from the Iowa District Court for Butler County, DeDra
Cook appeals and Tuyet Noriega cross-appeals the child
custody, visitation, and support provisions of the decree
establishing paternity, custody, visitation, and support.
Forcier of Forcier Law Office, P.L.L.C., Waterloo, for
Dorothy L. Dakin and Daniel J. Johnston of Kruse & Dakin,
L.L.P., Boone, for appellee.
by Potterfield, P.J., Mahan, S.J., [*] and Scott, S.J. *
father appeals and a mother cross-appeals from the child
custody, visitation, and support provisions of the decree
establishing paternity, custody, visitation, and support of
the parties' two children.
affirm the placement of the children in the parties'
joint legal custody and in the mother's physical care. We
modify the decree to provide the mother with the right of
first refusal to provide for the children's care when the
father's National Guard duties require his absence during
his parenting time.
Cook and Tuyet Noriega began a relationship in 2010. Their
child, A.C., was born in 2011. Although their personal
relationship deteriorated, Cook and Noriega continued to live
together, parent A.C. together, and share expenses.
2015, Cook was a police officer for the city of Waterloo,
earning about $53, 000; he was also a part-time officer for
Aplington making an hourly wage; a volunteer firefighter, for
which he is paid $100 per year; and a member of the National
Guard, for which he earned an additional $11, 400 per year
for his service. Noriega was employed at Ellsworth Community
College earning about $44, 000 per year.
29, 2015, Cook filed a petition to establish paternity,
custody, placement, and visitation of A.C. He sought shared
physical care of the child. On July 6, 2015, Noriega informed
Cook she was pregnant with their second child. Cook did not take
the news well and an argument ensued. Noriega and A.C. left
the house and went to the home of Noriega's co-worker.
Both Noriega and Cook filed complaints with local law
enforcement about the incident.
September 9, 2015, the district court entered an order on
temporary matters pertaining to A.C.-the child was to remain
in Noriega's physical care; Cook was to pay $671 per
month in support beginning September 15; and Cook would have
visitation every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 5:00 p.m.
to 8:00 p.m., and every other weekend from Friday at 5:00
p.m. to Sunday at 5:00 p.m.
gave birth to a child, C.N., prematurely in January 2016.
Cook did not want his name on the birth certificate without
proof of his paternity.Noriega filed an application for
temporary support for the child, which Cook resisted.
suffered medical complications just after being discharged
from the hospital and was transported by life-flight to Iowa
City, where she remained for two weeks with C.N. Cook cared
for A.C. for the two weeks Noriega was in Iowa City. Upon
Noriega's release from the hospital, and though she had
not seen A.C. for two weeks, Cook refused to allow her to see
A.C. until his scheduled visitation time was up.
February 12, 2016, a DNA test report indicated Cook was
C.N.'s father. On February 18, Cook amended his paternity
petition to request joint physical care of C.N. as well.
paternity action was tried on March 23 and July 18, 2016. At
the time of trial, Cook lived in Aplington and worked for the
City of Waterloo forty hours per week at $25.35 per hour. He
also worked part-time for the City of Aplington for $13.00
per hour plus $2.00 per hour for on-call pay, and continued
to serve in the National Guard.
lived and worked in Iowa Falls, approximately twenty-five
miles and about a one-half hour drive from Aplington. Noriega
worked with students at Ellsworth College, making $33, 518
annually. She provided health insurance for the children,
paying $77.08 per month. She stated she had day care expenses
of $150 per week.
testified he and Noriega were both active in A.C.'s care.
He complained that Noriega did not encourage his relationship
with C.N. and that Noriega did not allow him to take and care
for the infant while Noriega was hospitalized. At the time of
trial, Cook testified he wanted A.C. to attend school in
Ackley because it was half way between Aplington and Iowa
Falls. He requested joint physical care of the children, or
in the alternative, that physical care of both children be
placed with him.
asked about not letting Cook take C.N. while she was
hospitalized, Noriega observed Cook was denying he was
C.N.'s father and noted the infant went with her to the
hospital in Iowa City to promote her breast-feeding efforts.
She also stated Cook was invited to visit the infant in her
home, but she did not allow Cook to take the child away from
her presence because it interfered with the child's
hourly breastfeeding. Noriega testified that historically she
provided the majority of care for A.C. She stated that after
their separation and pursuant to an April 2016 temporary
order, Cook had parenting time with A.C. every Tuesday and
Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. and alternating weekends from
Friday to Sunday. Noriega explained that once Cook's
paternity was established, visits between Cook and the baby
had transitioned to Cook having the infant in his care for
longer periods as C.N. got older, and he had recently kept
C.N. overnight on a Friday he had A.C. in his care, and also
during the days on his Saturdays and Sundays. Noriega
testified Cook had helped financially with A.C. until July
2015, and then did not pay anything until ordered to by the
September temporary order, and Cook had refused to pay any
support for C.N.
testified she did not think joint physical care would work
because she and Cook had difficulty communicating without
conflict; most of their communications were by text message;
Cook and she did not agree on where A.C. would go to school
and where the children should get medical care; there were
disagreements about extracurricular activities and who would
pay for them; there had been instances of Cook using force
against her; and his family did not support her. Noriega
expressed that she wanted A.C. ...