IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF RICHARD WAYNE NAYLOR AND ASHLEY MARIE NAYLOR Upon the Petition of RICHARD WAYNE NAYLOR, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning ASHLEY MARIE NAYLOR, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Kellyann
M. Lekar, Judge.
challenging the economic provisions of a decree of
dissolution of marriage.
S. Kaplan and C. Aron Vaughn of Kaplan & Frese, LLP,
Marshalltown, for appellant.
D. Engels of Correll, Sheerer, Benson, Engels, Galles &
Demro, PLC, Cedar Falls, for appellee.
by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.
Naylor pursues this appeal from the decree dissolving her
marriage to Richard Naylor. On appeal, Ashley challenges the
property distribution and spousal support award as
record reflects the following. The parties commenced their
relationship in 2005 or early 2006. At the time the parties
started dating, Richard was approximately forty-three years
old and Ashley was approximately twenty-two years old. He was
employed as an orthopedic surgeon at a local hospital,
earning approximately $2 million per year. She was employed
as a radiologic technologist at the same hospital, earning
approximately $40, 000 per year. He was married with two
children, and she was single. Although Richard was married
with children, Richard and Ashley began cohabiting in May
2006. They continued to reside together while Richard's
divorce from his spouse was pending. Richard's divorce
was final in November 2010. Ashley and Richard married in
parties entered the marriage with a disparity in assets.
Richard brought significant assets into the marriage. He
owned timeshare properties in Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Mexico.
He owned two condo units in Panama City, Florida. One unit
was rented out, while the other was used as a vacation home.
He owned a home in Suffolk, Virginia. He owned four vehicles.
He had a wine collection ranging between 100-150 bottles, a
collection of artwork, substantial amounts of jewelry,
several hundred-thousand dollars in precious metals, a
retirement plan through his work, and his personal property.
Ashley owned one vehicle at the time the parties began
dating, but Richard paid the loan on the vehicle, gifted the
vehicle to his niece, and purchased Ashley a new vehicle.
Ashley also owned her personal possessions.
parties commingled their finances before and during the
marriage. After the parties began dating, they opened joint
bank accounts. They paid bills from the joint bank accounts.
They had joint credit cards. They established retirement and
investment accounts. They purchased life insurance policies.
The aforementioned precious metals were purchased while the
parties were dating but prior to their marriage. They owned
real property together. As previously stated, the parties
began living together in the spring of 2006. At that time,
Richard had moved from the marital home into a duplex he
purchased. Ashley moved into the duplex with Richard. After
several years, Richard sold the duplex and purchased a home
for himself and Ashley. They were not married at the time
Richard purchased this home, and Richard held title to the
home. Subsequently, the parties purchased land and built
Ashley her "dream home." Richard estimated the
parties spent approximately $1.6 million to build the home.
Given the local real estate market and the customization of
the home to the parties' taste (for example, the home
contains a wine cellar capable of storing 1700 bottles of
wine), the fair market value of the home is substantially
less than the cost of the home and the mortgages on the home.
the course of the marriage, the parties lived, in their own
words, an "opulent" lifestyle. This lifestyle was
financed by Richard's significant income. Richard's
income declined over the course of the marriage from
approximately $2 million per year to approximately $1.5
million per year. He testified he worked less to spend more
time with Ashley. He also testified he spent more time doing
administrative work and less time performing surgery. This
was because Richard was transitioning into an administrative
position in the hospital. After the parties married, Ashley
ceased full-time employment with the hospital, but she
continued to work as a PRN nurse (from the Latin "pro re
nata," for an occasion that has arisen, as circumstances
require, as needed). The parties agreed Ashley was largely
responsible for managing the household while Richard worked
fairly long hours.
filed this petition for dissolution of marriage in May 2016.
The contested issues at trial were property distribution and
spousal support. In light of the disparity of income between
the parties, the disparity in the value of premarital assets,
and the short duration of the marriage, the district court
concluded an equitable distribution of the parties'
property did not require an equal division of the
parties' property. The district court awarded Ashley some
jewelry and other property but awarded the lion's share
of the parties' property to Richard. The district court
rejected Ashley's request for traditional or
reimbursement support but did award Ashley rehabilitative
support. The district court summarized its division of
property and spousal support award as follows:
The court determines that [Richard] should be restored to the
extent possible to the majority of the property he brought
into the marriage. Further, the court finds that the assets
acquired by the parties during the course of the marriage
should be subject to equitable, but not equal distribution.
[Ashley] should receive those assets were which directly
invested into her name. [Richard] should receive those assets
which were directly invested in his name or which were
acquired through his employment benefits for the purposes of
[Ashley] should be afforded a fair amount of supposal [sic]
support that will allow her to regain full-time employment or
seek further education. She wishes to pursue that education
on a part-time basis and estimates it will take her four to
four and a half years at an approximate cost of $5, 000 per
semester. The court believes that a period of four years
should be sufficient to allow [Ashley] to advance her
education and an additional year to regain a reasonable
lifestyle that reflects her individual earning capacity and
ability. [Ashley's] request . . . for spousal support
that exceeds the actual length of the marriage is not
reasonable. [Ashley] is entitled to reasonable spousal
support and, as [Richard] has agreed to provide it,
reasonable educational support.
review in a marriage action is de novo. See In re
Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013).
"Although our review is de novo, we afford deference to
the district court for institutional and pragmatic
reasons." Hensch v. Mysak, 902 N.W.2d 822, 824
(Iowa Ct. App. 2017); accord In re Marriage of Gust,
858 N.W.2d 402, 406 (Iowa 2015) (noting we give great
latitude to the district court in fixing spousal support);
In re Marriage of Benson, 545 N.W.2d 252, 257 (Iowa
1996) ("This deference to the trial court's
determination is decidedly in the public interest. When
appellate courts unduly refine these important, but often
conjectural, judgment calls, they thereby foster appeals in
hosts of cases, at staggering expense to the parties wholly
disproportionate to any benefit they might hope to
realize."). As such, we will not modify a decree unless
the district court failed to do equity. See In re
Marriage of Mauer, 874 N.W.2d 103, 106 (Iowa 2016).
first address the property distribution. "Iowa is an
equitable distribution state." In re Marriage of
Keener, 728 N.W.2d 188, 193 (Iowa 2007) (citing In
re Marriage of Sullins, 715 N.W.2d 242, 247 (Iowa
2006)). Equitable distribution requires the division of
"all of the property owned by the parties at the time of
divorce except inherited property and gifts received by one
spouse." Id. (citing Sullins, 715
N.W.2d at 247). An equitable distribution does "not
require an equal division or percentage distribution."
In re Marriage of Campbell, 623 N.W.2d 585, 586
(Iowa Ct. App. ...