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In re Marriage of Anderson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 1, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MICHAEL CLIFFORD ANDERSON AND ABBY LEA ANDERSON Upon the Petition of MICHAEL CLIFFORD ANDERSON, Petitioner-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, And Concerning ABBY LEA ANDERSON, Respondent-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, John J. Haney, Judge.

         Abby Anderson appeals, and Michael Anderson cross-appeals, from the decree dissolving their marriage. AFFIRMED ON BOTH APPEALS.

          Ryan D. Babich of Babich Goldman, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Dorothy L. Dakin of Kruse & Dakin, L.L.P., Boone, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Michael and Abby Anderson married in 2004, had three children, and divorced in 2017. In pertinent part, the district court (1) granted the parents joint physical care of their children; (2) declined Abby's request for spousal support; and (3) concluded Michael should pay Abby $337.92 per month in child support.

         On appeal, Abby contends the district court should have granted her physical care of the children and should have ordered Michael to pay her rehabilitative alimony. On cross-appeal, Michael argues the district court should have imputed income to Abby for purposes of calculating child support.

         I. Physical Care

         "Physical care" is "the right and responsibility to maintain a home for the minor child and provide for the routine care of the child." Iowa Code § 598.1(7) (2017). "Joint physical care" is "an award of physical care of a minor child to both joint legal custodial parents under which both parents have rights and responsibilities toward the child including but not limited to shared parenting time with the child, maintaining homes for the child, providing routine care for the child and under which neither parent has physical care rights superior to those of the other parent." Id. § 598.1(4); see also In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 690-91 (Iowa 2007).

         Abby contends the district court should have granted her physical care of the children because she was "the primary caregiver for most, if not all, of the parties' marriage"; she and Michael had "significant difficulties in communication"; they were "distrustful]" and unable "to show mutual respect to one another"; they were "often in disagreement" on parenting decisions, and "the children [were] not adjusting that well to the shared care arrangement."

         The district court addressed these concerns. The court stated, "[D]espite their respective faults and recent posturing for trial, Michael and Abby are good people, good parents, and both love and care a great deal for their children." The court pointed out that the parents lived "within a few blocks of each other," had "strong family support systems in the area," and had "actively cared for the children both before and since their separation." Although Abby was "primary caretaker in recent years," the court found "Michael's role and contributions in this regard [could not] be said to weigh against him." The court further found the parents were able to support each other's relationship with the children and were able to communicate with each other concerning the children. In the court's view, the parents' "increased tensions in preparing for trial" were "temporary and situational" and they would communicate more effectively moving forward.

         On our de novo review of the record, we concur in these findings. Michael was a significant part of the children's lives throughout the marriage. He testified that both he and Abby "worked full time for many years" and both attended to the children's daily needs and went to their activities. In his words, he "tried to be the most active and attentive dad that [he] kn[e]w how to be even with working a full-time job." Although Abby testified to providing the lion's share of the children's care before a temporary joint physical care order was filed and she stated Michael spent long hours at work, she agreed Michael actively parented their first child and was involved with the children in other respects.

         Notably, Michael's job was restructured, affording him "a lot more flexibility." As noted by the district court, he moved to a townhome "less than two blocks" from the home he had shared with Abby and in which Abby still lived. ...


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