IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF SARAH J. TASSINARI AND STEVEN P. TASSINARI Upon the Petition of SARAH J. TASSINARI, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning STEVEN P. TASSINARI, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Wright County, Gregg R.
Tassinari appeals the economic provisions of the district
court's decree dissolving his marriage to Sarah
L. Eisentrager of Eisentrager Law, Eagle Grove, for
S. Knutson of Davis, Brown, Koehn, Shors & Roberts, PC,
Des Moines, for appellee.
by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.
Tassinari appeals the economic provisions of his decree
dissolving his marriage to Sarah Tassinari. Upon our de novo
review, we affirm as modified.
Standard of Review.
the district court hears dissolution-of-marriage proceedings
in equity, our review is de novo. See In re Marriage of
Mauer, 874 N.W.2d 103, 106 (Iowa 2016); see
also Iowa Code § 598.3 (2016); Iowa R. App. P.
6.907. This requires examining the entire record and
adjudicating the issue of the property distribution anew.
See In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676
(Iowa 2013). Nevertheless, we give weight to the district
court's factual findings, especially with respect to the
credibility of the witnesses. See id.; see
also Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(g). Ultimately, the ruling
will not be disturbed unless there has been a failure to do
equity. See Mauer, 874 N.W.2d at 106.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
was born in 1961, and Sarah was born in 1963. They met in New
Hampshire in the early 1980's. They began dating and then
1993, after Sarah's grandmother passed away, Steven and
Sarah moved to Iowa to live at and manage Sarah's
family's farm, known locally as Vanderlip Farm. The farm
was purchased by Sarah's great-grandparents and consists
of approximately 160 acres of crop land and 70 acres of
pasture. There was a brick farmhouse, a horse barn, cattle
and machine sheds, a pump house, and a corn crib on the
property. Sarah's mother and Sarah's aunt were born
in the farmhouse, and the two women inherited an equal share
of the farm after Sarah's grandmother died.
and Sarah married in 1997. The two had no children. The
parties lived at the farm rent-free in exchange for doing
"some upkeep." Over the years, numerous repairs and
improvements to the farm were made, including the "west
wing" addition to the brick farmhouse, for which
Sarah's mother and aunt paid. Though the two women hired
someone to build the addition, many family members assisted.
Steven, who had worked in construction, installed the drywall
for the addition. Sarah helped paint. Sarah's uncle did
the addition's wiring.
other structures were repaired or constructed on the land
over time. In 2004, the parties paid for the building of a
swimming pool on the farm. In 2006, Steven and Sarah
purchased an Amish cabin that was placed on the farm land
overlooking the river. The cabin was not a permanent
structure. It did not have a foundation or running water. The
parties later sold the cabin.
parties also raised cattle over the years on the land rent
free. The farm rented out the farmland, and its income
essentially paid for the farm's expenses.
mother died in 2010. Sarah inherited, among other things, her
mother's undivided one-half interest in the farm, and
several bank accounts and financial instruments, including
IRA accounts. Sarah's brother died in 2011, and he left
Sarah his life insurance and pension. At the time of trial,
the farm ground and pasture was valued at $1, 285, 000.
2011, the parties built a log home by the pool. Sarah
testified she and Steven agreed to split the costs of
building the home. She used about $200, 000 of her
inheritance from her brother for her share of half the cost
of the log home. Sarah testified the parties took out a
construction loan of $100, 000, then they "put the CD on
it," and she paid the monthly mortgage of $460 per
month. She testified she and Steven purchased a CD of $80,
000 with monies in their joint savings account to secure
their loan on the home, and she testified those were funds
she received from her brother's inheritance. Sarah
testified she and her aunt signed legal papers concerning the
log home and the pool, so that if anything happened to Sarah,
Steve could stay on the land.
Sarah and Steven were employed over the years. Sarah holds a
bachelor's degree and has worked part-time for many years
of the marriage- including the time since the parties moved
to Iowa. At the time of trial, she was working twenty-four
hours per week and did not have any physical inability to
obtain full-time work. Steven had worked full-time since
moving to Iowa. Steven's base salary at the time of trial
was around $27, 000, and in addition to his salary, he
received a commission. From 2009 to 2015, Steven's sales
commission was significant. However, in April 2015, Steven
sustained a back injury at work, reducing his income
substantially. Additionally, in 2016, Steven had open-heart
surgery "to repair a hole in [his] heart and also
rearrange some veins." There were complications, and
Steven was still being medically treated for his heart
condition. At the time of trial, Steven was ...