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In re Marriage of Noborikawa

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 5, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MASATOMO NOBORIKAWA AND DEIDRA DANIELLE MILLER NOBORIKAWA Upon the Petition of MASATOMO NOBORIKAWA, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning DEIDRA DANIELLE MILLER NOBORIKAWA, n/k/a DEIDRA DANIELLEMILLER, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Linda M. Fangman, Judge.

         Deidra Miller appeals the decree dissolving her marriage to Masatomo Noborikawa.

          John R. Walker, Jr. of Beecher, Field, Walker, Morris, Hoffman & Johnson, P.C., Waterloo, for appellant.

          Heather A. Prendergast of Roberts, Stevens & Prendergast, PLLC, Waterloo, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         Deidra Miller and Masatomo (Masa) Noborikawa married in 2002. They have four children, who now range in age from five to eleven years old. Masa filed a petition seeking to dissolve the marriage in July 2016, and in December 2017, the district court entered a decree dissolving the marriage. Deidra appealed.

         Because the district court hears dissolution-of-marriage proceedings in equity, our review is de novo. See In re Marriage of Mauer, 874 N.W.2d 103, 106 (Iowa 2016); see also Iowa Code § 598.3 (2016); Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. Although we examine the entire record and adjudicate the issues anew, we give weight to the district court's factual findings, especially with respect to the credibility of the witnesses. See In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013); see also Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g). This is because the district court, in making its credibility assessment, has the distinct advantage of listening and observing each witness's demeanor firsthand, while we must rely on a cold transcript. See In re Marriage of Udelhofen, 444 N.W.2d 473, 474 (Iowa 1989); In re Marriage of Vrban, 359 N.W.2d 420, 423 (Iowa 1984).

         I. Child Custody.

         Deidra first challenges the child custody provisions of the decree. Although Deidra requested joint physical care of the children, the court found such an arrangement would not be in the children's best interests. The court instead granted physical care of the children to Masa. On appeal, Deidra again argues a joint-physical-care arrangement is best for the children.

         Iowa Code section 598.41(1)(a) (2016) states:

The court, insofar as is reasonable and in the best interest of the child, shall order the custody award, including liberal visitation rights where appropriate, which will assure the child the opportunity for the maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved the marriage, and which will encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child unless direct physical harm or significant emotional harm to the child, other children, or a parent is likely to result from such contact with one parent.

         The court may grant joint physical care if the parties share joint legal custody and at least one party requests it. See Iowa Code § 598.41(5)(a). If the request is denied, the court must state specific findings of fact and conclusions of law as to why joint physical care is not in the child's best interests. See id. In determining whether joint physical care is appropriate, we consider consider "(1) stability, continuity of caregiving, and approximation; (2) 'the ability of the spouses to communicate and show mutual respect'; (3) 'the degree of conflict between parents'; and (4) 'the degree to which the parents are in general agreement about their approach to daily matters.'" In re Marriage of Hansen, 886 N.W.2d 868, 874 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016) (quoting In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 696-99 (2007)).

         In the decree, the district court determined a joint-physical-care arrangement was not in the children's best interests, citing the parties' inability to communicate effectively, the degree of conflict between them, their inability to agree on child-rearing practices, and the logistics of their current living situations. Deidra challenges these findings, claiming the district court exaggerated the level of conflict between the parties and claiming they have only "isolated disagreements" concerning child-rearing. The evidence indicates otherwise. Despite her claims that the parties are able to co-parent, the evidence shows Deidra has undermined Masa's role as a ...


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