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In re Marriage of Ingersoll

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 18, 2018


          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Montgomery County, Richard H. Davidson, Judge.

         A father appeals the custody, child-support, and division-of-assets determinations of a decree of dissolution. AFFIRMED.

          James W. Mailander and Jonathan J. Mailander of Mailander Law Office, Anita, for appellant.

          Krisanne C. Weimer of Weimer Law, P.C., Council Bluffs, and Helen M. Broadway Savage of Savage Law, Council Bluffs, for appellee.

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

          BOWER, Judge.

         Benjamin William Ingersoll appeals the district court's dissolution decree granting joint physical care of the child, A.M.I., with Jennifer Lizabeth Veon Ingersoll. Benjamin requests the decree be modified to place A.M.I. in his physical care. Benjamin also asks for a modification to the child support and economic provisions of the decree.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Benjamin (Ben) and Jennifer Ingersoll were married on July 13, 2014. One child, A.M.I., was born during the marriage in 2014. Jennifer has a child from a previous relationship, A.F., for whom she has sole custody. Ben helped raise A.F. since 2013, when A.F. was one and a half years old, and considers A.F. his child. During the marriage, the parties resided at a house in Villisca owned by Ben prior to the marriage. During the marriage, each maintained their own bank account as well as a joint account, and generally kept their funds separate.

         Ben is employed by Wellman Dynamics in Creston as a maintenance technician working second shift. He has an associate's degree in automotive repair. He continues to live in the Villisca residence.

         Jennifer worked as a registered nurse for multiple employers throughout the marriage. She has a bachelor's degree in nursing and some post-graduate education. She has a history of opioid addiction and successfully completed treatment. In April 2016, Jennifer's nursing employment was terminated under accusations of diverting medications. Shortly thereafter, Jennifer's nursing license was suspended and she pled guilty to a felony charge of prohibited acts, for which she was granted a deferred judgment and placed on probation. Jennifer is currently unemployed aside from odd jobs. She can reinstate her nursing license following a substance-abuse evaluation, but she has not done so. She currently takes prescription medication to manage pain from fibromyalgia. Jennifer submits to regular testing with her doctor to monitor use of her medications. The records show positive results are limited to her prescribed levels of medication. Jennifer has substantial student loan debt. Jennifer has lived with her mother in Stanton since the separation.

         The parties separated in April 2016. Initially, Ben and Jennifer shared placement of A.M.I. each week. Ben filed a petition to dissolve the marriage on May 31. The parties stipulated to joint legal custody of A.M.I., and each requested physical care. The district court entered a temporary order on July 1, which granted the parties temporary joint legal custody and joint physical care. Under the order, Jennifer had placement Wednesday to Sunday, Ben Sunday to Wednesday. The court set child support payments at $200 per month from Ben to Jennifer.

         Following trial, the district court entered its dissolution decree on November 11, 2017. The decree granted Ben and Jennifer joint legal custody and joint physical care, with a modification requested by Ben to alternate A.M.I.'s care on Saturdays to evenly split time between parents. The decree calculated child support using some overtime hours in Ben's income and adopting Jennifer's suggested imputed income, requiring Ben to pay $325 per month in child support. The court divided the marital assets and debts, including equity in the family home, Ben's retirement accounts, and medical debts. The court also awarded Jennifer a portion of her requested attorney fees.

         Ben appeals the district court ruling of joint physical care and seeks physical care of A.M.I. Ben appeals the child-support calculation, distribution of assets, and awarding of attorney fees.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review dissolution of marriage cases do novo. In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). We have a duty to examine the entire record and adjudicate anew the rights on the issues properly presented. In re Marriage of Williams, 589 N.W.2d 759, 761 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). Generally, we give considerable deference to the district court's credibility determinations because the court has a firsthand opportunity to hear the evidence and view the witnesses. In re Marriage of Brown, 487 N.W.2d 331, 332 (Iowa 1992). We will disturb the district court's ruling only when there has been a ...

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