IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF THADDEUS JEREMIAH ZIMMERMAN AND JAMIE KAY ZIMMERMAN Upon the Petition of THADDEUS JEREMIAH ZIMMERMAN, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning JAMIE KAY ZIMMERMAN, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Kevin
Zimmerman appeals the physical care provisions of the decree
dissolving his marriage to Jamie Zimmerman.
Burbidge of Johnston, Stannard, Klesner, Burbidge &
Fitzgerald, P.L.C., Iowa City, for appellant.
Zimmerman, Iowa City, pro se appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Vogel, S.J., and Gamble,
VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE
Jeremiah ("T.J.") and Jamie Kay Zimmerman married
in 2010 and divorced in 2018. The district court granted
Jamie physical care of their child, born in 2010, subject to
visitation with T.J. "from 7:30 p.m. on days before he
does not work until 7:30 p.m. on the day before his work
shift begins." In a posttrial ruling, the district court
struck the visitation provision and replaced it with the
following: "[T.J.] shall have care of the child on
Wednesday beginning at 6:00 P.M. through Sunday at 9:00 A.M.
[Jamie] shall have care of the child from Sunday at 9:00 A.M.
through Wednesday at 6:00 P.M." The court ordered T.J.
to pay Jamie $342.00 per month in child support.
appeal, T.J. argues the district court should have granted
him physical care of the child or, in the alternative, should
have ordered joint physical care. He requests modification of
the child support order if we choose either option and
modification of the visitation provision if we leave physical
care with Jamie. Jamie did not file a responsive brief.
district court made the following findings and conclusions:
In listening to the witnesses in this case, the Court finds
that this was certainly the tale of two stories which bore
little resemblance to each other. [T.J.] and [Jamie] describe
one another as being abusive and controlling. They both seem
to be working on their issues since they both attend
counseling regularly. The Court believes that they have had a
volatile and unhealthy relationship. However, the Court also
notes that they both appear to love and care for their child.
It is noteworthy that the Court recognizes that there are
signs that [Jamie] has been subjected to abuse and [T.J.] has
displayed an unfortunate tendency to show anger and
aggression. However, it is also noteworthy that by all recent
accounts, [T.J.] seems to be managing his temperament in an
appropriate way. The Court notes that both parties have
accused one another of abuse. This is extremely concerning
and is an indication to the Court that both parties have done
the correct thing by enrolling in therapy.
The Court finds that a shared care arrangement is an
arrangement that the Court would most like to impose.
Unfortunately, the Court does not feel that the parties
communicate well enough to support a shared care arrangement.
This is extremely unfortunate because the child is strongly
bonded to both parties. The parties have testified that there
have been some difficulties communicating regarding the
child. However, the child has been well cared for in both of
their homes. Parents will often disagree regarding important
issues in their child's life. The key is whether or not
the parents can put their differences aside and make the best
decision that they can. They do not have to always agree but
they do need to focus on the well-being of their child. The
Court would like to believe that these parties can do this.
However, the Court would be remiss in ignoring the signs that
shared care is unlikely to work.
In the absence of the ability to award shared care, the Court
must select a primary caregiver for the child. Both parents
have spent significant time with the child since the entry of
the temporary order in November of 2016. By all objective
accounts, the child is well adjusted, happy, intelligent, and
strongly bonded to both parents. Although both parents have
raised concerns about each other, the Court finds that those
concerns have been largely exaggerated by both parties.
Although there have been some concerning events since the
current care arrangement was established, the child has
thrived under the current care arrangement. The one concern
that the Court believes should be addressed is the sheer
number of exchanges that take place during the week. The
Court believes that a very similar care arrangement with
fewer exchanges would be in the best interest of the child.
However, this is made extremely difficult by the
Petitioner's current work schedule. Therefore, the Court
concludes that the child's best interests would be served
by continuing the current care schedule between the parties.
begin with the district court's rejection of joint
physical care. "[A] stormy marriage and divorce presents
a significant risk factor that must be considered in
determining whether joint physical care is in the best
interest of the children." In re Marriage
of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 698 (Iowa 2007). The parents
had a volatile relationship marked by domestic abuse dating
back to 2014. T.J. testified both parties were "guilty
of abusing each other." He claimed Jamie pulled and
dragged him by his hair and punched him in the face. He
admitted he assaulted Jamie shortly before the dissolution
petition was filed by holding her in "a modified choke
conduct led Jamie to seek a domestic abuse protective order.
T.J. followed up with his own petition for a protective
order. Those petitions were considered in separate
proceedings. In the dissolution proceeding, the district
court enjoined the parents from ...