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In re Marriage of Lesline

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 15, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MICHELLE L. LESLINE AND JIMMY R. LESLINE Upon the Petition of MICHELLE L. LESLINE, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning JIMMY R. LESLINE, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Jeffrey L. Poulson, Judge.

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

          Alice S. Horneber of Horneber Law Firm, PC, Sioux City, for appellant.

          Jacquelyn S. Johnson of Law Office of Jacquelyn Johnson, Sioux City, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Jimmy R. Lesline appeals the district court's dissolution decree granting physical care of the children, H.L.L., H.J.L., and A.L.H.L., to Michelle L. Hight Lesline, with visitation for Jimmy. Jimmy requests the decree be modified to place the children in his physical care. Jimmy also asks for a modification of the child support and economic provisions of the decree.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Jimmy and Michelle Lesline were married on November 19, 2008. Three children, H.L.L. (2006), H.J.L. (2008), and A.L.H.L. (2013) were born of the relationship. During most of the marriage, the parties resided at a house in Sioux City they rented from Jimmy's parents. In 2011, the parties separated for a time but reconciled before the dissolution was final.

         Jimmy is employed by Load King in Elk Point, South Dakota, as a welder/fitter and production laborer. He generally works from 6:00 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., sometimes until 4:30 p.m. He is working to complete his general equivalency diploma (GED). He continues to live in the marital house in Sioux City, which he rents from his parents. Jimmy remodeled the house in 2017 after discovering it had mold causing breathing issues for two of the children. Jimmy's parents and sisters' families live close to Jimmy's home and help him on a regular basis with child care.

         Michelle works as a pharmacy technician at Wal-Mart in Sioux City. Her work schedule is 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. four days a week, 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. one day a week, and every fourth weekend. She earned her GED and certification as a pharmacy technician during the marriage. Early in the relationship, Michelle stayed home with the children, and she was the children's primary caregiver throughout the entire relationship. Michelle resides in a home she purchased in April 2017 in Sioux City a few miles from Jimmy's home.

         Both Jimmy and Michelle have a history of substance abuse. Both parties are long-time smokers, though Jimmy quit in March 2017. Jimmy quit drinking alcohol in January 2017. Michelle testified she still smokes but does so outside. Each has used controlled substances in the past, but no evidence indicates current use. Testimony indicated Michelle has at least once taken prescription medications not prescribed to her since the separation. Each party testified to times the other party was under the influence or using alcohol or controlled substances while they had care of the children.

         Michelle filed a petition to dissolve the marriage on February 3, 2017, and moved out of the family home in March. The parties agreed to joint legal custody, and initially co-parented well with joint physical care. But as time passed, their ability to communicate and get along declined, and by May 15, at a hearing on temporary matters, both parties requested physical care of the children. The court awarded Jimmy physical care and control of the children, and set child support payments at $415 per month from Michelle to Jimmy. The order included a right of first refusal for care of the children.

         During the temporary order, Jimmy's family assisted with care of the children in the mornings and during school breaks. Jimmy failed to facilitate the relationship between Michelle and the children by not responding to messages from Michelle, changing medical providers for the children and not providing Michelle notice of appointments, and failing to pass on information from the school regarding the children's programs and conferences. Once school started, Michelle asked to care for the children in the morning but did not agree to Jimmy bringing the children to her home at 5:00 a.m. ...


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