NICHOLAS R. DIETZ, Petitioner-Appellee,
TAMMY MCDONALD, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Chickasaw County, Margaret
L. Lingreen, Judge.
McDonald appeals the modification of a decree of custody,
visitation, and support.
B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, P.C.,
West Des Moines, for appellant.
Heather A. Prendergast of Roberts, Stevens & Prendergast,
P.L.L.C., Waterloo, for appellee.
by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.
mother appeals the modification of a 2012 decree concerning
custody, visitation, and support. Because there has been
frequent contempt litigation between the parties, continual
tension between the parents, a visitation schedule that was
not working as expected, and a medical diagnosis of learning
disabilities since the last modification, we find there has
been a substantial change of circumstances. We also conclude
the father has met his burden to establish he can provide
superior care by more effectively providing for the
child's long-term needs. We therefore affirm the
modification of physical care.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
McDonald and Nicholas (Nick) Dietz are the parents of a
child, M. The parents were never married. In September 2006,
shortly after the child's birth, Nick filed a petition to
establish paternity, custody, and support.
December 27, 2007, the district court entered a decree, which
[B]oth parties clearly love [M.] and are capable parents.
[Nick] has made some bad judgments. . . . [Nick] also appears
to be controlling in the sense that it is his belief that
growing up on a farm is, without exception, the most
beneficial of environments for a child. On the other hand,
[Nick] appears generally more emotionally stable than
[Tammy]. . . . Tammy has done a fine job raising [her older
daughter] and has gone to great lengths to support the
relationship between [her daughter] and her [daughter's
biological] father. Also, [M.] appears to be doing very well
with [Tammy] as the primary caregiver. While [Nick] has had
limited contact with [M.], all of the contact that he has had
with [M.] has been positive. He clearly loves [M.] and a bond
now exists between them. Also, [Nick] has a great deal of
Both of the experts in this case, Dr. John Hartson and Dr.
Mark Peltan, agree that shared care is in the best interests
of [M.] and both feel that contact with [Nick] should be
gradually increased until shared care is appropriate.
court awarded the parties joint custody of the child. Tammy
was granted physical care with increasing, graduated
visitation to Nick, which was to culminate in shared physical
care of the child in 2009, at which time Nick would have the
child six out of every fourteen days. Nick was ordered to pay
child support of $300 per month until April 1, 2009, when his
support obligation would decrease to $68 per month.
2009, pursuant to the parties' stipulation, the court
modified the decree extending the time until June 2012 when
the shared-care arrangement would occur.
parties lived within four miles of each other in the Nashua,
Iowa, area. Nick was a dairy farmer there; Tammy, a LPN and
licensed massage therapist.
February 29, 2012, Tammy filed an application to modify the
decree, asserting she intended to move to Albert Lea,
Minnesota, which would constitute a substantial change of
circumstances. She sought physical care of M., liberal
visitation for Nick, and a recalculation of child support.
1, 2012, Tammy moved to Albert Lea, Minnesota, to remove her
daughter (now fourteen years old) from the Nashua
modification trial was held on June 28. On July 16, 2012, the
district court entered a decree, concluding:
In the instant case, [Tammy's] move to Albert Lea,
Minnesota, necessitates this court to determine a primary
physical care provider. Historically, [Tammy] has been the
parent addressing the bulk of [M.]'s medical and dental
needs. The evidence indicates she also provides for
[M.]'s social needs, such as providing him the
opportunity to participate in Halloween. [Tammy] has shown a
willingness to adjust her time with [M.], so as to afford
[Nick] an opportunity to engage in activities, such as Cattle
Congress, with [M.] This willingness to adjust time has not
always been reciprocated by [Nick]. There is evidence in the
record [Nick] has inappropriately discussed the move to
Albert Lea with [M.] In contrast, there is no evidence in the
record that [Tammy] has inappropriately discussed [Nick] with
The evidence in the record indicates [Tammy], in making the
move to Albert Lea, Minnesota, has taken into consideration
the benefit of the move for her daughter . . . . There is no
reason to think [Tammy] does not consider [M.]'s needs in
making her decisions. As previously noted, she changed her
employment in ...