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In re Marriage of Widdison

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF AMY A. WIDDISON AND HAROLD K. WIDDISON Upon the Petition of AMY A. WIDDISON, n/k/a AMY A. DENDY, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning HAROLD K. WIDDISON, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Nancy L. Whittenburg, Judge.

         Harold Widdison appeals the order modifying the child-visitation and child-support provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage.

          Harold K. Widdison, Sioux City, self-represented appellant.

          Amanda Van Wyhe of Van Wyhe Law Firm & Mediation Center, PLC, Sioux City, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ. Carr, S.J., takes no part.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         Harold Widdison appeals the order modifying the child-visitation and child-support provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Amy Widdison, now known as Amy Dendy. He seeks an increase in child visitation and a decrease in the amount of his child support obligation. He also challenges the portion of the order requiring him to pay Amy's attorney fees.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Harold and Amy were married from 1995 until 2015. The parties stipulated to matters of child custody, visitation, and support, and the district court incorporated their stipulation into the decree dissolving the marriage. The decree granted the parties joint legal custody of the children, with Amy receiving physical care of their three children during the school year. Harold's visitation during the school year alternated weekly: from 3:30 p.m. on Thursday to 8:00 a.m. on Monday one week, and from 3:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. on the Wednesday and Thursday of the next week. The decree memorialized Amy and Harold's agreement to alternate physical care of the children each week during the summer school break. It also ordered Harold to pay $800 per month in child support until only one child was entitled to support, at which time the amount would be reduced to $600 per month. About fifteen months after its entry, Harold petitioned to modify the decree, arguing that each parties' remarriage and his decreased earnings after entry of the dissolution decree amounted to a substantial change in circumstances warranting modification. Harold asked the court to grant the parties joint physical care of the children and reduce the amount of his child support obligation. Amy also alleged a change in circumstances warranted modification, citing Harold's "strained relationship" with the children, a decline in their mental health, and other conflicts. She requested Harold's visitation be reduced.

         Trial was held on the modification action in February 2017. The record was reopened in September 2017 to allow Amy to submit additional evidence. Specifically, Amy submitted evidence that Harold and his wife were arrested and charged with domestic abuse in August 2017, though the charges were dismissed shortly thereafter.

         On December 1, 2017, the district court entered an order modifying the child-visitation and child-support provisions of the dissolution decree. It found Harold failed to prove the parties' remarriage was a substantial change in circumstances that warranted modification of child custody. The court pointed out that "Remarriage after divorce is common and within the contemplation of a trial court." It noted Amy testified it was anticipated at the time of the dissolution that each party would remarry and that "Harold did not disagree with or otherwise dispute that testimony." The court found the parties had satisfied the lower burden of showing a significant change in circumstances that warranted modification of child visitation. The court modified the visitation schedule, changing the start of Harold's alternating weekend visitation to Friday afternoon rather than Thursday afternoon. It also reduced the amount of his Thursday-evening visitation by one hour, ending it at 8:00 p.m. rather than at 9:00 p.m. The court modified Harold's child support obligation to $396 per month from June through August, lowering the obligation to $258 per month when only one child is eligible for support. For the school-year months of September through May, the court ordered Harold to pay Amy $1015 per month in child support, lowering the obligation to $710.50 when only one child is eligible for support. Finally, the court ordered Harold to pay $6, 688 for one half of Amy's attorney fees.

         Harold appeals.[1]

         II. Discussion.

         We review modification proceedings de novo. See In re Marriage of Harris, 877 N.W.2d 434, 440 (Iowa 2016). In doing so, we look at the entire record and decide anew the factual and legal issues preserved and presented for review. See In re Marriage of Williams, 589 N.W.2d 759, 761 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). "We give weight to the findings of the district court, particularly concerning the credibility of witnesses; however, those findings are not binding upon us." In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). Furthermore, "the district court has reasonable discretion in determining whether modification is warranted and that ...


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