IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF ROBERT H. GOODRICH AND TERESA O. GOODRICH Upon the Petition of ROBERT H. GOODRICH, Petitioner-Appellant/Cross-Appellee, And Concerning TERESA O. GOODRICH, Respondent-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Richard B.
Goodrich appeals, and Teresa O'Hara cross-appeals, the
economic provisions of the decree dissolving their marriage.
D. Babich of Babich Goldman, P.C., Des Moines, for
A. Genest of Culp, Doran & Genest, P.L.C., Des Moines,
by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
Goodrich appeals the economic provisions of the decree
dissolving his thirty-one-year marriage to Teresa
She cross-appeals. Robert challenges: (1) a $10, 000 cash
property settlement awarded to Teresa, (2) the amount of
traditional alimony and a requirement he maintain a life
insurance policy for Teresa's benefit, and (3)
Teresa's award of trial attorney fees. Teresa contends
the alimony amount is too low and the district court should
not have provided for an automatic reduction in support once
Robert reaches full retirement age and receives social
the record does not support the equalization payment awarded
to Teresa, we modify the decree to eliminate that obligation
placed on Robert. On the question of alimony, we find the
amount ordered was too high when considering the factors
under Iowa Code section 598.21A (2016), and we modify the
decree accordingly. We affirm an automatic reduction in
support but modify the amount. We also modify the
life-insurance requirement to provide for the termination of
this obligation in 2025. We opt not to disturb the award of
trial attorney fees, and we decline the parties' requests
for appellate attorney fees.
Background and Prior Proceedings
and Teresa married in 1985. Teresa received a bachelor's
degree from Drake University that same year; Robert attended
some college but never earned a degree. Over the years,
Robert was the primary wage earner for the family. Teresa
contributed some income as well, generally working part-time,
but she left the work force for several years to take care of
the home and their three children, who are all now young
adults. From 2011 to 2014 she worked to establish her own
business producing organic soaps.
parties separated in 2014, and Teresa moved out of the family
home. Just before the separation, between January and March
2014, Robert drew $16, 000 in advances on their home equity
line of credit. Teresa testified she did not know about the
advances, but she also acknowledged that Robert handled all
of the family finances. Robert claimed he did not know Teresa
was planning to move out of the home until February. He
testified his earnings had temporarily decreased due to a
hernia surgery and he used the funds to pay off the balance
on their joint credit card. Some sums were advanced because
Robert knew Teresa's move would adversely impact the
household cash flow.
February 2015, Robert and Teresa sold their home. Robert used
$8100 of the proceeds to rent back the home from the buyers
for four months past the date of the sale. From the
remainder, the parties each received $20, 000 for their own
use and then deposited $42, 000 in a joint checking account,
which they agreed would be used to pay off their joint debt.
At trial, Teresa argued Robert used the funds in the joint
checking account to pay off his own personal debts and
received a disproportionate share of the home-sale proceeds
because of the rent-back arrangement. Teresa explained that
when Robert removed himself from their joint credit card
account, she was left to pay a balance of more than $12, 000
on that card, much of which she classified as Robert's
personal debt and joint debt.
filed for divorce in June 2015. Throughout the course of the
proceedings, Teresa relied in large part upon her inherited
funds to pay her expenses. With some exceptions, Robert paid
Teresa $2000 a month, and three months before trial, on
December 15, 2015, the district court ordered Robert to pay
Teresa temporary support in that amount. Even with
Robert's support, Teresa's money market account,
which contained only inherited funds, diminished from $60,
475 to $11, 509.
time of trial in late March 2016, Robert was living in
Phoenix, Arizona, and Teresa was living in Eugene, Oregon.
Robert was self-employed, working as a regulatory and quality
assurance consultant for small drug manufacturers and
re-packagers. Teresa was unemployed but acknowledged an
earning capacity of $22, 880 in gross annual income. The
primary issue to be resolved at trial was the amount of
spousal support Teresa should receive. Robert proposed $1000
a month; Teresa requested $3600.
district court entered the dissolution decree in early May
2016. The court awarded Teresa her Scottrade IRA ($48, 496)
and American Trust IRA ($28, 985),  as well as $34, 709 from Robert's
Scottrade IRA ($128, 164). The court also awarded Teresa a
$10, 000 cash property settlement. The court ordered Robert to pay
Teresa $2600 a month for traditional alimony, as well as
$8637 toward Teresa's attorney fees.
parties filed motions to enlarge and amend the court's
findings. In response, the court reduced Robert's alimony
requirement to $2000, to continue until he reaches full
retirement age and receives social security benefits. After
that time, Robert was to pay $1000 a month until either
Robert or Teresa's death or until Teresa remarried. The
court also ordered Robert to pay for and maintain $100, 000
of life insurance with Teresa as the primary beneficiary for
as long as the alimony obligation continued.
appeals, and Teresa cross-appeals.
Scope and Standard of Review
dissolution proceedings are equitable in nature, our review
is de novo. See In re Marriage of Mauer, 874 N.W.2d
103, 106 (Iowa 2016). We give weight to the fact-findings of
the district court, particularly when considering the
credibility of witnesses, but we are not bound by them.
See In re Marriage of Sullins, 715 N.W.2d 242, 255
(Iowa 2006). We ordinarily will not disturb the district
court's ruling unless it fails to do equity. See In
re Marriage of Smith, 573 N.W.2d 924, 926 (Iowa 1998).
Our review of the district court's award of attorney fees
is for an abuse of discretion. See id.
Cash Property Settlement
district court ordered Robert to pay Teresa a cash property
settlement of $10, 000 in monthly payments of $178.18,
including interest at the rate of 2.66% per year, "to
equalize the division of property, excluding retirement
accounts." The court indicated the payments were
"intended to be an additional source of maintenance and
support to [Teresa] as contemplated by [s]ection 523(a)(5) of
Title 11, United States Code." The court did not explain how it
arrived at the amount of the equalization payment but did
The parties sold their home during the pendency of this
action. When the home was sold, the parties agreed to pay off
all joint debt. Teresa received a smaller settlement from the
sale of the home than she initially anticipated. Robert also
paid off his own personal expenses and marital expenses,