from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Denver D.
Runyan appeals the entry of a domestic abuse protective
D. Burbidge of Johnston, Stannard, Klesner, Burbidge and
Fitzgerald P.L.C., Iowa City, for appellant.
J. Viner of Viner Law Firm P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
Runyan appeals the entry of a domestic abuse protective order
pursuant to Iowa Code section 236.5(1)(b) (2017). He contends
the district court erred in finding he committed a domestic
abuse assault against his wife, Melissa Runyan, and issuing
the protective order because the evidence was insufficient to
prove an assault occurred. William also requests an award of
appellate attorney fees.
Background Facts and Proceedings
and William were married in November of 2012. Their marriage
produced one child, born in 2015. The couple lived together
with their child and Melissa's two children from a prior
relationship. William also has five children from a prior
relationship who live with their mother. William visits his
other children weekly. Melissa and William separated in April
2017, upon which William moved out of the martial home.
Melissa subsequently filed a petition for dissolution of
marriage on June 1. William and Melissa arranged a visitation
schedule allowing William to visit their child at the same
times he had visitation with his other children. The schedule
continued until some point prior to Melissa filing the
petition in this case.
20, Melissa filed a petition for relief from domestic abuse,
alleging William threatened her via Facebook messenger,
email, text message, and in person. A temporary protective order
pursuant to Iowa Code section 236.4(2) was entered by the
court the same day. At the hearing on the petition to
determine if the temporary protective order should be
converted to a permanent order, Melissa and William each
testified. Their testimony about the messages William sent to
Melissa and the statements he made to her was similar as to
the basic content of the messages but differed as to the
meaning and context of the messages and the means of
communication. Melissa claimed William came to her house
on May 31, yelling at her because she had not responded to
his attempts at contact. Before William left after being
kicked out of the house by Melissa, she claims he told her
"I'm going to bury you" and she "needed to
bury [her]self a hole, crawl in and die."
hearing the testimony, the district court concluded William
had committed domestic abuse, entered an order of protection,
awarded temporary custody of their shared child to Melissa,
and granted visitation to William. William appeals.
Standard of Review
parties contend we should review this case de novo as civil
domestic abuse proceedings are tried in equity and our
appellate review of equitable proceedings is de novo.
See, e.g., Wilker v. Wilker, 630 N.W.2d
590, 594 (Iowa 2001); Knight v. Knight, 525 N.W.2d
841, 843 (Iowa 1994). However, the standard of review of the
district court's order depends on the mode of trial in
district court. Reed v. Reed, No.13-0170, 2014 WL
69809, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 9, 2014) ("Our standard
of review of the district court's order depends on the
mode of trial in district court. We review civil domestic
abuse proceeding[s] tried in equity de novo . . . . Where, as
here, the district court rules on objections as they are
made, the case is tried as a law action, and our review is at
law."); Hittle v. Hester, No. 08-1397, 2009 WL
1676904, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 17, 2009) ("Charles
contends our standard of review is de novo because the case
was tried in equity. In reviewing the record, we note the
court ruled on at least one objection, and therefore the
action was tried at law and our review is for errors at
the trial court ruled on objections during the trial and
excluded evidence from the record based on its evidentiary
rulings. Additionally, the court identified it did not try
this case in equity. Therefore, the action was tried at law
and our review is for errors at law. See Bacon ex rel.
Bacon v. Bacon, 567 N.W.2d 414, 417 (Iowa 1997) (noting
the court ruled on objections as they were made and,
therefore, the case was tried at law). Thus, the court's
findings of fact are binding upon us if those facts are
supported by ...