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In re Marriage of Whitford

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 5, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF DEBORAH WHITFORD AND RICHARD WHITFORD Upon the Petition of DEBORAH WHITFORD, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning RICHARD WHITFORD, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, John D. Telleen, Judge.

         Richard Whitford appeals the district court's dismissal of his petition to modify the parties' dissolution decree.

          Eric D. Puryear and Eric S. Mail of Puryear Law, PC, Davenport, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         We must decide whether the district court erred in dismissing a petition to modify the language of a dissolution decree and qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) filed in 2006.

         The decree dissolving the marriage of Deborah and Richard Whitford ordered the division of Richard's pension by the following equation:

[D]ivide the pension payment in half and multiply the result by the percentage arrived at by dividing the number of years of this marriage by the number of years Richard was employed by John Deere. In the event he should die before or while he is receiving pension payments Deborah shall be entitled to receive any survivor benefits on his pension authorized under the pension plan.

         The "uncontested" QDRO filed shortly thereafter used the following language to divide the pension:

Alternate Payee, Deborah L. Whitford, as Alternate Payee of the benefit of Richard H. Whitford, Participant under the John Deere Pension Plan is awarded one half of the pension benefit multiplied by a fraction wherein the numerator is the number of months married and the denominator shall be the total number of months worked by the Participant, Richard H. Whitford.

         Richard's appeal was dismissed as untimely. Richard then filed a motion for new trial challenging the cited language. The district court denied the motion.

         Richard's modification petition was filed eleven years later. He alleged, "The Court in both the decree and the QDRO made a mistake in the calculation of the formula to be used in dividing [his] pension." He also alleged "the Court made a mistake in awarding the Petitioner survivor benefits under [his] retirement plan."

         Deborah moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that "there is absolutely no mistake in this matter and the trial court judge has denied [him] each and every time he has asserted this argument regarding a modification of the formula used to divide his pension ...


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