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In re Marriage of Kraabel

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 18, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF KRISTINE D. KRAABEL AND THOMAS P. KRAABEL Upon the Petition of KRISTINE D. KRAABEL, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning THOMAS P. KRAABEL, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Winneshiek County, Margaret L. Lingreen, Judge.

         Kristine Kraabel appeals the dismissal of her petition for dissolution of marriage. Thomas Kraabel cross-appeals the district court's evidentiary ruling. AFFIRMED.

          Kerry A. Finley, Allison M. Heffern, and Kristen A. Shaffer of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

          Matthew J. Brandes and Rae M. Kinkead of Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman, P.L.C., Cedar Rapids, for appellee.

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

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         Kristine Kraabel appeals the dismissal of her petition for dissolution of her marriage to Thomas Kraabel. Kristine argues the district court erred in determining Thomas was not an Iowa resident and therefore the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the matter. Thomas cross-appeals, arguing the district court abused its discretion in granting Kristine's motion to strike an affidavit and exhibits from his foreign counsel. We agree with the district court that Thomas is not a resident of Iowa and therefore subject matter jurisdiction is negated. Therefore, we affirm the dismissal of the petition and deny Kristine's request for appellate attorney fees. Because we affirm the district court, we do not reach Thomas's cross-appeal.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         This case embodies the jurisdictional problem a divorcing couple may face when most of their married life has been spent residing in multiple foreign countries. Back in 1983, Thomas's family moved to Decorah, Iowa, when his father was hired as the Vice President, Dean of Luther College. In 1989, Thomas graduated from Luther College. His father is deceased, but his mother and other family members still live in Decorah.

         Thomas and Kristine were married on November 13, 1999, in Richmond, Virginia, but moved to Singapore shortly thereafter. Thomas's work expertise is outside the United States and, therefore, he and Kristine moved frequently during the marriage for his employment. In April 2003, the parties moved to China. In May 2003, Kristine briefly returned to Singapore to give birth to their only child, E.H.K. Thomas's employment in China subsequently ended and, in January 2004, the parties and E.H.K. moved to Decorah. In April 2004, Thomas moved to Singapore again to begin new employment. In August 2004, Kristine and E.H.K. joined Thomas in Singapore. In March 2007, the parties and E.H.K. moved to Belgium. Once Thomas's employment in Belgium ended, the parties and E.H.K. again moved to Decorah in October 2009. The parties homeschooled E.H.K., who was six years old, during this time rather than enroll her in an Iowa school. Thomas remained unemployed until November 2010, when the parties and E.H.K. moved to Singapore once more for Thomas to begin work with a new employer. E.H.K. began attending school in Singapore shortly thereafter. Thomas temporarily moved to the United Arab Emirates in February 2013, and he returned to Singapore in January 2014. In August 2015, E.H.K. began attending a boarding school in Scotland. At the time of the hearing, Thomas lived in Singapore, Kristine lived in Tromsø, Norway, and E.H.K. lived in Edinburgh, Scotland during the school year.

         Thomas, Kristine, and E.H.K. are United States citizens. All three have also obtained rights to live and work in various foreign countries, including Singaporean permanent resident status and re-entry permits. Permanent resident status gives the holder the legal right to live and work in Singapore, and it typically does not expire. A re-entry permit allows a permanent resident to enter and leave Singapore, and it must be renewed every five years. Thomas obtained permanent resident status and a re-entry permit for Singapore in 2011, and he renewed his re-entry permit in 2016.

         In September 2003, the parties purchased a home in Decorah. Thomas testified they purchased the home as an investment and as a potential retirement home. Thomas acknowledged they have referred to the home as Juvelen, which is Norwegian for "the jewel," although he also notes they bought the home from the Jewell family. A caretaker lives in the home rent-free, but the caretaker must leave the home when the parties return to Decorah. The parties inhabited this home when they lived in Decorah in 2004 and 2009-10. Thomas testified they inhabit the Decorah home "normally for a couple of weeks a year, in the summer and Christmas," and he has "never" intended to live there permanently. In November 2005, the parties bought a second home in Decorah, which they initially rented out as an investment property and later sold on contract. At the time of the hearing, Thomas leased his apartment in Singapore, and the only assets he owned in Singapore were two businesses with no active contracts, financial and retirement accounts, and personal property. He testified this lifestyle "is how we have lived our entire life."

         For tax year 2010, the parties filed their Iowa income tax return as part-year Iowa residents who moved out of Iowa on October 31. The parties continued to file Iowa income tax returns as Iowa nonresidents every year through tax year 2015, the most recent year available at the time of the hearing.[1] Thomas is registered to vote in Iowa, but he does not have a valid Iowa driver's license. Since moving out of Iowa in 2010, Thomas has returned to Iowa several times to visit family and friends, and he spent multiple weeks in Iowa during both 2016 and 2017.

         Thomas initially filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in Iowa on December 29, 2016. In the petition, Thomas stated he had been a resident of Iowa for more than the past year. In a February 9, 2017 email, Kristine told Thomas she would not accept service on the petition until they could resolve certain issues, including jurisdiction. On March 17, Thomas filed a writ for divorce in Singapore.[2]He testified he filed in Singapore because he had only recently met the Singaporean residency requirement for filing, and he made ...

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