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Long v. Warnke

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 8, 2017

TYLER JAMES LONG, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
HALEY MARIE WARNKE, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Guthrie County, Paul R. Huscher, Judge.

         A father appeals the district court's custody decree finding joint physical care was in the child's best interests.

          Dorothy L. Dakin and Daniel J. Johnson of Kruse & Dakin, L.L.P., Boone, for appellant.

          Jessica L. Morton of Bruner, Bruner & Reinhart LLP, Carroll, for appellee.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         Tyler Long appeals the decree entered by the district court finding he and Haley Warnke should have joint physical care of their young child. He argues placement in his physical care-rather than joint physical care-is in the child's best interests. Haley seeks appellate attorney fees. Upon our review, we affirm the court's custody determinations and award Haley $3000 in attorney fees.

         I. Standard of Review.

         We review child-custody determinations made pursuant to Iowa Code chapter 600B (2016) de novo. See McKee v. Dicus, 785 N.W.2d 733, 736 (Iowa Ct. App. 2010); see also Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; Wilker v. Wilker, 630 N.W.2d 590, 594 (Iowa 2001). This requires an examination of the whole trial record to decide anew the issues raised on appeal. See Wilker, 630 N.W.2d at 594. Despite our de novo review, we give strong consideration to the district court's fact findings, including any credibility findings. See id.; see also Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g). In child-custody cases, the first and foremost consideration is the child's best interest. See In re Marriage of Hoffman, 867 N.W.2d 26, 32 (Iowa 2015); see also Iowa Code § 600B.31; Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(o); Phillips v. Davis-Spurling, 541 N.W.2d 846, 847 (Iowa 1995).

         II. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On our de novo review, we make the following findings of fact. Both Tyler Long and Haley Warnke were born in 1993. They met in high school and graduated in approximately 2011. In winter 2013, Tyler and Haley had a short relationship, during which Haley became pregnant. At that time, Haley was married to another man and in the process of getting a divorce.

         In April 2014, Haley told Tyler she was pregnant with his child, but he did not believe he was the child's father. Haley's divorce was finalized in May 2014. During the pregnancy, Haley received no assistance from Tyler.

         Haley gave birth to A.M.L. in December 2014; however, because Tyler did not believe the child was his, Haley did not put his name on the birth certificate. Nevertheless, Haley let Tyler know when she went into labor and sent a picture of the child the morning of the child's birth. Tyler came to see the child the next day. A paternity test in January 2015 confirmed Tyler was the child's father, and Tyler was later designated the child's father on her birth certificate.

         Tyler had sporadic visitation with the child during the first six or seven months of the child's life. Until approximately August 2015, Tyler's visits with the child usually occurred at Haley's request. If Haley needed a babysitter, she usually checked with Tyler and his mother to see if they wanted to keep the child instead. Tyler did not offer Haley any sort of financial support at that time.

         After August 2015, Tyler became more involved in the child's life, and he generally had the child on weekends. Haley also offered Tyler occasional time during the week, which Tyler accepted. Additionally, Tyler provided some diapers and clothes for the child, and twice he gave Haley some money. In October 2015, Haley asked Tyler if there was "any way [they] could ...


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