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In re Marriage of Eggeling

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 6, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF BROOK ANN EGGELING AND ADAM CONRAD EGGELING Upon the Petition of BROOK ANN EGGELING, n/k/a BROOK ANN LAPKE, Petitioner-Appellant/Cross-Appellee, And Concerning ADAM CONRAD EGGELING, Respondent-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

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

         A former wife appeals a modification order granting physical care of their two children to her former husband; the former husband cross appeals.

          Gina C. Badding of Neu, Minnich, Comito, Halbur, Neu & Badding, PC, Carroll, for appellant.

          Michael J. Riley and Bryan D. Swain of Salvo, Deren, Schenck, Gross, Swain & Argotsinger, PC, Harlan, for appellee.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.


         Brook Lapke and Adam Eggeling have two children: eleven-year-old A.E. and seven-year-old B.E. After their divorce in 2014, Brook and Adam exercised joint physical care, which worked well for three years. But in June 2017, Brook moved ninety miles from their home town, prompting Adam to seek modification of the shared-care arrangement. The district court granted physical care of the children to Adam and liberal visitation to Brook. Challenging that decision, Brook argues the district court placed too much weight on geography and too little emphasis on which parent would be the better caregiver. She asks us to award her physical care. Short of that, she seeks expanded weekend and summer visitation. Adam cross-appeals, asserting Brook's mid-week overnight visit is too taxing on the children given the distance between their homes.

         Deciding physical care after Brook's move is difficult because both Brook and Adam are able and active parents. The district court appropriately assessed "which setting and parenting skill set is best for the children since the parties no longer live within a short distance of each other." After reviewing the record de novo, but giving appropriate deference to the district court's ability to see the parties testify in person, [1] we find no compelling reason to disturb the physical-care and visitation provisions in the district court's modification rulings. Accordingly, we affirm on both the appeal and cross appeal.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Brook and Adam married in 2006 and divorced in 2014. During the marriage, they had two children: A.E., born in 2007, and B.E., born in 2011. Brook worked as the radiology manager at the community hospital. Adam was employed by the Charter Oak schools, first as a business teacher and eventually as an elementary school principal. At the time of the divorce, both parties lived in Crawford County and agreed to joint physical care.

         By his own admission, Adam struggled with the divorce. He pleaded guilty to criminal mischief in 2015 for vandalizing a car belonging to Brook's new boyfriend, Steve, and later to operating while intoxicated.[2] But Adam successfully discharged the deferred judgments in both cases and retained his employment during that time. Adam also started living with Jessica, who has three children of her own.

         In June 2017, Brook quit her job and moved to Papillion, Nebraska, to be with her then fiancé, Steve, an emergency room physician. Papillion, a suburb of Omaha, is about ninety miles away from Denison, where Adam continued to live. After the move, Brook decided to be a "stay-at-home mom." Brook married Steve in July 2017.

         The same month, Adam applied to modify the physical-care arrangement for A.E. and B.E. The application alleged Brook's move to Nebraska constituted a substantial change in circumstances, and Adam sought physical care of the children. The application also expressed uncertainty about where the children would attend school in the fall of 2017. Pending a final ruling on Adam's modification request, the district court issued a temporary order in August directing the children remain enrolled in the Denison-Schleswig School District.

         The court held an evidentiary hearing in November 2017. Of special concern to both parents was A.E.'s academic progress. The fourth grader struggled with reading and math and had an individualized education plan (IEP). Brook had investigated tutoring opportunities for A.E. in the Omaha area. Adam testified to emailing A.E.'s teachers for ...

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