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In re Marriage of Ware

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF DOUG P. WARE AND KRISTI J. WARE Upon the Petition of DOUG P. WARE, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning KRISTI J. WARE, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jasper County, Bradley McCall, Judge.

         Doug Ware appeals the district court's award of traditional spousal support to Kristi Ware.

          Earl B. Kavanaugh of Harrison & Dietz-Kilen, PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Kristi J. Ware, Ankeny, self-represented appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         "Procrastination" was the only explanation offered by Doug Ware for waiting fourteen years after separating from his wife Kristi Ware to file his petition to dissolve their twenty-five-year marriage. Citing the length of the marriage and other factors, the district court ordered Doug to pay $1500 per month in alimony[1]until he reached retirement age. Doug argues because of their long separation, Kristi was not entitled to traditional alimony. Finding the district court's award of alimony to be equitable, we decline to modify the decree.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Doug and Kristi married in 1992. Kristi had a daughter from a previous relationship, Taylor, who was two years old when she was adopted by Doug. During their marriage, Doug and Kristi had another child, Devin. Taylor and Devin were adults at the time of the dissolution trial. Kristi was not employed during the marriage. She suffers from severe depression and has received Social Security disability Supplemental Security Income (SSI) since she was twenty-three years old. Doug worked as a self-employed painter during the marriage. He testified he earned between $150, 000 and $200, 000 per year in gross income painting houses. Throughout his time as a painter, Doug neither filed federal or state income tax returns nor paid taxes. At trial, Doug estimated he owes nearly $750, 000 to the federal treasury and another $100, 000 to the state of Iowa in unpaid taxes.

         Doug and Kristi separated after roughly eleven years of marriage. At the time of their parents' separation, Devin was nine and Taylor was twelve years old. Devin is disabled and receives SSI disability benefits. Kristi testified Devin was born with a cleft lip and palate and has speech problems, Asperger syndrome, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). During the separation, both parties maintained their own households and finances, but Kristi alone cared for Devin and Taylor. Doug contributed nothing to Kristi's maintenance, though he did pay some amount of child support.[2] Since the parties separated, Kristi has relied upon disability benefits and contributions from her family to make ends meet.

         During the separation Doug worked for Moehl Millwork, Inc. with his girlfriend, Mindy, doing pre-finish work on windows, doors, and molding. Doug testified Moehl discontinued onsite pre-finish work, so he and Mindy "didn't work for them for years." Doug later declined an invitation to return to Moehl because of his tax delinquency. He testified, "If I receive any money from anyone, they'll just take it anyway . . . the IRS." Instead, Mindy established a company called Iowa Factory Prefinish, which performed the same type of pre-finishing work. Mindy is listed as the sole owner of the business. Doug supervised six employees of Mindy's company but took no salary from his full-time position.

         During trial, Doug acknowledged he was "management" for Iowa Factory Prefinish and sometimes fielded calls on his cell phone for the company, though it publicized a separate business number. When the court asked Doug if he was "the brains behind the operation," Doug responded, "Initially, yes." Doug estimated Iowa Factory Prefinish had gross earnings of $400, 000 to $450, 000 per year, and Mindy retained a salary of $75, 000 after paying all expenses.

         Doug receives about $10, 000 per year from a trust established by his grandmother. Doug testified the trust contains assets of nearly $300, 000. He cannot invade the principal, which will be distributed to his children when he dies. Doug uses the trust income to cover his phone and health insurance expenses and to pay $450 per month in rent to Mindy's mother. Doug and Mindy live together in a home owned by Mindy's mother. Mindy pays all of Doug's other expenses.

         Doug petitioned for dissolution of his marriage to Kristi in January 2017. At that point, the parties had lived apart for about fourteen years. Doug retained an attorney to assist him in the dissolution action; Kristi did not. In her financial affidavit Kristi requested Doug pay $2000 per month in "temporary alimony." After an August 2017 trial, the district court entered a decree dissolving the marriage and ordering Doug to pay Kristi $1500 per month in traditional spousal support until he turns sixty-seven years old or Kristi dies or remarries, whichever occurs first (Doug was forty-eight and Kristi was forty-five years old at the time of the trial). The district court held Doug responsible for "any and ...

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