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In re Marriage of Rogers

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 25, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JESSICA K ROGERS AND JASON P. ROGERS Upon the Petition of JESSICA K. ROGERS, n/k/a JESSICA K. AYERS, Petitioner-Appellant/Cross-Appellee. And Concerning JASON P. ROGERS, Respondent-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mark D. Cleve, Judge.

         The wife appeals, and the husband cross-appeals, various economic provisions of the decree dissolving their marriage. AFFIRMED IN PART, MODIFIED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

          Alicia D. Gieck of H.J. Dane Law Office, Davenport, for appellant.

          M. Leanne Tyler of Tyler & Associates, P.C., Bettendorf, for appellee.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and McDonald, JJ.


         Jessica Rogers (now known as Jessica Ayers) appeals from the decree dissolving her marriage to Jason Rogers. Jessica claims the district court should have included Jason's annual bonuses in his annual income for the purpose of calculating his child-support obligation. She also claims the award of spousal support was inequitable and asks us to award her $6500 in appellate attorney fees. Jason cross-appeals, arguing: Jessica's spousal support should be reduced because Jessica received $53, 000 from his inheritance, and the alimony he was ordered to pay Jessica should have been deducted from his salary and considered as part of her income for the purpose of calculating child support. He asks us to award him $10, 000 in appellate attorney fees.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Jessica and Jason were married in August 2003. Before the parties married, Jessica had finished her education and was licensed in cosmetology, and Jason had completed a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting. Jessica was working full-time as a cosmetologist and earning approximately $20, 000 annually, while Jason worked full-time at John Deere.

         The parties had their first child in 2004. Within a few months, they decided Jessica would leave her employment outside of the home to care for the child. Jessica and Jason had two more children, one in 2007 and one in 2009.

         In the years before Jessica filed for dissolution, the family moved a number of times for Jason's career, both within the state of Iowa and outside of the country. Jessica remained the primary caregiver of the children, and she maintained both the inside and outside of the family home. Jason's job required some travel, and he took business trips that lasted one week or longer several times a year. In 2012, Jason enrolled in a MBA program at the University of Chicago. During the twenty-month program, he went to Chicago every other weekend from Thursday through Saturday. Jason still worked full-time, so he completed schoolwork on nights after work or during the alternate weekend. John Deere paid for the schooling and all out-of-pocket expenses, and Jason earned the same salary that year as he did in other years.

         Jessica filed the dissolution petition in August 2015, and the trial took place in July 2016, after almost thirteen years of marriage. Jason had recently made a lateral transfer at John Deere into a position that required less travel and had more flexible hours, thereby allowing him to spend more time with the children. Before trial, the parties agreed Jessica would have care of the children, but Jason would get six out of every fourteen nights with them. The parties share legal custody.

         At trial, the parties presented evidence mostly in agreement regarding their assets and debts. The marital residence was appraised at a market value of $592, 000, and the parties had approximately $197, 500 in equity in the home. Since the parties separated, Jessica had purchased a new home valued at $300, 000. She used $32, 000 out of the parties' joint account as a down payment on the property and had made only a few payments on the mortgage since the purchase. Each party was awarded their home (and its debt), their vehicle, and some various small checking or savings accounts.

         Jason asked the court to set aside as a nonmarital asset the $106, 000 he inherited from his aunt; the money had been used as a down payment on the marital home. The court declined to do so, stating it had "taken into consideration the amount of time that has transpired since the funds were comingled, as well as [Jessica's] considerable efforts in maintaining the marital asset that was acquired in part by use of the inherited funds." The court considered the values of the marital property, including the entire amount of equity in the marital home awarded to Jason and ordered Jason to make an equalization payment of $99, 512.86 to Jessica within one year. Each party ultimately received one-half of the net assets of $322, 963.18.

         Additionally, Jason was ordered to divide his 401k in half (after subtracting his premarital contributions), with Jessica receiving approximately $295, 500. She was also awarded a portion of Jason's pension, pursuant to the Benson formula.[1]

         Although the parties agreed how much money each had earned the last several years, they disagreed over what the court should do with those sums. At the time of trial, Jason's base annual salary was $172, 056. He received a bonus in December of each year based on the company's performance. In the three years leading up to the trial, the bonuses Jason received were very large, with his total compensation reaching $257, 381 in 2013; $260, 100 in 2014; and $267, 968.00 in 2015. Jason testified it was possible there would be years he did not receive a bonus and future bonuses were likely to be much smaller because the three prior years had been the "golden years of agriculture." Jason asked the court to use his base salary to determine the amount of child support and spousal support he owed and then to award Jessica a specific percentage of his bonus. Jessica asked the court to average the last few years of Jason's income-including both his bonus and his base salary-and use that number as the basis for the court's awards.

         The parties also disagreed regarding how the court should consider Jessica's income. Jessica had performed some work outside of the home in the years leading up to the trial; she worked three hours a week as a spin instructor, became a Norwex consultant, and had a few clients whose hair she cut. Jessica earned $8819 in 2013; $5765 in 2014; and $3280 in 2015. She asked the court to use her actual income when determining the award of child support and spousal support, and Jason asked the court to impute a full-time, minimum wage income ($15, 080) to Jessica when making the calculations.

         The court used Jason's base salary and imputed an income of $15, 080 to Jessica. After factoring Jason's cost of health insurance for the children and the 20% extraordinary visitation credit, the court ordered Jason to pay $1768.12 per month in child support while all three children remain at home.[2] Jason is also required to pay Jessica as additional child support 10% of the gross amount he receives for a bonus, within ten days after he receives it.[3]

         Both parties agreed some spousal support for Jessica was warranted. Jessica asked the court to award her $6200 per month for eight years, while Jason maintained he should pay Jessica $1500 per month for a period of five years plus an additional 10% of the gross amount he receives as bonus. The court awarded Jessica sixty months of spousal support in the amount of $2000 each month and an additional 10% of the gross amount of Jason's bonuses in 2016-2020.

         Jessica appeals, and Jason cross-appeals.

         II. Standard of Review.

         We review de novo challenges to the economic provisions of a dissolution decree. In re Marriage of Clinton, 579 ...

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