IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MOHAMMAD M. HAIDAR AND PATRICIA A. HAIDAR Upon the Petition of MOHAMMAD M. HAIDAR, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning PATRICIA A. HAIDAR, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie K.
appeals from the decree of dissolution of marriage entered
upon default and default judgment.
van Cleaf of Van Cleaf & McCormack Law Firm, LLP, Des
Moines, for appellant.
R. Hinchliff of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, PC,
West Des Moines, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
question presented in this appeal is whether the district
court's entry of default judgment is justified when a
party fails to appear personally for trial but the
party's attorney is present and able to proceed in the
and Patricia Haidar married in North Carolina in 2006. They
entered into a separation agreement in 2014. As part of that
agreement, Mohammad agreed to pay temporary support to
Patricia in the amount of $850 per month in semi-monthly
installments until the time a dissolution decree was entered.
Mohammad retired from the armed services and moved to Iowa in
late December 2014 or early January 2015. At the time he
moved, Mohammad assumed Patricia had followed through and
finalized the parties' divorce. Subsequently, Mohammad
learned the parties' divorce was not final.
finding out the parties were not divorced, Mohammad filed
this dissolution action in Iowa in August 2016. Patricia
continued to reside in North Carolina, but she was served
with notice of the petition. She filed her answer. She
engaged in discovery, pretrial disclosures, pretrial motion
practice, and pretrial conferences. Upon Patricia's
motion, the district court entered an order on temporary
matters. In the order, the district court enforced the
parties' separation agreement and ordered Mohammad to pay
temporary spousal support in the amount of $850 per month to
be paid semi-monthly. The district court also ordered the
matter be tried in April 2017. The uniform scheduling order
provided "[c]ounsel shall be prepared to complete the
examination of Petitioner and Respondent as the first two
witnesses at trial."
days before the scheduled trial date, Patricia filed a motion
to continue trial. In the alternative, she requested she be
allowed to appear telephonically. In support of her motion,
Patricia claimed she lacked the financial resources to travel
to Iowa for trial because Mohammad had missed four recent
spousal support payments. The district court denied the
motion on the ground Patricia had been aware of the scheduled
trial date for months.
came to a head on the day of trial. Patricia failed to appear
at the trial. Her counsel was present and stated he was able
to proceed without his client's personal presence.
Counsel noted most of the evidence relevant to the issues to
be determined consisted of financial statements and other
financial documents. The district court denied the request to
proceed without Patricia being personally present.
moved for the entry of default and default judgment. He
argued Patricia was in default because she failed to be
present for trial as set forth in Iowa Rule of Civil
Procedure 1.971(3). He also argued default was appropriate
because Patricia failed to comply with court orders as set
forth in Rule 1.971(4). The district court granted
Mohammad's motion on both grounds.
dissolution decree assumed all of Mohammad's evidence to
be true, approved the property division set forth in the 2014
separation agreement, determined neither party would pay
spousal support, released Mohammad from any past obligation
to make support payments from January 1, 2015, through
October 31, 2016, and denied Patricia's request for a
portion of Mohammad's past military housing allowance.
Patricia filed a motion to enlarge ...