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In re Marriage of Baker

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF TERRY WAYNE BAKER AND MARY ELIZABETH BAKER Upon the Petition of TERRY WAYNE BAKER, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning MARY ELIZABETH BAKER, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, Randy S. DeGeest, Judge.

         Terry Baker appeals from the modification of the spousal support provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Mary Baker.

          R.E. Breckenridge of Breckenridge Law, PC, Ottumwa, for appellant.

          Michael O. Carpenter of Gaumer, Emanuel, Carpenter & Goldsmith, PC, Ottumwa, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Terry Baker appeals from the modification of the spousal support provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Mary Baker. Because we find the modification of spousal support is equitable and based upon a substantial change of circumstances, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The parties were married in 1972 when Terry was twenty years old and Mary was eighteen. Mary did not finish high school, but stayed home and raised the parties' children while Terry worked and supported the family. The parties separated in January 2007. The district court entered a decree of separate maintenance in December 2009, ordering Terry to pay Mary $150 per week in spousal support until further order of the court.

         A decree was entered on January 28, 2015, dissolving Terry and Mary's marriage. Terry testified during the dissolution trial that he would like to retire when he turned age sixty-five. At the time of dissolution, Terry worked full time for Deere & Company earning $78, 565.24 per year. Terry anticipated his pension from Deere & Company would be $400 or $500 per month. In late 2014, Terry received at least $6000 from his father's estate. Terry reported no health issues at that time and acknowledged he had a comfortable income that more than covered his monthly expenses. After paying his obligations to Mary, Terry's monthly net income would be $5560.47.

         At the time of dissolution, Mary was employed part time at J.C. Penney earning $7083.89 per year. Mary also received $869.63 in alimony each month, plus $390 per month from Terry's Maytag pension plan, and $89 per month in food stamps. Mary's monthly net income was $1863.97.

         The court considered the length of the parties' marriage, their earning capacities and sources of income, their ages and health, and financial obligations. The court determined the $150 per week ordered in 2009 in the decree of separate maintenance was traditional alimony. In light of Mary's probable inability to become self-supporting, her age and unlikelihood of increasing her education or job training, her health issues, and her imminent loss of health insurance, the court ordered Terry to pay spousal support to Mary in the amount of $300 per week until Mary reaches age sixty-five, either party dies, or until Mary remarries, whichever happens first. Part of this increase from the separate maintenance order was attributed to Mary's loss of health insurance-the court estimated Mary's monthly healthcare expenses would be $607.88 based on the cost of her coverage under Terry's Deere & Company health insurance plan. After Mary reaches age sixty-five, spousal support would continue at the rate of $50 per week.

         Terry has a history of not paying spousal support. Terry was cited for contempt in 2009 related to the decree for separate maintenance. From the entry of the dissolution decree in January 2015 to October 2015, Terry paid only $200 per week rather than $300. Mary filed a contempt action in July 2015 to address Terry's nonpayment. A withholding order was entered in September 2015, but the order mistakenly set the withholding at $300 per month, rather than per week. After the withholding order, Terry's weekly payments rose to $269 per week-$69 per week from the withholding order. Terry made one-time payments in October 2015 and March 2016.

         In April 2016, Terry agreed to the entry of an order finding him in contempt, sentencing him to seven days in jail, but with the opportunity to purge the contempt by paying the accumulated arrearages, paying the full amount of weekly payments for sixty days, and paying Mary's attorneys fees in the amount of $1500. Terry failed to purge contempt, and the district court issued a bench warrant in August 2016. Terry ultimately paid the $1500 attorney fee and made a lump payment of $2513 for the ...


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