IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF ELIZABETH M. WILSON AND GABRIEL W. WILSON Upon the Petition of ELIZABETH M. WILSON, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning GABRIEL W. WILSON, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul D. Scott,
husband appeals the decree dissolving his marriage.
AFFIRMED AS MODIFIED.
E. Eichmann, Des Moines, and Andrew B. Howie of Shindler,
Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, PC, West Des Moines, for
L. Green of Nading Law Firm, Ankeny, for appellee.
by Doyle, P.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
(Gabe) and Elizabeth (Liz) Wilson married in 2003. They
divorced in May 2017. In this appeal from the dissolution
decree, Gabe challenges the district court's denial of
his motion to reopen the record, the district court's
division of the parties' property, and the district
court's failure to preserve a separate tort action
against Liz. Liz requests appellate attorney fees.
first address Gabe's claim the district court abused its
discretion in denying his second motion to reopen the record.
See Salter v. Freight Sales Co., 357 N.W.2d 38, 42
(Iowa Ct. App. 1984) (stating the standard of review for a
ruling on a motion to reopen the record is for an abuse of
discretion). The record reflects Gabe filed a motion to
reopen the record after trial but before the district court
entered its decree. The district court granted Gabe's
motion, held a hearing in March 2017, and received additional
testimony from Gabe. After the district court entered its
decree, Gabe filed a second motion to reopen the record. The
second motion was similar to the first-Gabe requested the
district court receive additional evidence relevant to the
division of the parties' property. The district court
denied the motion. Gabe challenges the denial of his second
motion to reopen the record.
reviewing the district court's denial of a post-decree
motion to reopen the record, we consider a number of factors.
See State v. Long, 814 N.W.2d 572, 578 (Iowa 2012)
(setting forth a seven-factor test). We have considered each
relevant factor and conclude the district court did not abuse
its discretion in denying Gabe's motion to reopen the
record. As relevant here, the record reflects that much of
the additional evidence Gabe sought to introduce related to
events occurring prior to trial or prior to the time the
district court granted Gabe's first motion. Gabe had the
opportunity to present the evidence at the time of trial and
at the time of the hearing on the first motion to reopen the
record. To the extent relevant evidence was not presented or
relevant issues were not raised at those times, Gabe bears
that responsibility. In addition, the relevant date for
determining the property subject to division and the
valuation of the same is at the time of trial. See Lang
v. Lang, Nos. 0-640, 00-0172, 2000 WL 1868957, at *2
(Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 22, 2000). To the extent Gabe sought to
introduce evidence of post-trial conduct, the district court
acted within its discretion in declining to consider such
evidence. The district court's interest in providing
procedural fairness and finality to the parties militates
against giving litigants multiple opportunities to
re-litigate issues. See In re M.T., 714 N.W.2d 278,
282 (Iowa 2006); In re Marriage of Smith, No.
14-1147, 2015 WL 7575402, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 25,
2015). We affirm the district court's denial of
Gabe's motion to reopen the record.
address Gabe's contention the district court inequitably
divided the parties' property. Dissolutions of marriages
are equitable proceedings, therefore, the court reviews them
de novo. See In re Marriage of Thatcher, 864 N.W.2d
533, 537 (Iowa 2015); In re Marriage of McDermott,
827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013); In re Marriage of
Shanks, 758 N.W.2d 506, 510 (Iowa 2008). "We review
the entire record and decide anew the factual and legal
issues preserved and presented for review." Hensch
v. Mysak, 902 N.W.2d 822, 824 (Iowa Ct. App. 2017).
"Prior cases are of little precedential value, except to
provide a framework for analysis, and we must ultimately
tailor our decision to the unique facts and circumstances
before us." In re Marriage of Kleist, 538
N.W.2d 273, 276 (Iowa 1995) (citing In re Marriage of
Will, 489 N.W.2d 394, 397 (Iowa 1992)). "Although
our review is de novo, we afford deference to the district
court for institutional and pragmatic reasons."
Hensch, 902 N.W.2d at 824. We will not modify a
dissolution decree unless the district court failed to do
equity. See In re Marriage of Mauer, 874 N.W.2d 103,
106 (Iowa 2016); In re Marriage of Graves, No.
13-1426, 2014 WL 3511879, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. July 16,
dividing the parties' property, the court must divide the
parties' property equitably. See Iowa Code
§ 598.21(5) (2015). When dividing the parties'
property, the court considers a number of factors, including
"[t]he length of the marriage," "[t]he
property brought to the marriage by each party,"
"[t]he contribution of each party to the marriage,"
"[t]he earning capacity of each party," the amount
and duration of spousal support granted, and any other
relevant factors. Iowa Code §598.21(5).
Gabe and Liz's marriage, the couple formed and managed
several companies involved in the development of real estate,
including Giovanti Homes, LLC (Giovanti) and Direct Real
Estate Services, LLC (DRC). Giovanti built homes, and DRC
marketed and sold those homes. When dividing the parties'
property, the district court awarded Giovanti to Gabe and DRC
to Liz. Although the evidence at trial indicated there was an
intercompany note between Giovanti Homes and DRC in the
amount of $507, 899, the district court did not address the
loan in its final decree. Liz filed a motion to enlarge or
amend the decree, asking the court to clarify the disposition
of the loan. The district court granted the motion and
ordered Liz to pay Gabe half the value of the loan. Gabe
claims the division of assets is inequitable.
considering the facts and circumstances of this case, we find
the district court's valuation of the parties' assets
was within the range of evidence and the distribution of
assets was equitable. However, the district court's order
contained a typographical error. In its order, the court
first identifies the debt as being $507, 899.00, as agreed
upon by both parties. However, in calculating the payment
from Liz to Gabe, the court used the figure $500, 899.00.
Using the agreed upon value of the note, we modify the decree
and order Liz to pay Gabe $253, 949.50.
address whether the district court erred in failing to
preserve the right for Gabe to bring a separate tort action
against Liz for damages caused to Giovanti Homes and Gabe.
"When a dissolution of marriage is decreed the parties .
. . forfeit all rights acquired by marriage which are not
specifically preserved in the decree." Iowa Code §
598.20. It is the litigant's obligation to preserve a
separate action during a dissolution trial. See Ohlen v.
Harriman,296 N.W.2d 794, 797 (Iowa 1980) (finding
"the failure of the appellant to preserve a right of
action for alienation of affections" during a