IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF CATHY L. TIESKOETTER AND MARK F. TIESKOETTER Upon the Petition of CATHY L. TIESKOETTER, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning MARK F. TIESKOETTER, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica L.
Tieskoetter appeals the economic provisions of his decree
dissolving his marriage to Cathy Tieskoetter.
G. Hoover of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for
Jennifer A. Clemons-Conlon of Clemons, Walters, Conlon, Runde
& Hiatt, L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellee.
by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
Tieskoetter appeals the economic provisions of his decree
dissolving his marriage to Cathy Tieskoetter. Upon our de
novo review, we affirm the district court's ruling as
Standard of Review.
the district court hears dissolution-of-marriage proceedings
in equity, our review is de novo. See In re Marriage of
Mauer, 874 N.W.2d 103, 106 (Iowa 2016); see
also Iowa Code § 598.3 (2016); Iowa R. App. P.
6.907. This requires examining the entire record and
adjudicating the issue of the property distribution anew.
See In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676
(Iowa 2013). Nevertheless, we give weight to the district
court's factual findings, especially with respect to the
credibility of the witnesses. See id.; see
also Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g). Ultimately, the ruling
will not be disturbed unless there has been a failure to do
equity. See Mauer, 874 N.W.2d at 106.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
and Cathy were both born in 1954, and they married in 1975.
They have one adult son. Both parties inherited sums of money
during the marriage; Cathy inherited approximately $86, 000
in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Mark inherited
approximately $282, 000 in 2015. Some of Cathy's
inheritance was spent over the years on improvements to the
marital home, refinancing, and gifts to Mark and her son.
November 2015, Cathy filed a petition for dissolution of
marriage. At that time, Cathy was working thirty-two hours a
week as a nurse, with an income of approximately $51, 000 per
year. Mark was self-employed as a direct importer and
contract manufacturer, which included purchasing and sales.
Before self- employment, Mark worked for a company as an
importer and contract manufacturer, and he made approximately
$65, 000 in 2010. In 2011, he began building his own business
while working full-time, earning a total income of $77, 000
in 2011 and $109, 000 in 2012. Mark left his employment
mid-2013, and he has continued to operate his own business
since. Mark's income was approximately $139, 000 in 2013,
$75, 000 in 2014, and $100, 000 in 2015.
in the case commenced in August 2016. Cathy testified things
sort of fell apart in April 2015. Mark told Cathy he was
flying to Las Vegas for his sixty-first birthday for some
rest and relaxation, alone. At that time, most of their money
was commingled. Cathy learned the trip involved two airline
tickets, and there were numerous expenses that looked like
they were for more than one individual, including show
tickets, two-person meals, and $2700 at a spa-type place.
Cathy began looking into their finances and found numerous
cash withdrawals from bank accounts, charges to credit cards,
and other transfers of money that substantially changed over
the years. For instance, the marital savings account showed
numerous cash withdrawals over the years, and from December
2012 to December 2015 alone, there had been at least $25, 797
withdrawn from that account of which she was unaware. When
Cathy asked Mark about the withdrawals, he told her it
"was none of [her] business, . . . [she] worried about
it too much, and that [Mark] would let [her] know if [they]
were ever in financial trouble." Cathy testified there
were also unusual charges on their credit-card statements,
testifying that at least $36, 000 of marital money was
missing or spent without explanation from December 2012 to
believed Mark had dissipated these assets, and she requested
to be compensated for the dissipation. During discovery in
the case, Cathy asked him about certain 2015 withdrawals.
Cathy testified she learned from Mark's answers that he
had spent over $14, 000 from their marital savings account to
help someone she did not know "get out of [an] abusive
situation." Cathy testified that since she filed the
dissolution petition, Mark had reimbursed the marital account
$14, 000 from his inheritance account, but she and her
attorney did not believe that $14, 000 figure accounted for
everything that had been taken, including "the cash
withdrawals that ke[pt] disappearing, or the trips and all
that other stuff that's on the credit card." Cathy
believed Mark may have been hiding money.
also testified she believed Mark was minimizing his income to
avoid spousal support. Mark's financial affidavit, signed
at the end of December 2015, reported his gross income was
$140, 000 per year. In his answers to interrogatories, signed
and dated January 2016, Mark stated he expected "to have
gross income [t]his year of approximately $139, 000."
