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In re Marriage of Hayes

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 24, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF DEANNE E. HAYES AND ERIC J. HAYES Upon the Petition of DEANNE E. HAYES, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning ERIC J. HAYES, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica L. Zrinyi Wittig, Judge.

         An ex-husband appeals an order declining to modify his child and spousal support payments.

          Jamie A. Splinter of Splinter Law Office, Dubuque, for appellant.

          Joey T. Hoover of Hoover Law Firm P.L.L.C., Epworth, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, Judge.

         Eric Hayes appeals the denial of his request to modify his child and spousal payments. Eric contends circumstances have substantially changed since entry of the decree dissolving his twenty-five-year marriage to Deanne Hayes. He asserts changes in the parties' incomes-his decrease and her increase-warrant modification of his obligations. Eric argues any decrease in payments should be retroactive. He also asks for appellate attorney fees from Deanne.

         Unlike the district court, we do not find Eric's job loss and resulting decrease in income was self-inflicted as Iowa case law applies the concept. Eric proved a substantial change in circumstances meriting modification. We remand to the district court for recalculation of Eric's child and spousal support obligations in line with the parties' new incomes.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Eric and Deanne married in 1988 and divorced in 2013. They have eight children together; six were minors at the time of dissolution. The decree awarded Deanne physical care of the children. At the time of dissolution, the parties stipulated Eric's yearly income was $60, 000 and Deanne's was $21, 017. The stipulation set Eric's child support at $1542 with incremental steps down as the children reached adulthood. The decree awarded Deanne $400 a month in spousal support for sixty months.

         Eric worked at John Deere until mid-April 2017, when the company fired him. Eric traced his job loss to health issues. In early March, Eric sought emergency-room treatment for high blood pressure. Medical personnel inserted "a couple stents" and prescribed him medication. While adjusting to the medication, Eric missed work about once per week. Eric testified he tried to timely give his employer the necessary paperwork to support his medical leave, but explained "there was a mix-up at the doctor's office." Because Eric turned in the paperwork late, John Deere refused to accept it and fired him.

         Eric exhausted his appeal options within John Deere and learned in June 2017 his termination was final. But as early as May 2017 Eric began looking for other employment. While scouting for jobs similar to his position with John Deere, Eric worked at a grocery store making twelve dollars per hour. Eric used his income from the grocery store and withdrawals from his 401K to fulfill his child support obligations.[1] In September 2017, Eric began working at FarmTek in a job much like his previous position with John Deere, but with significantly lower pay. His annual income from FarmTek was about $35, 300.

         Throughout the parties' marriage, Deanne spent most of her time as a stay-at-home mother. At the time of dissolution, she earned income from Dubuque Bank & Trust, as well as Pampered Chef. In 2016, the bank promoted Deanne and raised her pay. Deanne's end-of-year pay stub for 2016 showed her income was around $36, 904-$15, 887 more than her stipulated income in 2013.

         Eric petitioned for modification in June 2016, alleging a substantial change in circumstances based on ...


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