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In re Marriage of Stice

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 20, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JOSHUA RYAN STICE AND CHRISTINA INEZ STICE Upon the Petition of JOSHUA RYAN STICE, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning CHRISTINA INEZ STICE n/k/a CHRISTINA INEZ ADAMS, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Thomas P. Murphy, Judge.

         A mother appeals the modification of physical care provisions of a decree of dissolution.

          Patrick W. O'Bryan of O'Bryan Law Firm, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Lucas W. Otto of Otto Law Office, PLLC, Newton, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Christina Adams and Joshua Stice are the parents of G.S. The decree dissolving their marriage granted them joint legal custody and placed physical care with Christina. Four years later, Joshua sought modification, and the district court placed physical care of seven-year-old G.S. with him. Christina appeals. Because Joshua demonstrated Christina's failure to support his relationship with G.S. required a change in the care arrangement, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings.

         Christina and Joshua were married in 2010, had G.S. in 2011, and divorced in 2013. After the divorce, Joshua met and married Ashland; they have an infant daughter, and Ashland has another daughter close to G.S.'s age. They live together in the Des Moines area. Christina moved to Missouri and then to Keokuk. In addition to G.S., Christina's household includes her two older school-aged daughters from another relationship; her fiancé, Jason; and his eighteen-year-old son. By all accounts, G.S. gets along well with all her half- and step-siblings.

         Shortly after the divorce, Christina began violating the terms of the decree- including denying Joshua parenting time and failing to communicate effectively with him about G.S. For instance, for several years, Joshua and Christina agreed to perform custody exchanges in Batavia, Iowa, about ninety minutes from both their homes. On many occasions, Christina canceled visitation immediately before the exchange when Joshua was already in Batavia or on his way. Three times, Christina did not show up for the exchange. On several Fridays, when Joshua planned to pick up G.S., Christina told him G.S. was too sick for his weekend visitation, that the day care called, and G.S. needed to go to the doctor. But when Joshua obtained the medical records, G.S. had not been to the doctor on those days. Christina also failed to tell Joshua the daycare was closed on Fridays.

         Joshua occasionally requested flexibility in the visitation schedule to accommodate his duties as an Army reservist. But Christina generally refused to compromise. Even when Joshua offered to drive all the way to Keokuk to pick up G.S., Christina often declined. Christina testified she has a busy work schedule and some family medical emergencies prevented Joshua from receiving all his visitation. But she also admitted many times she did not tell him the true reason for cancelling.

         At the hearing, Joshua complained about Christina's lack of communication; phone calls and texts often went unanswered. Once, Christina did not communicate with Joshua about G.S. for three weeks, during which she denied all his scheduled visitation. In summer 2017, Christina did not let Joshua see G.S. for seven weeks. She also refused Joshua phone contact during that time.

         Christina's failure to communicate extended to G.S.'s health care. Christina did not provide Joshua notice of medical appointments or share paperwork with him following those appointments. Christina did not document Joshua as a parent in G.S.'s medical records or report insurance information accurately so Joshua ended up bearing additional medical expenses. For four or five months in 2017, Christina told Joshua G.S. was seeing a counselor and the department of human services was involved. Christina admitted at trial neither assertion was true.

         Education issues were no better. Just three weeks before the modification hearing, Joshua learned Christina had enrolled G.S. in a new school ...


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