IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF DANIEL DEAN BLIEK AND LORI LEE BLIEK Upon the Petition of DANIEL DEAN BLIEK, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning LORI LEE BLIEK, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Fae E.
Bliek appeals from the district court's order granting
Lori Bliek's petition to modify the spousal support
provision of the parties' 2013 dissolution decree.
D. Fisher of Nidey Erdahl Fisher Pilkington & Meier, PLC,
Cedar Rapids, for appellant.
Kristen A. Shaffer of Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, PLC,
Cedar Rapids, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE
and Lori Bliek divorced in 2013 after thirty-one years of
marriage. The 2013 dissolution decree incorporated a
stipulation under which Daniel agreed to pay Lori spousal
support of $2100 per month for 138 months or the earlier of
her sixty-second birthday, Lori's death, or her
years and three months after the dissolution decree was
filed, Lori petitioned to modify the child and spousal
support awards. She alleged a "substantial and material
change in circumstances, including but not limited to a
change in income since support was calculated."
See Iowa Code § 598.21C(1) (2016) (authorizing
modification of support awards "when there is a
substantial change in circumstances"). Following a
hearing, the district court denied Lori's request to
modify child support but granted her request to modify the
spousal support award. The court found a substantial change
of circumstances since the entry of the decree, warranting an
increase in Daniel's spousal support obligation to $4100
per month for 138 months, retroactive to "three months
after Daniel accepted service of the" modification
petition. The court ordered Daniel to pay an additional $1000
per month until the accrued support was paid in full as well
as $3000 toward Lori's trial attorney fees.
appeal, Daniel contends, "In the less than three years
between the original Decree and the modification trial, there
simply were no substantial changes in circumstances." In
responding to Lori's brief, he asserts, "one may
come to the conclusion that this is an appeal of an original
alimony award. It is not."
is correct in his characterization of the appeal. The
dispositive question is whether circumstances substantially
changed in the two plus years between entry of the
dissolution decree and filing of the modification petition.
See In re Marriage of Rietz, 585 N.W.2d 226, 229
(Iowa 1998) (articulating standards for modification of
it is worth noting that the fact Lori stipulated to the $2100
monthly support amount does not prevent her from seeking a
modification of the award. See Pedersen v.
Pedersen, 17 N.W.2d 520, 522 (Iowa 1945) (concluding
stipulation "would not preclude modification of the
decree" because the stipulation merged with the decree);
see also In re Marriage of Jacobo, 526 N.W.2d 859,
862, 864 (Iowa 1995) (noting stipulation but finding
substantial change of circumstances). As the Iowa Supreme
Court stated: "[T]here are some rare situations where,
notwithstanding an agreement and decree to the contrary,
later occurrences are so extreme in their nature as to render
the initial understanding grossly unfair and therefore
subject to change." In re Marriage of Wessels,
542 N.W.2d 486, 489 (Iowa 1995), as amended on denial of
reh'g (Dec. 14, 1995). These situations "will
exist only when the subsequent changes demand that the
original order cannot, in fairness and equity, continue to
stand." Id. The subsequent changes in this case
did not demand a modification.
had a bachelor of science degree and, throughout the
dissolution and modification proceedings, worked for an
avionics company in Cedar Rapids. At the time of the
dissolution trial, he earned $155, 000 annually and received
a twelve percent incentive bonus most years. At the time of
the modification hearing, he was employed in the same
position and earned base pay of $165, 315 with an expected
bonus of $20, 036.
was fifty-three years old. She completed one year of college
and earned a paraprofessional certification. During the
marriage, she served as primary caretaker of the parties'
five children, working outside the home only thirty to forty
hours a year. At the time of the modification hearing, she
worked full-time as a student support associate for one of
the local school districts, earning $12.57 per hour. She held
another job in the summers, earning $17.00 per hour.
the modification hearing, Lori testified she understood at
the time of the dissolution proceedings that Daniel's
income would increase. She also conceded the amount of the
annual increases were within her expectation. See
Rietz, 585 N.W.2d at 229 ("[T]he change in
circumstances must not have been within the contemplation of
the trial court when the original decree was entered.").
She equivocated on her knowledge of Daniel's bonuses, but
a financial affidavit she filed in 2013 listed his salary at
$170, 000, well over his base salary at the time. ...