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In re Marriage of Jacobs

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF CATHERINE M. JACOBS AND CARL LEE JACOBS Upon the Petition of CATHERINE M. JACOBS, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning CARL LEE JACOBS, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Jeffrey A. Neary, Judge.

         Catherine Jacobs appeals the economic provisions of the decree dissolving her marriage to Carl Jacobs.

          John S. Moeller of John S. Moeller, P.C., Sioux City, for appellant.

          Jeffrey T. Myers of Goosmann Law Firm, PLC, Sioux City, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J., and Carr, S.J. [*]

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         Catherine Jacobs appeals the economic provisions of the decree dissolving her 2013 marriage to Carl Jacobs. She also requests an award of her trial attorney fees.

         We review dissolution proceedings de novo. See In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). We examine the entire record and adjudicate the issues anew. See id. Although we are not bound by the district court's factual findings, we give them weight, especially if they concern witness credibility. See id.

         I. Property Division.

         Catherine first challenges the provisions of the decree concerning the division of the parties' property. Specifically, she argues the district court erred in determining Carl was entitled to reimbursement for sums he alleges he paid toward the down payment of homes she purchased in 2007 and 2016. She also argues the court should consider Carl's gambling losses in determining an equitable property division

         The court dissolving a marriage must divide the parties' property equitably. See Iowa Code § 598.21(1) (2017). "The partners in the marriage are entitled to a just and equitable share of the property accumulated through their joint efforts." In re Marriage of Hazen, 778 N.W.2d 55, 59 (Iowa Ct. App. 2009). However, equitable does not necessarily mean equal, and what it is equitable must be determined on the circumstances of each case. See id. The factors set forth in Iowa Code section 598.21(5) guide the court in making an equitable division. Because the trial court has considerable latitude in determining what is equitable, we will reverse only if "there has been a failure to do equity." See In re Marriage of Schriner, 695 N.W.2d 493, 496 (Iowa 2005).

         A. Florida Property.

         The first dispute concerns the Florida property, which Catherine purchased in 2007 when the parties were dating. The district court determined that the Florida home was not marital property and awarded it to Catherine. However, it found that Carl was entitled to reimbursement for $20, 000 he contributed to the down payment and granted Carl an interest in the property in that amount. Catherine argues the evidence does not support the finding that Carl contributed any money toward the $42, 000 down payment on the property.

         Although it is undisputed that only Catherine's name appears on the deed and mortgage, the parties presented differing views on the details of the property's purchase. Carl testified that he and Catherine purchased the home "as a joint venture," but that because Catherine's credit score is better than his and they "saved a point" on the mortgage by putting it in Catherine's name alone. He claimed that he put $20, 000 he made from the sale of a 1964 Chevy toward the down payment on the property. Carl conceded he has no proof or receipts concerning the $20, 000. He testified:

Q. Tell the Court how you made that deposit.

A. I gave it to Catherine. On the Florida home?

Q. Yes.

A. Yeah. I just—I gave her the money.

         Carl further testified that when he and Catherine separated in 2009, there was an agreement that he would get the ...


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