IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JOHN R. LOCKARD AND LAURA L. LOCKARD Upon the Petition of JOHN R. LOCKARD, Petitioner-Appellant/Cross-Appellee, And Concerning LAURA L. LOCKARD, Respondent-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Paul R.
Lockard appeals and Laura Lockard cross-appeals a district
court ruling concerning the modification of a dissolution
R. Lockard, Urbandale, pro se appellant.
A. Elverson and Nathan A. Russell of Elverson, Vasey,
Wiedenfeld & Abbott, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
Lockard appeals the district court's ruling on his
petition for modification of a dissolution decree. He
contends (1) the district court incorrectly calculated his
income, (2) the court erred in calculating his modified
spousal- and child-support obligations, and (3) the court
abused its discretion in declining to award him attorney
Lockard cross-appeals the same ruling. She argues the
district court erred in (1) finding a decrease in John's
earning capacity and therefore reducing his spousal- and
child-support obligations, (2) excluding certain exhibits at
trial, (3) removing from the decree requirements that John be
current on his spousal-support obligation in order to claim
any of the children on his taxes and that he secure his
spousal-support obligation with life insurance, and (4)
declining to award her attorney fees. She requests an award
of appellate attorney fees.
Background Facts and Proceedings
John's appeal from the original dissolution of marriage
decree,  we made the following findings:
John and Laura were married in July 1983. They are the
parents of four children: N.L., born in 1992, M.L., born in
1996, K.L., born in 2000, and J.L., born in 2003.
John is fifty-one years old and in good health. He earned
both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in
computer engineering during the marriage. John worked as a
teacher's assistant during graduate school. The parties
lived together in a house owned by John's mother while
John was in school. After John completed his master's
degree, the parties moved to Chicago for John's job. The
parties had their first child in 1992 and returned to Des
Moines shortly thereafter. John later left his employment to
start his own company, Silicon Plains Technologies.
Thereafter, John negotiated a buy-out with his business
partner. As part of the buy-out, John received $10, 000 per
month for twenty-four months and signed a twenty-four-month
non-compete agreement. Instead of gaining employment in
another field, John began day-trading for the next eighteen
months. John did not succeed in this capacity and the parties
withdrew funds from a 401(k) account to pay for expenses
after John was not fully paid under the buy-out agreement.
The parties also faced litigation stemming from debt incurred
by John's ex-business partner and filed bankruptcy as a
result. John is currently employed as a computer consultant
by a company in Colorado and works from home with minimal
Laura is fifty years old. She has an accounting degree and a
CPA certificate, both earned during the marriage. Laura
worked full time while John was in graduate school and while
working toward her CPA. Laura continued to work full time
until the birth of their first child. Thereafter, she assumed
the role of caretaker for the parties' children. Over the
next twenty-two years Laura worked a few part-time jobs, as
an accountant for Silicon Plains, an office manager for a
dance and gymnastic studio in order to receive a discount on
the children's tuition, and helping with the books at the
horse stable where the children's horses were kept to
decrease boarding charges. In May 2001, Laura suffered a
severe stroke. As a result of the stroke, Laura has a
permanent "significant disability" and does not
have the use of her right arm and wears a brace on her right
leg. Because of her disability, she has poor keyboard and
ten-key skills. In 2012-2013, Laura took classes to reinstate
her CPA certificate but has been unable to find full-time
employment. She currently works as a part-time accountant
preparing tax returns.
On November 7, 2013, John filed a petition for dissolution of
marriage. . . . [On October 7, 2014], the district court
entered a decree dissolving their marriage. The court awarded
the parties joint legal and physical custody of their three
minor children. The court found John earns an average
gross annual income of $114, 564.25 and Laura a gross annual
income of $12, 589.71. It ordered John to pay $513.47 each
month to Laura for support of their three minor children,
$433.87 per month in support for two children,  and $284.43 per
month in support for one child. The court also ordered John to
pay Laura permanent spousal support in the amount of $3000
per month until either party's death or Laura's
remarriage. The court awarded John the marital home valued at
$183, 000 and ordered John to pay Laura $7948 for her share
of the home's $15, 896 in equity. The court further
ordered John to maintain $200, 000 in life insurance, naming
Laura as the beneficiary, to secure his child and spousal
Additionally, the court ordered John to pay $5000 toward
Laura's attorney fees.
Lockard, 2016 WL 146547, at *1-2. In January 2016,
we affirmed the foregoing provisions of the decree with the
exception of the child-support provision, which we modified
and remanded to the district court for the entry of an order
consistent with our ruling. Id. at *6.
March 7, 2016, John was notified he would be laid off from
the job he held at the time of the original decree. His last
day of employment was March 11 and he received his final
paycheck on March 31. John testified at the modification
hearing that in the six months preceding his layoff, his pay
was reduced by twenty percent as a result of a discontinuance
of his monthly bonuses. The record reveals, however, that
John's bonuses were not discontinued until January 2016.
On April 12, less than two weeks after John received his
final paycheck, he filed a petition to modify the child- and
spousal-support provisions of the dissolution decree. In his
petition, John alleged his recent layoff and subsequent
inability to find work in his "field of expertise"
amounted to a change in circumstances warranting
John was found in contempt of court on four counts for
willfully violating the decree by failing to (1) provide
Laura her equitable share of the marital home, (2) pay
attorney fees ordered in the underlying dissolution action in
the district court and on appeal, and (3) pay his share of
the custody evaluation conducted before trial.
on John's modification petition was held in April 2017.
The court found John's loss of employment in March 2016
"was not a voluntary reduction in income, and was not
done with the intent to avoid or reduce a support
obligation." The court concluded John, at the time of
trial, was employed making $62, 400 per year and Laura $37,
600. The court reduced John's monthly spousal-support
obligation to $750 and modified a number of other provisions
concerning John's spousal- and child-support obligations.
The court ordered both parties to pay their own attorney
fees. The court denied both ...