IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MATTHEW JON VICKERS AND KATHRYN ANN VICKERS Upon the Petition of MATTHEW JON VICKERS, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning KATHRYN ANN VICKERS, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Jefferson County, Mary Ann
father appeals the physical care provision of his dissolution
Michael O. Carpenter of Gaumer, Emanuel, Carpenter &
Goldsmith, P.C., Ottumwa, for appellant.
Allison M. Heffern and Kristen A. Shaffer of Shuttleworth
& Ingersoll, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.
("Matt") and Kathryn ("Katey") Vickers
married in September 2010 and divorced seven years later. The
district court granted Katey physical care of the
couple's two children. On appeal, Matt contends he should
have been granted physical care.
care" involves "the right and responsibility to
maintain a home for the minor child and provide for routine
care of the child." Iowa Code § 598.1(7) (2016).
"The objective of the physical care determination is to
place the children in the environment most likely to bring
them to health, both physically and mentally, and to social
maturity." In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d
683, 695 (Iowa 2007).
district court found the couple "had a very unhappy
marriage." In the court's view, Matt's abuse of
alcohol and Katey's verbal and emotional aggression
"caused their relationship to be toxic from the
beginning" and the parents and children "suffered
significantly" as a result. At the conclusion of trial,
the court characterized the physical care determination as
"challenging." In the decree, the court stated,
"Choosing between these parents is akin to choosing
between the lesser of evils." After meticulously
documenting the evidence of marital dysfunction, the court
granted Katey physical care of the children. The court
provided the following reasoning:
Balancing each of the parties' individual deficiencies,
with Katey's history of being the primary physical
caretaker and the anticipation that Katey's job will
likely have more flexible hours than Matt's for child
care responsibilities; leads to the conclusion that Katey is
better suited to be the primary physical custodian of the
court acknowledged the decision was "temper[ed]" by
Katey's stated desire to leave the state and return to
Arizona, where the couple had lived for twelve years and
where her parents currently lived. To alleviate concerns with
the move, the court ordered Katey to give Matt advance notice
of four months.
de novo review, we find extensive support for the court's
detailed fact findings.
who was in his forties at the time of trial, began to abuse
alcohol before the legal age to drink and continued to abuse
alcohol well into 2014. His admitted abuse led to the
termination of his employment in Arizona. Although he
testified his alcohol use did not affect work at his new job
in Iowa, he acknowledged continued consumption until January
2017, and he conceded his period of abstinence was less than
four months. Matt also acknowledged the toll his conduct took
on his family, stating, "[W]e both have things that we
did [from 2012 through the separation in January 2016] that
were not helpful . . . with regards to the stability of our
true that a therapist who counseled Matt declined to diagnose
him with alcohol abuse disorder for the twelve-month period
preceding trial. But the therapist acknowledged Matt did not
report his previous inability to limit the amount of alcohol
he ingested. He stated a diagnosis was contingent on the
accuracy of Matt's reporting. Given Matt's lengthy
history of alcohol abuse and his limited period of
abstinence, the district court ...