IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF CHAD E. BARRY AND KATHLEEN M. BARRY Upon the Petition of CHAD E. BARRY, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning KATHLEEN M. BARRY, n/k/a KATHLEEN M. KRAMER, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Harrison County, Gregory W.
father appeals from the denial of his petition to modify the
custodial and physical care provisions of his dissolution
Shawn McCann of McGinn, Springer & Noethe, P.L.C.,
Council Bluffs, for appellant.
H. Kouris, Council Bluffs, for appellee.
by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.
appeal arises out of Chad Barry's petition to modify the
decree dissolving his marriage to Kathleen Barry, now known
as Kathleen Kramer. At issue on appeal is the district
court's denial of the petition to modify the custodial
provisions of the decree, the district court's dismissal
of Chad's application for contempt, and the district
court's allocation of responsibility for certain debt and
record reflects the following. Chad and Kathleen married in
2007. They had two children together: BB boy, born in 2007,
and BB girl, born in 2010.
and Kathleen had a tumultuous relationship from the outset.
They filed for dissolution of the marriage in 2009 before
reconciling. The parties sought dissolution of the marriage
again in 2012. The proceeding was long and arduous. The
district court described the animosity between Chad and
Kathleen as "one of the most intense it ha[d] ever
seen" and noted "that animosity toward each other
has not served either of them well." The dissolution was
final in May 2014. The district court granted the parents
joint legal custody of the children, awarded Kathleen
physical care of the children, and provided Chad with
visitation. The decree contained the following guidance:
"Both Kathleen and Chad need to clean up their act and
start making decisions for their children and not for
themselves or other vindictive purposes."
district court's guidance was not heeded; the positive
feedback loop of anger and litigation had commenced. Not long
after the entry of the decree, both parties filed
applications for rule to show cause. In 2015, Chad filed a
petition for modification. In his petition, Chad requested
physical care of the children, alleging Kathleen failed to
keep him informed of the children's activities, failed to
consult him regarding medical issues, and refused phone calls
between Chad and the children. The district court, already
familiar with this family from the prior dissolution and
contempt proceedings, found no material and substantial
change in circumstances justifying modification. The district
court concluded: "The evidence presented in this
modification action doesn't really present anything new
to this court. It is just further evidence on the continuing
saga of utter distrust between Kathleen and Chad." The
decree provided: "If these two parties don't get
past their complete distrust of each other, they will not be
the ones to suffer. The ones to suffer will be their
district court proved prescient. Shortly after the district
court denied the prior modification petition, Chad filed the
present modification action. In his petition, Chad requested
sole legal custody and physical care of the children,
alleging Kathleen sought to alienate him from the children.
Kathleen requested that Chad be held responsible for unpaid
federal taxes and she be held harmless for the same. She also
sought reimbursement for one half of certain unpaid medical
expenses for the children. The matter proceeded to trial
along with several contempt claims. Upon consideration of the
evidence, the court characterized the most recent case as
"part of the ongoing saga between these parties."
The district court denied the petition for modification. It
found and concluded there was no material and substantial
change in circumstances warranting modification and no
campaign of alienation. The court declined to find Kathleen
in contempt of court. The district court ordered Chad hold
Kathleen harmless for unpaid 2011 taxes. The district court
concluded Chad should be responsible for half of the
children's unpaid medical bills in the amount of
$3971.52. Chad filed this timely appeal.
actions are reviewed de novo. See Iowa R. App. P.
6.907; In re Marriage of Hoffman,867 N.W.2d 26, 32
(Iowa 2015) (noting modification actions lie in equity).
Prior cases have little precedential value; instead the
relevant law is applied to the unique facts and circumstances
of each case. See In re Marriage of Kleist, 538
N.W.2d 273, 276 (Iowa 1995); In re Marriage of
Snowden, No. 14-1920, 2015 WL 4233449, at *1 (Iowa Ct.
App. July 9, 2015). Although review is de novo, appellate
courts "afford deference to the district court for
institutional and pragmatic reasons." Hensch v.
Mysak,902 N.W.2d 822, 824 (Iowa Ct. App. 2017); see
In re P.C., No. 16-0893, 2016 WL 4379580, at *2 (Iowa
Ct. App. Aug. 17, 2016). "[T]he district court 'has
reasonable discretion in determining whether modification is
warranted and that discretion will ...