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In re Marriage of Neils

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 19, 2018

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF CAROL ANNE NEILS AND THOMAS LEE NEILS Upon the Petition of CAROL ANNE NEILS, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning THOMAS LEE NEILS, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Scott D. Rosenberg, Judge.

         Thomas Neils challenges the economic, child support, and visitation provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Carol Neils.

          Jaclyn M. Zimmerman of Miller, Zimmerman & Evans, P.L.C., Des Moines, and Aaron W. Lindebak of Grefe & Sidney, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Danni J. Harris of Hope Law Firm, PLC, West Des Moines, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         Thomas Neils challenges the economic, child support, and visitation provisions of the decree entered dissolving his marriage to Carol Neils. Upon our de novo review, we affirm.

         I. Scope and Standards of Review.

         We review dissolution of marriage cases, including issues concerning economic provisions as well as child custody and visitation provisions, de novo. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; In re Marriage of Larsen, 912 N.W.2d 444, 448 (Iowa 2018); Callender v. Skiles, 623 N.W.2d 852, 854 (Iowa 2001). We decide anew the issues raised, but give weight to the district court's factual findings, especially with respect to the credibility of the witnesses, since "the district court was able to listen to and observe the parties and witnesses." See In re Marriage of Gust, 858 N.W.2d 402, 406 (Iowa 2015); In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013); McKee v. Dicus, 785 N.W.2d 733, 736 (Iowa Ct. App. 2010).

         II. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Thomas and Carol married in 1998. They have two children; their youngest was born in 2001.[1] At the end of 2016, Carol filed a petition seeking dissolution of the parties' marriage. Trial on the matter was held in September 2017.

         The district court awarded the parties joint legal custody of their minor child and placed that child in Carol's care, with Thomas having visitation. The district court ordered the parties to work out a visitation schedule guided by the child's best interests. For purposes of calculating child support, the court determined Thomas's earning capacity was $50, 000 and imputed that amount to him as his income. In dividing marital assets, the court generally awarded to each party property held in that party's individual name; Carol was awarded 100% of her retirement accounts, and Thomas was awarded 100% of his retirement accounts. The court likewise divided marital debts. The court awarded Carol the marital residence, and before dividing the value of the property between the parties, the court determined Thomas was entitled to an offset of $123, 000 for his initial down payment for their residence. Ultimately, the district court directed Carol to pay to Thomas $187, 500 as a property-settlement-equalization payment.

         Thomas now appeals. Other background facts will be discussed as necessary below.

         III. Discussion.

         Thomas argues the court erred in calculating his child-support obligation. He also asserts the court should have set a visitation schedule, and, in not doing so, the court essentially set his visitation at Carol's discretion. Finally, Thomas contends the district court's property distribution was inequitable, and he maintains awarding him one-half of Carol's retirement accounts would achieve equity between the parties.

         A. Child Support and ...


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