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In re Marriage of Stone

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 22, 2017

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF DANIELLE LEE STONE AND CHARLES E. STONE Upon the Petition of DANIELLE LEE STONE, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning CHARLES E. STONE, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Stuart P. Werling, Judge.

         Danielle Stone appeals the district court's order modifying the dissolution decree dissolving her marriage to Charles Stone.

          Andrew B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Robert Gallagher Jr. and Peter G. Gierut of Gallagher, Millage & Gallagher, P.L.C., Bettendorf, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Danielle Stone appeals the district court's order modifying the dissolution decree dissolving her marriage to Charles Stone, claiming the court erred in (1) failing to modify legal custody, (2) awarding her sole decision making authority concerning educational and medical matters, (3) awarding her both tax exemptions and (4) modifying visitation. We find there is no basis to modify the legal custody of the children, award sole decision making authority to Danielle on medical and educational matters, or modify the distribution of tax exemptions. However, we find the district court improperly modified the visitation provisions of the dissolution decree. We affirm the district court as modified.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Danielle and Charles' marriage was dissolved on October 23, 2012. The parties were granted joint legal custody of their two minor children, K.S. and Z.S. Danielle was granted physical care of the children. At the time of the dissolution Danielle lived in Bettendorf, Iowa, and Charles lived in Mount Clemens, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Charles was in the process of moving from Mount Clemens to Royal Oak, another suburb of Detroit approximately twenty miles closer. Under the terms of the decree Charles was responsible for the transportation of the children to and from Michigan during his visitation.

         K.S. was diagnosed with a reading-based learning disability after the entry of the decree. Both Danielle and Charles claim they took appropriate action to address the diagnosis though Danielle claims Charles did not adequately support K.S.'s progress during his visitation. In 2015, Z.S. was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Z.S. struggled both educationally and socially culminating in a suicide threat. Danielle and Charles were unable to agree on a treatment plan. Charles supported non-medication based treatments first, including martial arts and behavior modification before moving to medication based alternatives. Charles also claims he was not provided adequate information to make a fully informed decision.

         Danielle filed a petition to modify the dissolution decree to award her either sole legal custody of both children or establish an exclusive right to make decisions regarding educational and medical matters for the children and the right to claim both children as tax exemptions. Charles counterclaimed for modification of visitation. The district court found awarding sole legal custody or decision making authority was inappropriate. The district court did modify visitation in favor of Charles, requiring Danielle to transport the children approximately halfway, after finding his move to Michigan was a material change not contemplated at the time of the original decree. The district court also refused to modify the award of income tax exemptions. Danielle now appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         Equitable actions are reviewed de novo. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. We examine the record and adjudicate the rights of the parties anew. In re Marriage of Williams, 589 N.W.2d 759, 761 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). Because the district court is in a unique position to hear the evidence, we defer to the district court's determinations of credibility. In re Marriage of Brown, 487 N.W.2d 331, 332 (Iowa 1992). While our review is de novo, the district court is given latitude to make determinations, which we will disturb only if equity has not been done. In re Marriage of Okland, 699 N.W.2d 260, 263 (Iowa 2005).

         III. ...


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