IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF REBECCA JO LYNCH AND EDWARD JAMES LYNCH Upon the Petition of REBECCA JO LYNCH, Petitioner-Appellee/Cross-Appellant, And Concerning EDWARD JAMES LYNCH, Respondent-Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Greene County, Adria Kester,
Lynch appeals, and Rebecca Lynch cross-appeals, a decree of
dissolution of marriage.
J. Harris of Hope Law Firm, PLC, Ankeny, for appellant.
R. Van Dyke of Law Office of James R. Van Dyke, P.C.,
Carroll, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
Lynch appeals, and Rebecca Lynch cross-appeals, a decree of
dissolution of marriage. Edward challenges the award of
traditional spousal support in favor of Rebecca. Rebecca
challenges the awards of spousal support and trial attorney
fees as inadequate and contends the district court erred in
setting aside the entirety of the premarital value of
Edward's retirement account.
Background Facts and Proceedings
parties dated and lived together for about five years from
1985 to 1990. In 1991, Rebecca moved to Pennsylvania and
married another man. That marriage ended in 1994, after which
Rebecca returned to Iowa. The parties began dating again and
living together in 2000. They married in 2004. At the time of
trial, Rebecca was fifty-eight years of age and Edward was
time of trial, Edward's gross annual income amounted to
$112, 600. Edward has a retirement account with his employer.
The value of the account prior to the marriage was $89, 000.
At the time of trial, its value was $183, 618. Edward has some back
issues and suffers from arthritis in both hands and his lower
back but is otherwise in good physical health.
dropped out of high school after completing her freshman
year. After dropping out, Rebecca was unemployed for a number
of years. She began working in her father's bar when she
turned eighteen. She worked in the bar from 1977 until 1991,
when she moved to Pennsylvania. After her first marriage
ended in 1994, Rebecca returned to Iowa and continued working
in the bar until 2000. In her trial testimony, Rebecca
downplayed her role in the bar business, generally indicating
she performed only menial tasks. Edward testified
Rebecca's role was more than that, indicating Rebecca ran
the business. Medical records admitted into evidence by
Rebecca and the deposition testimony of her physician support
Edward's position, as Rebecca reported to her physician
that she ran and managed the bar and restaurant.
she discontinued her work at the bar, Rebecca started working
as a "cleaning lady" at a hospital and earned
minimum wage. Rebecca continued in this position until 2008,
when she quit because of what she describes as communication
difficulties. However, she reported to Edward that she left
her employment because her mother was sick. Rebecca has not been
meaningfully employed since 2008. She testified she has no source of
income and no prospects whatsoever of obtaining employment.
When asked whether she has sought employment, Rebecca
responded, "I have done nothing." Rebecca responded
in the negative when asked whether she thought she needed to
seek employment. Edward has spoken with Rebecca about getting
a job in the past, to which Rebecca responded,
"Don't you ever tell me I have to get a job."
was diagnosed with situational depression in 2008. She also
has degenerative arthritis in one of her knees and some skin
and insomnia issues. One of her children, Gregory, was
diagnosed with ALS in 2012. He passed away in 2017. In the
two years leading up to his death, Gregory lived in Des
Moines. Rebecca visited and cared for him daily. As to the
state of her "emotional health," Rebecca testified
her "main problems" concern the loss of her son and
the process of "going through this," presumably the
dissolution of her marriage. She testified her physical
health is "okay."
generally testified that she has difficulty with reading and
writing, which stems from her lack of competency in spelling.
However, she testified she has no problems in responding to
medical questionnaires when she visits her primary care
physician. She is also able to follow instructions on when to
take her various medications by writing them down. She is
able to review bills and satisfy them by writing a check and
addressing an envelope. Rebecca unequivocally testified she
can read "prayer books." When presented with such a
book during her trial testimony, she was able to read from
it. She has not sought vocational training or pursued
disability benefits as a result of her alleged inability to
read or write. She is also able to communicate with others
through email and social media. Rebecca has been an active
participant in reviewing loan documents during the marriage.
Edward testified he was completely unaware of Rebecca's
alleged incompetency in reading and writing; she did not
advise him of the issue until after she filed her dissolution
petition. Rebecca did not advise her physician of the same
until after the parties began discussing the possibility of
dissolving the marriage. Rebecca's physician referred her
to psychologists for learning-disability testing. There is no
evidence in the record that Rebecca ever pursued any such
filed her petition for dissolution of marriage in October
2016. Trial was held in October 2017. In its decree, the
court divided the assets, which included awarding Edward the
entirety of his retirement account and ordering him to pay
Rebecca an equalization payment in the amount of $30, 000;
ordered Edward to pay Rebecca permanent spousal support in
the amount of $2000 per month, said amount being reduced
dollar for dollar by any social security spousal benefits
Rebecca draws from Edward's account; and ordered Edward
to pay Rebecca $2500 in trial attorney fees.
filed a motion to enlarge or amend pursuant to Iowa Rule of
Civil Procedure 1.904(2), challenging the award of permanent
spousal support in light of the property distribution.
Rebecca filed her own motion to enlarge or amend, requesting
an increase in the award of spousal support. She filed a
second motion requesting an increase in her award of attorney
fees. In its ruling on the motions, the court largely
declined the parties' requests as to spousal support, but
recalculated its property distribution to not consider the
premarital value of Edward's retirement account, and
struck the requirement that Edward pay Rebecca an
noted, both parties appeal.