Nevertheless, at the time of trial, Mark projected his 2016
income would only be $80, 000. Cathy requested Mark pay her
$2800 per month in spousal support. She also requested Mark
be required to maintain "the $550, 000 death benefit
policy that he currently has in place" and to contribute
to her attorney fees.
admitted he had been "helping out" his friend's
thirty-one-year-old daughter that lived in Wisconsin, and he
denied they had a romantic relationship. He knew from a
conversation with her mother that the young woman needed
money, and he wanted to help her out. He testified he
initially hired the young woman to do some work around his
house and yard. He could not recall how much he paid her for
the work, but he did not "think it was quite
$5000." Mark testified he paid the young woman "out
of our household money, because [the work was] for the
house." This amount was in addition to the $14, 000 he
had spent and repaid to the marital savings account. Mark
testified the $14, 000 he spent was given to the young woman
in cash and in gifts, and the gifts included payment of her
rent and a deposit, furniture, clothes for her children, and
a purchase from Coach. Mark testified he did not live with
the young woman in Wisconsin, but he admitted he had signed
her apartment's lease and was "consistently paying
the rent out of [his] inheritance." Mark further
testified he hired the young woman to work for his business
and had paid her $6400 as a contract employee, and then
brought her on as a full-time employee with a salary of $50,
000 per year. He had paid her an additional $16, 898.51
through 2016. He testified he believed "you've got
to spend money to make money, and that's what [he's]
doing with [the young woman] right now." He still had
approximately $172, 000 left from his inheritance.
the cash withdrawals from the marital savings account, Mark
testified that part of his job as a salesman required him to
travel. Mark explained that when he was on the road, he
withdrew cash to have on hand in case of an emergency, which
accounted for most of his withdrawals. Mark also testified
some of the larger cash withdrawals went to pay the young
woman's mother for work she had done for him, of which
Cathy was aware. Yet, Mark testified that he charged the
majority of his business expenses to their credit card so he
had documentation of the expenses.
testified he was not minimizing his income in an effort to
prevent an award of alimony to Cathy, but circumstances, such
as a dock-workers strike and excess inventories had resulted
in a decline in income, and he provided a letter from one of
his clients generally supporting his
explanation. He testified he believed his 2016 gross
income would be under $100, 000. His client stated in the
letter that "2017 may be better but there are way too
many variables to project with any certainty." Mark also
testified his business expenses had "gone up
dramatically, " in part because he was "trying to
broaden [his] customer base" and had hired the young
woman to assist in that endeavor.
admitted some of the items he listed on his personal monthly
budget were, at least in part, written off as business
expenses. He also admitted that in 2015 he purchased a 2014
Kia Sorento with his inheritance money, titled in his and the
young woman's name, for the young woman to drive to use
for business. He did not list the vehicle on his financial
affidavit because he purchased it with his inheritance money
and "didn't think that was important." He also
did not claim the purchase as a business expense.
testified he had two term-life-insurance policies with zero
cash value- one with a benefit of $300, 000 that expired in a
year, and the other a benefit of $100, 000 that expired in
2024. Mark testified that he paid $104 per month on the
latter policy and $300 per month for the $300, 000 policy,
though his financial affidavit stated he paid $350 per month
for life insurance. Mark testified that if he renewed the
$300, 000 policy when it expired, when he was age
sixty-three, the premium would cost $23, 000 per year. Mark
testified he could not afford to pay for another policy.
the trial, the district court entered its decree dissolving
the parties' marriage and finding Cathy established Mark
dissipated marital assets without her authorization. The
The testimony is not believable that [Mark] returned all that
he spent from the marital accounts by a deposit from his
inheritance. He justifies all his conduct with the ability to
use his inheritance to cure the infractions. Yet, he has no
explanation for some of the things he has done . . . . The
testimony also indicates money is in Wisconsin, but how much
and where, the court cannot say. The Kia is just one example
of this in light of the fact that he did not report it on his
financial affidavit. Instead, the information was brought
forth by [Cathy's] investigation into his bank accounts
and other financial records. The money used was not spent for
any benefit of the marriage. The money was not spent for
necessities. The money was not spent for legitimate household
or business expenses. Instead, the money was spent [on] a
variety of personal living expenses for a third party. The