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In re Marriage of Paulsen

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 6, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF HEATH PAULSEN AND KATI PAULSEN Upon the Petition of HEATH PAULSEN, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning KATI PAULSEN, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Kossuth County, Nancy L. Whittenburg, Judge.

          Kati Paulsen appeals the district court decision to modify a dissolution decree to grant Heath Paulsen physical care of their two children.

          Andrew B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Kristy B. Arzberger of Arzberger Law Office, Mason City, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         Their February 2015 divorce decree awarded Kati and Heath Paulsen joint physical care of their preschool-aged twins. In August 2016, Kati asked the court to modify the decree to grant her physical care because she planned to move to a new residence two and one-half hours away. Heath responded by asking to maintain shared care or, alternatively, to be the physical custodian. The court granted Heath physical care. Kati appeals. On our de novo review, we reach the same conclusion as the district court-circumstances have changed substantially, and the parents' conduct since the divorce shows Heath can provide superior care.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Kati and Heath were married 2009; their twin son and daughter were born in 2012. In December 2014, the couple signed a stipulated dissolution decree establishing joint legal custody and joint physical care of their children. The district court approved the stipulation and filed the decree in February 2015.

         Following the dissolution, Heath stayed in the marital home in Lakota, and Kati lived nearby in Bancroft. But in October 2016, Kati moved to Cedar Falls. There, she attends Hawkeye Community College taking mostly online classes and works part-time, remotely, as an office manager for a Bancroft business. Kati lives with her boyfriend, Mark. Heath continues to farm part-time and works in a landscaping business. Also in October 2016, Heath married Brittany, who has an eight-year-old son.

         Based on her move, Kati filed a petition to modify the shared care arrangement. Heath filed a counter petition. The district court entered a ruling to modify, granting Heath physical care. Kati challenges the ruling on appeal.

          II. Standard of Review

         "Petitions to modify the physical care provisions of a divorce decree lie in equity." In re Marriage of Harris, 877 N.W.2d 434, 440 (Iowa 2016) (quoting In re Marriage of Hoffman, 867 N.W.2d 26, 32 (Iowa 2015)). "Thus, we review the district court's decision de novo." Id. (citing In re Marriage of Sisson, 843 N.W.2d 866, 870 (Iowa 2014)). We make our own findings of fact but "give weight to the district court's findings" particularly relating to witness credibility. Id. (citing In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013)).

         III. ...


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