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In re Marriage of Thompson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 22, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF KATRINA LOUISE THOMPSON AND TY NASHUA THOMPSON Upon the Petition of KATRINA LOUISE THOMPSON, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning TY NASHUA THOMPSON, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County, Joel D. Yates, Judge.

         A father appeals the custody and visitation provisions of a decree of dissolution.

          Earl B. Kavanaugh of Harrison & Dietz-Kilen, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Steven E. Goodlow, Albia, for appellee.

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

          MCDONALD, JUDGE

         Ty Thompson challenges the district court's determination that Katrina Thompson should receive physical care of the parties' children following their divorce. He maintains shared physical care is most appropriate and, if not, he should receive physical care of the children. He also argues, in the event the court determines Katrina should have physical care of the children, he should be awarded additional visitation. Both parties seek appellate attorney fees.

         I.

         Katrina and Ty Thompson met at the University of Iowa while both were students. Katrina graduated and commenced work. Ty left the university without graduating but did obtain two associates degrees at a community college. They married in 2002.

         The couple spent their married life in Oskaloosa. During the marriage, Katrina worked full-time at several financial firms and part-time as a university instructor, and Ty worked part-time at UPS. In 2007, the couple had their first child, S.V.T. Due to their work schedules, Ty provided daytime care while Katrina provided evening care. In 2011, S.R.T. was born. Initially, Ty continued providing daytime care while Katrina worked. Katrina left the workforce in 2012 to be home with the children. At the time of the dissolution, she remained at home.

         The parties purchased a 'fixer-upper' house and began extensive renovations. Around this time, the marriage became strained. Ty alleges Katrina took over the childcare duties and limited his parenting time. Katrina admitted she "didn't trust Ty with the girls" but did not provide reasons. Katrina filed for divorce in May 2015. Ty moved out the family residence but remained in Oskaloosa. Ty and Katrina set an informal visitation schedule with no overnight visits for Ty. The informal visitation scheduled was changed following a hearing on temporary matters. The order on temporary matters granted Katrina physical care of the children with Ty to have visitation each Wednesday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and every other weekend from 6:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Sunday. There were additional provisions for holidays and summer vacation.

         The matter came on for trial. At trial, Katrina, Ty, and the guardian ad litem testified. The parties both testified they had a strained relationship but they could work together for the good of their children. The guardian ad litem in the case issued two reports recommending shared care despite the conflict between the parties. The guardian ad litem's testimony was consistent with the written reports. The district court gave the parties joint legal custody of the children, with Katrina to have physical care and Ty to have visitation. The decision to award Katrina physical care was based on the district court's finding that "approximation weighs heavily in Katrina's favor" and that the "communication between the parties is not good." The decree did not discuss the guardian ad litem's reports or testimony.

         II.

         Our review of dissolution cases is de novo. In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). "Although our review is de novo, we afford deference to the district court for institutional and pragmatic reasons." See Hensch v. Mysak, ___ N.W.2d ___, ___, 2017 WL 4050671, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. 2017). The court gives weight to the findings of the district court, particularly concerning credibility. See McDermott, 827 N.W.2d at 676. We will affirm the district court unless the district court failed to do substantial equity. See In re Marriage of Mauer, 874 N.W.2d 103, 106 (Iowa 2016). In our review, "[p]rior cases have ...


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