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Moses v. White

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 8, 2017

MATTHEW MOSES, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ANGELA WHITE, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Sean W. McPartland, Judge.

         A mother appeals following a custody decree and surname determination in favor of the father. AFFIRMED.

          Peter W. Stiefel, Victor, for appellant.

          Joseph C. Pavelich of Spies Pavelich & Foley, Iowa City, for appellee.

          Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, Judge.

         Angela White appeals from a custody and surname determination in favor of Matthew Moses. Angela contends the district court erred in failing to grant her physical care of the child and consider the child's relationship to his half-siblings. She also argues the court erred in determining the child's surname.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Angela and Matthew were in a relationship between November 2013 and January 2014. Their relationship resulted in a child, L.D.W. Angela is also the primary caretaker for her two older children. Although Angela suspected she was pregnant in December 2013, and discussed the possibility with Matthew, pregnancy tests were negative. In February 2014, tests confirmed Angela's pregnancy.[1] Although Angela attempted numerous times to re-establish communication with Matthew, he was resistant to communication and to a relationship with the child.

         During the course of her pregnancy and following L.D.W.'s birth, Angela changed residences three times. At times, Angela would not tell Matthew where she and the child were living. Angela has a varied employment and educational history, studying both culinary arts and "police science, " and holding security and factory positions for different companies. At the time of trial, however, she was neither taking classes nor employed.

         Matthew's residence and employment remained the same throughout the course of proceedings. Matthew married in the summer of 2015. His wife, Mollie, works as a paraprofessional and nanny and helps care for L.D.W. when Matthew has care of the child.

         Following L.D.W.'s birth and the confirmation of Matthew's paternity, Matthew expressed a desire to become involved in the child's life. Angela resisted. Angela did not allow Matthew to see L.D.W. until visitation was ordered by the court. There is also a history of tension between Angela and Mollie, culminating in an incident in which Angela confronted Mollie, screaming and yelling in the child's presence. During a custody transfer, Angela left her car and approached Mollie, who was sitting in Matthew's car with the door and window closed. Angela insisted Mollie get out of the car to discuss insults and judgmental statements Mollie allegedly made about Angela's parenting. Mollie and Matthew testified that Angela screamed and yelled for Mollie to get out of the car, which Mollie refused. Angela conceded she created the incident and the child likely understood the stress of the situation.

         The parties agreed to joint legal custody but disputed who should have physical care of the child. After a hearing, the district court awarded physical care to Matthew and determined L.D.W. should carry Matthew's surname.

         Angela appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         Child custody and surname disputes are reviewed de novo. In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 690 (Iowa 2007); Montgomery v. Wells, 708 N.W.2d 704, 705-06 (Iowa Ct. App. 2005). Weight is given to the findings and credibility determinations of the district court. Hansen, 733 N.W.2d at 690.

         The best interests of children are a primary consideration. In re Marriage of Ford, 563 N.W.2d 629, 631 (Iowa 1997).

         III. ...


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