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Runyan v. Runyan

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 5, 2018

MELISSA KAY RUNYAN, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
WILLIAM MICHAEL RUNYAN, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Denver D. Dillard, Judge.

         William Runyan appeals the entry of a domestic abuse protective order.

          David D. Burbidge of Johnston, Stannard, Klesner, Burbidge and Fitzgerald P.L.C., Iowa City, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Viner of Viner Law Firm P.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

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

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         William 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.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Melissa 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.[1]

         On June 20, Melissa filed a petition for relief from domestic abuse, alleging William threatened her via Facebook messenger, email, text message, and in person.[2] 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.[3] 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."

         After 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.

         II. Standard of Review

         Both 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 law.").

         Here, 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 ...


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