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Brown v. Irwin

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 10, 2018

ROBYN BROWN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
LAYNE IRWIN, Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Thomas G. Reidel, Judge.

         Mother appeals from a decree establishing paternity, custody, and support. AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED AND REMANDED.

          Robert S. Gallagher and Peter G. Gierut of Gallagher, Millage & Gallagher, P.L.C., Bettendorf, for appellant.

          Jennie L. Clausen and Ryan M. Beckenbaugh of H.J. Dane Law Office, Davenport, for appellee.

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

          MCDONALD, JUDGE.

         Robyn Brown appeals from the district court's ruling on her petition to establish paternity, custody, visitation, and child support with respect to her child L.I. In the challenged ruling, the district court established paternity of the child in Layne Irwin, granted the parties joint legal custody of the child, granted the parties joint physical care of the child, ordered visitation with the child, and ordered child support. On appeal, Brown challenges the physical care determination.

         Our review is de novo. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; In re Marriage of Sullins, 715 N.W.2d 242, 247 (Iowa 2006). "We review the entire record and decide anew the factual and legal issues preserved and presented for review." Hensch v. Mysak, 902 N.W.2d 822, 824 (Iowa Ct. App. 2017). However, "[w]e give weight to the findings of the district court, especially to the extent credibility determinations are involved." In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 690 (Iowa 2007).

         The record reflects the following. Brown and Irwin met in 2014 in Kirksville, Missouri. Brown resided in Kirksville and worked as a bartender. Irwin resided in Davenport but spent time in Kirksville while working as an electrician on a project. Irwin frequented the bar where Brown worked when he was in Kirksville. They met, and they commenced a long-distance romantic relationship.

         The parties continued their long-distance relationship until shortly after L.I.'s birth in July 2015. At that time, the parties decided Brown (and her two older sons from prior relationships) would move to Iowa and the parties would reside together. In anticipation of Brown's move, Irwin purchased a home in Wilton, Iowa. Brown and her three sons moved from Kirksville to Wilton into Irwin's home.

         The parties cohabited until May 2017. At that time, Brown filed the petition at issue in this appeal, seeking physical care of L.I. Brown also filed a motion seeking permission to move back to Kirksville with L.I. Without waiting for a ruling on her motion, Brown vacated the family home and moved with all three children back to Kirksville. Kirksville is approximately 180 miles from Wilton. Irwin sought a temporary injunction to prohibit the move. The district court entered an order on temporary matters directing the parties to alternate care of L.I. on a weekly basis until the matter was resolved. The parties alternated care of the child as ordered by the district court.

         After trial, the district court awarded the parties joint physical care of the child on an alternating-week basis. However, the district court ordered the child to attend school in Wilton and ordered Irwin to pay Brown's relocation expenses. The relevant portion of the order follows:

[u]nder these circumstances, the Court finds that joint physical care shall be awarded to the parties. The parties shall continue to alternate weeks. The minor child shall attend school in Wilton, Iowa unless otherwise agreed upon by the parties. If Robyn relocates to the Wilton area, Layne shall provide Robyn $2, 000 to assist with the move and the costs of a new residence. Layne shall provide this amount to Robyn within 10 days of the request. Robyn does not have to provide proof to Layne of any costs associated with the move or the new residence. When the parties live within thirty miles of each other, the party not exercising a one- week block of parenting time shall be entitled to a midweek visit from after school (4:00 p.m. in the summertime) until 7:30 p.m.

         In effect, the district court ordered Brown to return to Iowa or to file a modification petition before L.I. enrolled in school. The district court deemed this the best resolution because of Wilton's "excellent educational system," state-assisted daycare programs, Brown's oldest son's ...

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