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In re Marriage of Lang

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 2, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF KATIE LYNN LANG AND JEFFREY JOSEPH LANG Upon the Petition of KATIE LYNN LANG, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning JEFFREY JOSEPH LANG, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas A. Bitter, Judge.

         Katie Lang appeals a district court order modifying the physical-care provision of a decree of dissolution of marriage.

          Myia E. Steines of Clemens, Walters, Conlon, Runde & Hiatt, L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellant.

          Kim C. Roddick of Reynolds & Kenline, L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellee.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

          MULLINS, Judge.

         Katie Lang appeals a district court order modifying the physical-care provision of the decree dissolving her marriage to Jeffrey (Jeff) Lang, arguing the court should have modified the decree to place the child in her, rather than Jeff's, physical care. Katie also challenges the corresponding modification of her child-support obligation and the visitation schedule imposed. Jeff requests an award of appellate attorney fees.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The parties were married in 2003. The marriage produced one child, born in 2006. The marriage was dissolved by decree in 2012. The parties were granted joint legal custody and joint physical care of the child. The decree provided the parties substantially equal parenting time. At the time of the entry of the decree, both parties resided in the Dubuque, Iowa area.

         In late October 2016, Katie met Josh Malli "online, " and the two began dating. At this time, Josh lived in Cresco, Iowa. Katie introduced Josh to her daughter in early December. At some point in the spring of 2017, Katie advised Jeff of her aspirations of moving away from the Dubuque area and having the child move with her. Jeff opposed the potential move. In April, Katie filed a petition to modify the decree, stating she would "be relocating to Northwood, Iowa in the near future due to a change in employment" and requested the court to modify the physical-care provision of the decree. Both parties requested they be awarded physical care of the child.

          In May, Katie and Josh purchased a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Northwood.[1] Northwood is located approximately three hours away from the Dubuque area. Katie characterized Northwood as "a small, little northern Iowa town." Josh's nine-year-old son will also be living in the home. According to Katie, her daughter gets along "very well" with Josh and his son. The home has individual bedrooms for each of the children, and is located "[l]ess than ten blocks" away from the local elementary school. Katie's grandmother, parents, and sister all continue to live in the Dubuque area. Jeff also has family living in the Dubuque area. Katie has "two very close family friends" living a "town over" from Northwood, "[a]s well as numerous other people that [she] know[s]."

         Katie began working at the Diamond Jo casino in Dubuque in 1998. She worked her way up to the position of food and beverage operations manager, a position in which she earned $56, 000.00 annually. Katie accepted a marketing coordinator position in another Diamond Jo casino located in Northwood, effective June 15, 2017. She is paid $16.50 per hour, or roughly $34, 320 per year, in this position. The change in employment therefore resulted in a pay cut for Katie in excess of $20, 000.00. In her new position, Katie generally has a regular nine-to-five, Monday-through-Friday work schedule. Katie characterized her new position as less stressful and having more potential opportunities for advancement.

         Jeff has lived with his mother and stepfather since the parties' separation in 2011. The record indicates Jeff's mother and stepfather have some health issues, and Jeff provides them assistance in relation to their conditions and helps to maintain the home. The home has three bedrooms, and Jeff and the child each have their own room. Jeff has worked for the same employer, a popular bar and grill restaurant chain, for sixteen years. He currently holds the position of head line cook. His work schedule fluctuates, but he typically works every day of the week except Saturday. The start time of his shifts varies between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m., but his shifts end at 4:00 p.m. Jeff is allowed great flexibility in his work schedule to accommodate any parenting obligations that may arise. Jeff earns $14.25 per hour, works thirty-six to forty hours per week, and occasionally receives overtime.

         The child was ten years old at the time of trial. She does very well in school. According to the evidence presented, the school the child attends in the Dubuque area is ranked 82nd out of Iowa's 597 elementary schools, while the Northwood school Katie desires the child to attend is ranked 265th. The child has been diagnosed with ADHD and has seen the same doctor in the Dubuque area regarding her ADHD for several years. Katie has traditionally been responsible for the child's ADHD medication management and taking the child to the doctor or dentist in general. This is not to say that Jeff is uninvolved in these matters, as Katie schedules these appointments on her days off, when Jeff is working, and Jeff steps in to take the child to appointments when Katie is unavailable. Both parents ...


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