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In re Marriage of Whalen

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 3, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF DOUGLAS WHALEN, JR. AND MORGAN WHALEN Upon the Petition of DOUGLAS WHALEN, JR., Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning MORGAN WHALEN, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Stuart P. Werling, Judge.

         Morgan Whalen appeals from the district court order granting Douglas Whalen's motion to reconsider provisions of the parties' dissolution decree. ORDER VACATED.

          Michael J. McCarthy of McCarthy, Lammers & Hines, LLP, Bettendorf, for appellant.

          Peter G. Gierut and Robert S. Gallagher of Gallagher, Millage & Gallagher, P.L.C., Bettendorf, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         Morgan Whalen appeals from the district court order granting Douglas Whalen's (D.J)[1] motion to reconsider provisions of the parties' dissolution decree. She contends that the court erred by failing to deny D.J.'s motion as untimely since it was filed eighteen days after the district court entered the decree dissolving the marriage. Because the motion was untimely and no extension of time for good cause was granted, the district court did not have jurisdiction to enter the order. Consequently, we reverse and vacate the district court's order.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         D.J. and Morgan were married in 2015. They have one child, born in 2016. D.J. filed a petition for dissolution of marriage on July 19, 2017. Trial was held on January 23 and 24, 2018. The primary issues at the trial concerned custody and support of the child. D.J. testified at trial that as a part of his employment benefits package, he was offered health insurance benefits at a cost of $174 per month for single medical coverage and $806 per month for family medical coverage. Prior to trial D.J. provided the court with a child support guidelines worksheet that listed his "Allowable Children's Portion of Health Insurance Cost" as $632.00. Under that cost is the notation, "Calculation override. Reasonable cost for [D.J.] is $143.00." He anticipated his health insurance benefits would begin in about a month.

         The district court entered a decree of dissolution of marriage on January 26, 2018, granting the parties joint legal custody and "joint shared care" of the child. Pursuant to the child support guidelines attached to the decree, the court ordered D.J. to pay $126.27 per month in child support.

         Concerning the issue of medical insurance, the court found "D.J. is providing family health insurance which covers him and the parties' child for $806 per month. Morgan did not testify that health insurance was available to her through her employment." The court then ordered "that D.J. shall provide health insurance for the minor child so long as this is available to him/her at minimal cost. Minimal cost means that the cost of insurance does not exceed $250 per year." The court also ordered

that medical support shall be ordered for the minor child pursuant to Iowa Code Chapter 252E as follows: D.J. has a health benefit plan available that could cover the child. The plan is accessible and the cost is reasonable, as provided by Iowa Code Chapter 252E. An accessible plan is defined as one with no service area limitations, or, if it has service area limitations, the dependent lives within 30 miles or 30 minutes of a network primary care provider. Both parents may consent to a plan if it doesn't meet the definition of accessible. The cost to add the child is determined to be reasonable. Therefore, D.J. shall provide, as medical support, a health benefit plan for the child as provided in 252E.

         The court further ordered "that D.J. shall be liable for the first $250.00 per calendar year of uncovered medical expenses. If uncovered medical expenses for the child exceeds $250.00 per year, D.J. shall pay 60% and Morgan shall pay 40% of the excess cost as provided by the Iowa Supreme Court Guidelines."[2] The child support guidelines worksheet attached to the decree did not credit either party for the cost of the minor child's health insurance.

         D.J. filed a motion to reconsider on February 13, 2018, requesting "that the Court reconsider the ruling in which the incorrect Iowa Child Support Guidelines were used to determine Child Support." D.J. stated that he pays $632.00 per month to cover the minor child under his health insurance through his employer and the child support guidelines worksheet attached to the court's decree did not give him credit for covering the minor child's health insurance. Attached to D.J.'s motion was the same child support guidelines worksheet he ...


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