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In re Estate of Henricksen

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 6, 2019

JIM HENRICKSEN, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Emmet County, Carl J. Petersen, Judge.

         An ex-husband appeals from a ruling ordering him to pay unpaid child support and daycare expenses. REVERSED AND REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS.

          Jennifer Bennett Finn of Pelzer Law Firm, LLC, Estherville, for appellant.

          Phil Redenbaugh of The Law Offices of Redenbaugh & Mohr, P.C., Storm Lake, for appellee.

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


         Jim Henricksen (Jim) appeals from the district court ruling ordering him to pay unpaid child support and daycare expenses. Jim contends the district court erred in vacating its prior ruling. Alternatively, Jim contends he received inadequate notice of the amount of alleged arrearages, and thus the court should not have concluded he was barred from contesting the computation of arrearages and interest or from presenting defenses. Jim contends the court should have applied the law of Oklahoma in computing the amount of arrearages and accrual of interest.

         We conclude Jim's appeal of the order vacating the previous ruling is timely but without merit. However, because Jim did not receive proper notice of the amount of alleged arrearages now claimed by his ex-wife Sarita Henricksen (Sarita), we conclude it was improper to exclude Jim's arguments and defenses regarding the actual amount owed. We reverse and remand for a new hearing to allow Jim to present his defenses except he is precluded from raising the statute of limitations. The arrearages and interest shall be determined by Oklahoma law.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Sarita and Jim divorced in 1989 in Oklahoma. At the time of their divorce, they had two minor children. The Oklahoma divorce decree ordered Jim to pay Sarita $351.21 per month for child support. Jim was also ordered to pay Sarita "employment-related daycare expenses," which, at the time of the decree, were $307.02 per month. The decree also provided that "[i]n the event the amount of daycare expenses change, [Jim] is ordered to pay to [Sarita] 71.4% of the total amount incurred." The decree also ordered Jim to pay a portion of the children's healthcare-related expenses.[1]

         Based on the ages of the children, Jim was to pay child support until April 2005. The record establishes Sarita had daycare expenses for the children until sometime in 2001. Jim only sporadically paid his child-support obligation, and the few payments he did make were far less than what he had been ordered to pay.

         In 2012, Jim's parents' estates ("the Estate") were admitted to probate in Emmet County, Iowa. The bulk of the Estate consisted of land valued at $2, 695, 000. Jim and his brothers, Gary and Wayne, were beneficiaries of their parents' wills.

         On October 9, 2013, Sarita filed an affidavit and petition in Emmet County requesting registration and enforcement of the support order from the Oklahoma divorce decree. This affidavit claimed "the amount of arrearage under the support order for which I seek registration and enforcement is a minimum of $101, 496.36." On October 14, a certified copy of the Oklahoma divorce decree was filed in Emmet County, and the county clerk filed a notice of filing of a foreign judgment.

         On December 26, 2013, Sarita filed a request for general execution for $353, 819.10, which was calculated by combining the monthly child support and daycare amounts and applying ten percent interest per annum beginning May 16, 1989.[2] The county clerk entered the general execution on December 30, and the sheriff received it the same day. The sheriff then served the attorney for the Estate with notice of garnishment in the amount of $353, 839.10.

         On January 17, 2014, the Estate requested a court hearing to determine the "validity of the claims of Sarita Henricksen and the State of Iowa in order to close this estate and distribute assets pursuant to the Last Will and Testament of Donaven E. Henricksen."[3]

         The Emmet County Clerk mailed Jim notice of the registration of the support order on January 29, 2014. This notice informed Jim that Sarita had filed the support order on October 14, 2013, that a hearing to contest the order needed to be requested within twenty days after the mailing or service of the notice, that failure to contest the validity or enforcement of the order within the twenty days would result in confirmation of the order, and that failure to timely contest the order would preclude future contest with respect to any matter that could have been asserted. The notice informed Jim, "The amount of alleged arrearages is $101, 496.36." A copy of the Oklahoma divorce decree was included with the notice. The same day the notice was mailed and filed, the Estate filed a motion to continue the hearing on the validity of Sarita's claims, because "Jim Henricksen, son of the decedent, has contacted the undersigned and requested a continuance of the above hearing in order to obtain counsel." The court granted the continuance and referenced that the continuance was "upon request of decedent's son." The twenty-day period for Jim to contest the validity or enforcement of the support order expired February 18, 2014, and Jim did not request a hearing within that time period.

         On March 3, 2014, Sarita filed an "assignment of judgments" to Ray Sullins, a disbarred attorney.[4] That same day, Sullins filed an application to the court to order the Estate to set aside property for satisfaction of the support order and to place liens and order execution on Jim's property. Sarita joined in this application. Jim filed an answer to this application on March 14, 2014, and generally denied the matters asserted in the application. Jim's answer acknowledged that the notice sent by the Emmet County Clerk informed him of a judgment for $101, 496.36 but also noted that was "not the amount claimed in a garnishment and levy by [Sarita]."

         The Estate's petition on the validity and priority of claims was heard by the district court on March 17, 2014. The court also heard Sullins's March 3 application. Sarita attempted to participate in the hearing by telephone but, through no fault of her own, was unable to do ...

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