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In re Marriage of Vesey

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 24, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF CHRISTOPHER C. VESEY AND KELLY ANN VESEY Upon the Petition of CHRISTOPHER C. VESEY, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning KELLY ANN VESEY, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Terry R. Rickers, Judge.

         A father appeals the district court's modification of the physical-care arrangement for his two children.

          Anjela A. Shutts and Tyler L. Coe of Whitfield & Eddy, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Christopher B. Coppola and Megan Flynn of Coppola, McConville, Carroll, Hockenberg & Flynn, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         Chris and Kelly Vesey stipulated to joint physical care for their two sons; the district court approved that stipulation in their divorce decree. As she contemplated moving to a community nearly one-hundred miles away, Kelly sought to modify the custody arrangement. The district court granted her motion to modify, "contingent upon" her "actually moving" within ninety days of the order. On appeal, Chris contends the court wrongly decided Kelly's prospective move was cause for modification. Because Kelly proved her move would be a substantial change in circumstances justifying a switch from shared care to designating her as the primary caregiver, we affirm the modification order.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Chris and Kelly were married in 2005 and divorced in 2015. Chris is a detective with the West Des Moines Police Department. Kelly works for Wells Fargo as a business systems consultant. They have two sons, G.C.V. and L.J.V. At the time of the divorce, the district court granted the parents joint legal custody, as well as joint physical care of both boys. The decree adopted the parents' stipulation to a "fifty-fifty custody arrangement."

         Twelve-year-old G.C.V. and eight-year-old L.J.V. continue to attend school in the Waukee district where Kelly currently resides. Chris lives in West Des Moines. To accommodate the children's schedules, Chris drops them off at Kelly's house each morning after they stay with him so they can catch a bus to school. Additionally, Chris's police work occasionally requires him to be on-call. During those times, the children stay at Kelly's house regardless of whose parenting time it would regularly be. Over time, these adjustments led to the children spending more of their time in Kelly's care than with Chris.

         In August 2017, Kelly petitioned for modification of the decree, claiming material and substantial changes warranted altering the physical care arrangement. Kelly argued four points:

(1) Chris was not following the agreed-upon parenting schedule;
(2) Communication had broken down ...

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