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In re Marriage of Bell

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 22, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF CATHERINE MARY BELL AND THATCHER JON BELL Upon the Petition of CATHERINE MARY BELL, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning THATCHER JON BELL, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, DeDra L. Schroeder, Judge.

         Thatcher Bell appeals following the economic provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Catherine Bell.

          Sarah A. Reindl of Reindl Law Firm, Mason City, for appellant.

          Richard S. Piscopo Jr. of Yunek Law Firm, P.L.C., Mason City, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE

         Thatcher Bell appeals following the entry of the decree dissolving his marriage to Catherine Bell. Thatcher argues the property division and spousal support provisions of the decree are inequitable.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Catherine and Thatcher were married in 2005 and have one minor child together. In June 2016, the parties separated and Catherine filed a petition to dissolve the marriage. The parties stipulated to joint legal custody of their child with Catherine having physical care. They also agreed upon a regular visitation schedule between Thatcher and the child.

         The matter came to a trial in February 2017 to allow the court to determine the division of property and spousal support, among other issues. At the time, Catherine was forty-four years old and worked full time as a billing specialist, earning $13.75. She owed approximately $30, 000 in student loan debt from the associate's degree she had earned during the marriage, with $400 monthly payments coming due beginning in March 2017. Thatcher was forty-one years old and had earned a high school diploma. He worked for various railroad companies during the marriage and has a pension. Catherine will automatically receive one-half of Thatcher's pension.

         The district court entered a decree dissolving the parties' marriage in March 2017. The court determined Catherine's annual income to be $28, 600 and Thatcher's annual income to be $75, 360. After valuing and dividing the parties' assets and debts, the court ordered Thatcher responsible for approximately $31, 000 of the marital debt and Catherine responsible for approximately $23, 000 of the marital debt. The court also awarded Catherine the parties' 2016 federal and state tax refunds, estimated to be $3979, and awarded Thatcher his 401(k) account, which the court valued at $8886. Finally, the court ordered Thatcher to pay Catherine rehabilitative spousal support in the amount of $1000 per month for a period of five years, and $750 per month thereafter for spousal support for a period of an additional five years.

         Thatcher appealed.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review.

         We review dissolution of marriage cases de novo. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; In re Marriage of Mauer, 874 N.W.2d 103, 106 (Iowa 2016). We give weight to the district court's fact findings even though they are not binding. See Iowa R.App. P. 6.904(3)(g); Mauer, 874 N.W.2d at 106. We will disturb the district court's findings only if they fail to do equity. See Mauer, 874 N.W.2d at 106. Because we base our decision on the ...


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