IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JASON JONES AND MISTY L. JONES Upon the Petition of JASON JONES, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning MISTY L. JONES, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, John D.
ex-wife appeals the dismissal of her application for order to
show cause why her ex-husband should not be held in contempt
for violating the child-custody provisions of their
D. Jasper, Bettendorf, for appellant.
M. Carlson of Gomez May LLP, Davenport, for appellee.
Considered by Mullins, P.J., McDonald, J., and Carr, S.J.
Jones filed an application for order to show cause and motion
to enforce decree, alleging that Jason Jones willfully
disobeyed the custody provisions of the parties'
dissolution decree. The district court dismissed the action
after finding that Misty failed to prove Jason willfully
disobeyed the court order. Misty appeals, contending this
finding is not supported by substantial evidence. She
advances this standard of review citing In re Marriage of
Hankenson, 503 N.W.2d 431, 433 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993)
(stating that when a trial court refuses to hold a party in
contempt, we review the record to determine if substantial
evidence exists to support the trial court's finding).
Although Hankenson does apply this standard of
review, we think the standard to apply here was announced in
the more recent opinion of our supreme court in In re
Marriage of Swan, 526 N.W.2d 320, 327 (Iowa 1995). Under
Swan, the trial court may consider all the
circumstances, not just whether a willful violation has been
proven in deciding whether to impose punishment for contempt.
526 N.W.2d at 327. The trial court has broad discretion and
unless it is "grossly abused, " the trial
court's decision must stand. Id.
person who willfully disobeys a court order may be cited and
punished for contempt. See Iowa Code § 598.23
(2017). Disobedience is willful when it is "intentional
and deliberate with a bad or evil purpose, or wanton and in
disregard of the rights of others, or contrary to a known
duty, or unauthorized, coupled with an unconcern whether the
contemnor had the right or not." Den Hartog,
891 N.W.2d at 436 (citation omitted). Misty bears the burden
of proving Jason in contempt by proof beyond a reasonable
doubt. See Reis v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 787 N.W.2d 61, 66
dissolution decree provides Misty with physical care of the
parties' children. In her application, Misty alleged that
Jason willfully disobeyed the decree by harboring their
seventeen-year-old daughter. In a detailed ruling, the court
found Misty failed to meet her burden of proving Jason
disobeyed the decree intentionally or with bad or evil
purpose. Although the daughter was living with Jason instead
of Misty, the court concluded that "Jason simply
afforded his daughter a place to stay after [the child]
refused to return to her mother's home for her own
independent reasons, " noting that it "would look
at this differently if it appeared Jason had put her up to
this decision, but that does not appear to be the case."
review of the record supports the district court's
finding that Jason did not willfully disobey the decree by
providing his daughter with a place to stay when she refused
to return to Misty's home following an argument. This is
not a case of one parent refusing to provide the other with
access to their child; the conflict at issue was clearly
between mother and daughter, not between the parents, and the
living arrangement was a product of the daughter's choice
rather than Jason's will. Jason did not prevent the
daughter from returning to Misty's home or discourage her
from doing so. Even if his acquiescence could be
considered intentional and deliberate, his reason for
allowing the child to stay in his home-his fear that she
would "run" if he refused her request-does not
evince a bad or evil purpose. The trial court did not grossly
abuse its discretion in declining to find Jason in contempt.
Our review is confined to this question. We do not address
Misty's complaint that the trial court should have
ordered more aggressive action to move the child to
Misty's home, an issue for which she cites no authority
and presents no separate argument. "The present
situation points out the limitations of the court system in
solving a family's problems." In re Marriage of
Ruden, 496 N.W.2d 494, 496 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993). We
affirm the order dismissing Misty's application.
requests trial and appellate counsel fees. Iowa Code section
598.24 authorizes such an award, but only after a finding of
contempt. In the absence of such a finding, the trial
court's denial of fees is affirmed.