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In re Marriage of Madhamanchi

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JYOTHSNA LATHA MADHAMANCHI AND MADHU BABU DANDAMUDI Upon the Petition of JYOTHSNA LATHA MADHAMANCHI, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning MADHU BABU DANDAMUDI, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Marlita A. Greve, Judge.

         The appellant appeals from the child custody, spousal support, and attorney fee provisions of the decree dissolving her marriage. AFFIRMED.

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

          H.J. Dane and Ryan M. Beckenbaugh of H.J. Dane Law Office, Davenport, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          VOGEL, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Jyothsna Madhamanchi (Jo) appeals from the child custody, spousal support, and attorney fee provisions of the January 29, 2018 decree dissolving her marriage to Madhu Dandamudi. She asserts the district court should have placed their child in her physical care or it should have ordered additional visitation, communication, and transportation for the child. She also requests increased spousal support, trial attorney fees, and appellate attorney fees. Placing weight on the district court's findings of credibility, we affirm the decree and decline to award appellate attorney fees.

         Both Jo and Madhu were born in 1979 and 1976 respectively. On June 19, 2010, they were married in India but soon moved to the United States. The parties' child, A.D., was born in the United States in June 2015. Madhu has a bachelor's degree in computer science and engineering. At the time of trial, he worked as a software engineer in Urbandale earning about $104, 000 per year. Jo testified she has a bachelor's degree in zoology but has not held a job in the last twenty years.

         On December 30, 2016, Jo filed a petition for separate maintenance. On January 27, 2017, Madhu filed an answer and counter petition for dissolution of marriage. After a contentious series of motions requesting sanctions or other orders, trial on the dissolution was held November 7, 2017, and January 4, 2018. On January 29, the court issued the dissolution decree, which (1) divided the parties' assets and liabilities, (2) ordered joint legal custody of A.D., (3) placed physical care of A.D. with Madhu and ordered visitation with Jo, (4) declined to award child support, (5) ordered Madhu to pay spousal support, (6) declined to award attorney fees and ordered Jo to pay costs, and (7) imposed sanctions on Jo. Both parties filed post-trial motions to amend or enlarge, and the court issued its ruling on the motions on March 25. Jo now appeals.

         "We review claimed error in dissolution-of-marriage decrees de novo. Although we decide the issues raised on appeal anew, we give weight to the trial court's factual findings, especially with respect to the credibility of the witnesses." In re Marriage of Witten, 672 N.W.2d 768, 773 (Iowa 2003).

         We note the district court made a strong credibility finding:

The court had a difficult time believing quite a bit Jo's testimony. This was especially evident during the testimony related to the Motion for Sanctions. Jo admitted she lied to the court on several occasions related to whether she had a Visa allowing her to be in or return to the United States. Further, Jo's claims of abuse, as well as her claims of needing to be bedridden for four months after the child's birth due to a Caesarian section delivery are just a few examples of the difficulty in believing Jo's testimony. The court finds Madhu's testimony was much more believable, much more reasonable, and made more sense.

         We give weight to this determination of credibility. See id.

         First, Jo challenges the placement of physical care of A.D. with Madhu. "When considering the issue of physical care, the child's best interest is the overriding consideration." In re Marriage of Fennelly, 737 N.W.2d 97, 101 (Iowa 2007). In ...


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