exceed the denominator of the fraction,
which shall be Geoffry's total quarters of service
covered by IPERS and used in calculating Geoffry's
distribution amount. Carol's attorney shall prepare a
Qualified Domestic Relations Order transferring this interest
in Geoffry's IPERS plan benefits to Carol, which shall be
approved as to form by Geoffry's attorney and presented
to the court for approval within 90 days of the date this
decree is filed.
parties were unable to agree to the language of the QDRO.
Specifically, Geoffry objected to proposed language requiring
him to select a particular benefit distribution option,
requiring him to designate Carol as the beneficiary of the
preretirement death benefit, and requiring him to designate
Carol as the contingent annuitant of the retirement benefit.
On Carol's motion to approve the QDRO, the district court
resolved the dispute in favor of Carol, concluding the
proposed language accomplished the intent and purpose of the
decree. Geoffry timely filed this appeal.
relevant inquiry is the intent of the district court. "A
stipulation and settlement in a dissolution proceeding is a
contract between the parties." In re Marriage of
Jones, 653 N.W.2d 589, 593 (Iowa 2002). However,
"the parties' stipulation is not binding on the
court, as the court has the responsibility to determine
'whether the provisions upon which the parties have
agreed constitute an appropriate and legally approved method
of disposing of the contested issues.'" Id.
(citation omitted). Consequently, once the court enters a
decree adopting the stipulation, "[t]he decree, not the
stipulation, determines what rights the parties have."
Id. at 594. "Therefore, in ...