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In re Marriage of Epari

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 24, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF RENEE EPARI AND ALOK EPARI Upon the Petition of RENEE EPARI, n/k/a RENEE NELSON, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning ALOK EPARI, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Randy V. Hefner, Judge.

         A father appeals the modification of the physical care and visitation provisions in a dissolution decree.

          Jeremy B.A. Feitelson of Feitelson Law, L.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Mark R. Hinshaw of The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw, West Des Moines, for appellee.

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

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Alok Epari appeals the district court's order modifying the physical care and visitation provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage with Renee Nelson, formerly Renee Epari. We affirm the district court ruling granting Renee physical care of the children, and affirm as modified the visitation schedule.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Alok and Renee's marriage was dissolved in 2014. In a stipulation and agreement incorporated into the dissolution decree, the parties were granted joint legal custody and joint physical care of their two children, N.E. and P.E. The parties agreed Alok would pay Renee $1500 per month in child support, which was above the guideline amount, and Renee waived spousal support and attorney fees.

         Following the dissolution, the parents frequently fought via text messages and had a generally unhealthy relationship with each other. Alok contacted persons in Renee's life, sending pictures and making allegations of Renee's history with the aim of harming her familial relationships and destroying romantic relationships. In 2015, Renee filed a contempt action against Alok, alleging he violated the provisions of the decree relating to child care, communication with the children, and joint decision-making, and also alleging he had underpaid child support and shared expenses. Renee dismissed the application in January 2016.

         In June 2016, Alok discovered financial problems with his company in India. Over three trips, he spent four of the next six months in India. He was again in India from early January 2017 until the end of June. At trial, he testified he will continue to need to travel to India for his business and stated he intends to travel in three-week increments to minimize lost visitation.

         On December 15, 2016, Renee filed a petition to modify the dissolution decree provisions relating to custody, physical care, and child support. On July 19, 2017, she filed an application for contempt alleging Alok willfully failed to pay child support, child-related expenses, and the property-settlement equalization payments.

         Following a hearing on June 14, 2018, the district court modified the dissolution decree granting Renee physical care of the children and providing Alok liberal visitation rights. The court maintained joint legal custody, approved a visitation schedule, and modified the consent restrictions on out-of-country travel with the children. The court reduced Alok's child support obligation based on a lower earning capacity for Alok and a higher income level for Renee. The court dismissed Renee's contempt application as payments were made since the time of the application. Finally, the court ordered Alok to pay $4000 of Renee's attorney fees.

         Alok appeals, requesting the reinstatement of joint physical care. Alok also requests his visitation be changed as ...


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