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In re Marriage of Cornish

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 20, 2019

IN RE MARRIAGE OF RICHARD ALBERT CORNISH III AND SHPRESA THAQI-CORNISH Upon the Petition of RICHARD ALBERT CORNISH III, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning SHPRESA THAQI-CORNISH, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Kevin McKeever, Judge.

         Shpresa Thaqi-Cornish appeals the child-custody provisions of the decree dissolving her marriage to Richard Cornish and the award of trial attorney fees.

          AFFIRMED. William N. Toomey of Phelan Tucker Mullen Walker Tucker Gelman, LLP, Iowa City, for appellant.

          Alan R. Bohanan, Iowa City, for appellee.

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

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         Shpresa Thaqi-Cornish appeals the child-custody provisions of the decree dissolving her marriage to Richard Cornish. She contends joint physical care is not in the child's best interests, arguing it is in the child's best interests to grant her physical care. She also contends the district court abused its discretion in awarding her only $1000 in trial attorney fees. Both parties request an award of appellate attorney fees.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Richard was stationed in Europe while serving in the Air Force when he met Shpresa in the Republic of Slovenia in 2004. They married in 2011. Shpresa was granted legal permanent residency in the United States in 2014 with a term expiring in 2024, and she has a green card.

         Richard and Shpresa have one child together, [1] born in 2012, who is a dual citizen of the United States and the Republic of Slovenia. Richard and Shpresa both resided in North Liberty at the time of trial.

         Richard petitioned to dissolve the marriage in 2016.[2] The matter was tried in November 2017. The primary issue at trial was physical care of the child. Both parties sought physical care, though Richard requested joint physical care as an alternative. The district court ultimately determined that joint physical care was in the child's best interests. Shpresa appeals.

         II. Child Custody.

         Shpresa first challenges the physical care provisions of the decree, arguing that joint physical care is contrary to the child's best interests and she should be granted physical care of the child instead. We review her claim de novo, examining the entire record and adjudicating the issue anew. See In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). Although we are not bound by the district court's factual findings, we give them weight, especially if they concern witness credibility. See id.

         The overriding consideration in determining physical care of a child is the child's best interest. See In re Marriage of Fennelly, 737 N.W.2d 97, 101 (Iowa 2007). In making this determination, the court is guided by the factors set forth in Iowa Code section 598.41(3) (2016) as well as those identified in In re Marriage of Winter, 223 N.W.2d 165, 166-67 (Iowa 1974). See id. Our fundamental concern is placing the ...


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