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In re Marriage of Dauterive

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF CHRISTOPHER DAUTERIVE AND TRICIA DAUTERIVE Upon the Petition of CHRISTOPHER DAUTERIVE, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning TRICIA DAUTERIVE, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, David M. Porter, Judge.

         A former wife appeals a district court order on cross requests to modify the custody and support aspects of a dissolution decree.

          Andrew B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, PC, West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Alexandra M. Nelissen of Taylor Law Offices, PC, Des Moines, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, Presiding Judge.

         Tricia Dauterive and her former husband, Christopher Dauterive, have joint legal custody and joint physical care of their now sixteen-year-old daughter, L.D. Tricia appeals the district court's continuation of the shared-care arrangement. She also contends the district court wrongly ordered her to pay all of L.D.'s orthodontia expenses and miscalculated child support and the parties' respective shares of unreimbursed medical expenses. Finally, she contests the award of trial attorney fees.

         Because Tricia did not show ending the shared-care arrangement would be in L.D.'s best interests, we affirm that provision of the modification ruling. But we reverse the order holding Tricia solely responsible for L.D.'s orthodontia, reverse the award of trial attorney fees, and remand for recalculation of child support and the parties' obligations for unreimbursed medical expenses.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Tricia and Christopher divorced in March 2014. The decree awarded them alternating weeks of "shared parenting time" with their three children, who were all under eighteen years of age at that time. In April 2014, the district court approved the parties' stipulation agreeing Tricia would provide health insurance and the parties would spilt uncovered medical expenses based on their respective incomes with Tricia paying twenty-seven percent and Christopher paying seventy-three percent.

         One year later, in April 2015, Tricia moved to modify the physical-care and child-support provisions of the decree. Tricia also applied for a custody evaluation, which the court granted.[1] The modification action did not receive a hearing in the district court for more than two years. In the interim, the parties filed numerous contempt actions against one another, clashing over custody, support, and medical expenses for the children. Among the contentious issues was orthodontia for L.D., the youngest child.

         By the time of the modification hearing in August 2017, Christopher was also asking to modify the custody provisions of the decree. Of the parties' children, only L.D. was still a minor. In his testimony, Christopher asked for sole legal custody of L.D. because co-parenting decisions were "almost impossible to reach." By contrast, Tricia sought physical care of L.D. rather than sole legal custody.

         In its February 2018 modification order, the district court ultimately determined the question was one of legal custody rather than physical care. The court was "firmly convinced that [Tricia's] recalcitrance has rendered the current joint legal custody arrangement unworkable." The modification order maintained joint legal custody subject to certain conditions, including a more structured system for joint decision-making on medical treatment.[2] On this front, the district court explained, "Determination[s] regarding 'necessary medical treatment' shall be decided by: (1) the medical provider; (2) written consent of the parties; (3) [an appointed parenting coordinator]; and (4) the Court." The court did not address physical care in its analysis, but did deny Tricia's petition to modify the joint physical care arrangement.

         In June 2018, the district court ordered Tricia to pay $10, 000 toward Christopher's trial attorney fees. Our supreme court granted Tricia's request to consolidate her appeals of the modification ruling and the attorney-fee order.

         II. Scope and Standards of Review

         We review rulings on motions to modify dissolution decrees de novo. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907; In re Marriage of Beecher, 582 N.W.2d 510, 512 (Iowa 1998). "We examine the entire record and adjudicate anew rights on the issues properly presented." Beecher, 582 N.W.2d at 512-13. "We give weight to the fact findings of the trial court, especially when considering the credibility of witnesses, but are not bound by them." Id. at 513.

         "Because interpretation of child support guidelines is a legal question, our review of such interpretation is for errors at law." In re Marriage of McCurnin, 681 N.W.2d 322, 327 (Iowa 2004).

         On the question of attorney fees, we review the district court's award for an abuse of discretion. In re Marriage of Maher, 596 N.W.2d 561, 568 (Iowa 1999).

         III. Discussion

         A. Joint ...


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