IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF NORA KATHLEEN DIRKX AND DANIEL DUANE DIRKX Upon the Petition of NORA KATHLEEN DIRKX, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning DANIEL DUANE DIRKX, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Carroll County, William C.
ex-wife appeals the combined award of spousal and child
support in the dissolution-of-marriage decree.
C. Badding (until withdrawal) and Arthur E. Neu of Neu,
Minnich, Comito, Halbur, Neu & Badding, P.C., Carroll,
R. Van Dyke of Law Office of James R. Van Dyke, P.C.,
Carroll, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
more than two decades of marriage and eleven children, Nora
Dirkx filed for divorce from her husband Daniel Dirkx.
Although Nora had not worked outside the home since the first
year of their marriage, the district court denied her request
for traditional alimony. The court awarded her rehabilitative
alimony for ten years, but did not set a monthly amount.
Instead, the court capped Daniel's total obligation for
child and spousal support at $1400.
appeal, Nora challenges the district court's calculation
of their respective incomes, as well as its fusing of the
child support and alimony awards. We affirm the decree. But
because we find the support orders to be inequitable, we
remand for the court to recalculate Daniel's obligations.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
and Nora married in 1993. Before the couple had children,
Nora worked as a teacher for less than a year. After
discovering Nora was pregnant with their first child, Daniel
and Nora agreed she would quit teaching to work in the home
and provide home schooling for their children. While Nora was
a homemaker, she also managed the couple's forty-acre
ranch and a horse trail-riding business. On top of those
responsibilities, Nora managed the family finances. Daniel
was an over-the-road trucker. He worked sixty to eighty hours
a week and earned an average annual income of $78, 000.
and Nora separated in April 2016. Seven of their eleven
children were still under eighteen and living at home. At
first, Nora and those children stayed in the family home
while Daniel lived elsewhere. Daniel eventually returned,
prompting Nora to move with their seven children into her
friend Amy's home. During the separation, Daniel cut off
financial support for Nora. Yet Nora continued as primary
care provider for the children. Nora still collected revenue
from a rental property in her name, as well as money from a
family trust. But she no longer managed or received income
from the trail rides.
2016, Daniel took one child into his physical care. Daniel
also offered Nora some economic assistance that summer, but
he did not make regular or fixed payments. In fact, the help
amounted to only three weekly payments ranging from $100 to
$175, about one-quarter of his trucking income.
twenty-three years of marriage, Nora petitioned for
dissolution in November 2016. In spring 2017 the couple sold
the forty-acre family ranch and paid down the remaining
mortgage, resulting in net proceeds of $260, 335. Daniel used
$57, 680 of his half of the proceeds to buy a new house. Nora
transferred roughly $11, 000 of her half into a retirement
account and set aside $28, 000 to pay off her credit card
debt. As Daniel admitted in his testimony, Nora used some
proceeds to pay $32, 190 in credit card debt in his name.
Nora also settled a $10, 000 medical bill and $2000 owed to
Samaritan Ministries. Nora saved the remainder of her share.
During the dissolution proceedings, Nora supported all seven
children who were still under eighteen. Because Daniel did
not contribute financially until June 2017, Nora accrued
roughly $9000 in credit card debt.
July 2017 hearing, the district court placed the five
youngest children in Nora's physical care and the two
oldest children with Daniel. The court also ordered Daniel to
pay Nora $1256.56 per month as child support for the five
children in her care. That number reflected an offset for the
two children in Daniel's care.
October 2017, the parties stipulated to custody and division
of property and debts. Nora requested traditional alimony in
the amount of $1500 per month. In the district court's
March 2018 decree, it found Nora was entitled to
rehabilitative alimony. To calculate child and spousal
support, the court determined Daniel's income was $50,
000 and imputed an annual income of $15, 000 to Nora through
August 2018, with the expectation Nora's income would
increase to $28, 000 in September 2018. Finally, the
district court awarded Nora attorney fees of $5000, on top of
its previous order requiring Daniel to pay $1500 in attorney
April 2018, Nora appealed. The supreme court granted a
limited remand for the district court to finalize the child
and spousal support amounts. In August 2018, the district
court ordered Daniel to pay $1017 in child support,
reflecting the impending September adjustment in Nora's
imputed income and noting his child support obligation would
increase when the two older children leave his care.
came to alimony, the district court assessed Daniel's
obligation in tandem with the child support due "[i]n an
effort to stabilize the payments." The court ordered
Daniel to pay no more than $1400 per month to Nora. The
difference between the child support and the $1400 ceiling
would be the alimony due. According to the order, if the
child support owed Nora exceeded $1400 in a given month,
Daniel would have no alimony obligation. The court set a
ten-year duration for the rehabilitative alimony.
appeals the child and spousal support determinations, as well
as the attorney fee award. She also seeks appellate attorney
fees. We address Nora's claims in turn.
Scope and ...