IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF BRIAN JAMES SEDARS AND KATHRYN LYNNE SEDARS Upon the Petition of BRIAN JAMES SEDARS, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning KATHRYN LYNNE SEDARS, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Richard B.
husband appeals the physical care and visitation provisions
of the parties' dissolution decree.
D. Babich of Babich Goldman, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.
M. Naset of Hope Law Firm, P.L.C., West Des Moines, for
by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
Sedars appeals the physical care and visitation provisions of
the decree dissolving his marriage to Kathryn (Katie) Sedars.
He primarily argues the district court erred in failing to
award him physical care of the parties' minor children.
He requests a reversal of that portion of the decree and a
corresponding amendment to the parties' child-support
obligations. In the alternative, he argues he should be
awarded significantly more visitation with the children. Both
parties request an award of appellate attorney fees.
Background Facts and Proceedings
our de novo review and based on the evidence we find
credible,  we make the following findings of fact.
Brian and Katie married in 2006 and are the parents of two
minor children, a daughter and a son, born in 2009 and 2014,
respectively. At the time of trial, Brian was thirty-five
years old and Katie thirty-two; both are in good health.
Brian is a program-integrity manager for an insurance
company. In this position, Brian earns approximately $85, 000
per year and has the ability to work from home ninety percent
of the time. Katie is a special-education teacher at a middle
school earning approximately $40, 000 per year. Katie's
position allows her to have time off from work for seasonal
and holiday breaks. Both parties conceded at trial that the
other is generally a good parent to the minor children. The
evidence presented at trial generally focused on the
historical caregiving attributes of each party and the
conduct of each toward one another during the proceedings.
Generally lacking in the evidence is that which would show
how either of the parties' behavior during the
proceedings had a negative effect on the children.
filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in September
2015 requesting temporary and permanent joint legal custody
and joint physical care. Prior to trial, the court approved
the parties' stipulation to, among other things,
temporary, joint legal custody of the children; a temporary
parenting schedule allowing Brian six nights of parenting
time and Katie eight nights of parenting time per two-week
period and alternating parenting time to each on holidays,
school breaks, and other occasions; and Brian's monthly
payment of temporary child support in the amount of $782.52.
Although the parties initially agreed in their pleadings that
joint physical care would be appropriate upon dissolution,
both subsequently amended their pleadings to request an award
of physical care.
evidence we find credible supports a finding that Katie was
the primary caregiver of the parties' children both
before and after the parties separated and that she is more
able to minister the children's needs. Although Brian
assisted with caring for the children when available and when
the assistance was needed, we find Katie shouldered the bulk
of tasks associated with caring for and raising the children.
When the parties' first child was born, parental duties
were generally divided based upon the parties' work
schedules, availability, and other family tasks, with the
exception of breastfeeding, which fell to Katie. The division
was largely the same when the parties' second child was
born, but at this point Brian provided more of his time to
the older child than the younger because Katie was
breastfeeding, and as the younger child's source of
sustenance, was naturally required to provide more attention
to the younger child. Katie was more able to attend to the
children's specific needs when they were infants, as
Brian has "never been a huge fan of babies." Katie
has primarily cared for the children during periods of her
maternity leave, seasonal and holiday breaks from school, and
Brian's battle with thyroid cancer.
before filing his petition, Brian decided he wanted to pursue
a relationship with another woman, Amanda Smith, with whom he
had started a relationship in August 2015-Brian advised Katie
of his desire to dissolve their marriage so he could pursue
this relationship further. Around the time Brian filed his
petition, he and Amanda stayed the night in a camper located
at the parties' marital home when Katie and the children
were staying elsewhere. In the middle of the night, Katie
went to the camper and confronted them. Brian and Amanda
accused Katie of assault, which she denies. Brian and Amanda
called the police, but no criminal charges were ever filed
moved into his own apartment shortly after this occurrence
and subsequently moved in with Amanda in late January 2016.
Amanda has two daughters, one is three-years old and the
other is five-years old. According to Brian, his children and
Amanda get along "excellent[ly]" and "her bond
with [his] children is very impressive." Correspondence
between Brian and his daughter's guidance counselor
indicates that the daughter has transitioned well into Brian
and Amanda's home and that she likes Amanda, despite
Katie's distaste for her. Since moving in with Amanda,
Brian has sent Katie weekly updates concerning the children.
At some point during the proceedings, Katie started sending
Brian weekly updates as well. If Brian receives physical care
of the children, he intends to remove his daughter from the
Adel school district, where she has attended kindergarten and
first grade and receives counseling regarding her
parents' separation, and enroll her in the Waukee school
district, where Amanda's children now attend. He believes
Waukee is a superior school district and "[i]t would be
more convenient for [him]" if the children went there.
Katie's desire is to allow her daughter to continue her
education in Adel.
parties have struggled in their efforts to co-parent their
children since their separation. Brian has pushed the
parties' status as joint-legal custodians to its limits
and demanded that he be involved in every single decision
relating to the children, even those relating to matters that
he clearly had no interest in being involved prior to the
separation. The record reveals a volitional effort on the
part of Brian to push Katie to the edge throughout the
proceedings in an attempt to get her to unravel and violate
the temporary-matters order. Katie, obviously struggling with
the fact that Brian left her for another woman, said some
particularly hateful things to Brian and was slow to accept
his rejection of her and his preference for another woman.
She was initially resistant to the ideas of ...