IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF LEAH ANNETTE OKRZYNSKI AND MARVIN OMAR CAMPOS Upon the Petition of LEAH ANNETTE OKRZYNSKI, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning MARVIN OMAR CAMPOS, Respondent-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Eliza J. Ovrom,
Campos appeals the district court's denial of his
petition to modify the parties' dissolution decree.
E. Langford of Langford Law Office, LLC, Des Moines, for
Woolman of Woolman Law Office, PLLC, Des Moines, for
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Mullins, J., and Vogel,
VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.
appeal from the dismissal of a petition to modify a
dissolution decree, we must decide whether the district court
erred in concluding the petition amounted to an impermissible
collateral attack on prior orders.
proceedings that led to the filing of the petition are
undisputed. Marvin Campos and Leah Okrzynski married and
divorced. No appeal was taken. Okrzynski filed a petition to
modify the property provisions of the decree. The parties
stipulated to a modification, and the district court approved
the stipulation. Again, no appeal was taken. Okrzynski sought
to have Campos held in contempt for failing to abide by the
stipulated modification decree. Following a hearing, the
district court found Campos in contempt but withheld mittimus
pending compliance. Campos petitioned for a writ of
certiorari and sought to stay the order for mittimus. The
Iowa Supreme Court denied the petition.
brings us to the proceeding underlying this appeal. Campos
filed a petition to modify the decree. He challenged the
prior modification decree as well as the prior finding of
contempt. At a non-evidentiary hearing on the petition, he
argued the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction
to enter the prior modification decree; the decree,
accordingly, was void; and it could not serve as the basis of
the later contempt finding.
district court addressed the argument as follows:
Generally a party cannot collaterally attack the validity of
a court order that is the basis for a contempt decision.
Allen v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 582 N.W.2d 506, 508 (Iowa 1998).
However, a party cannot be punished for violating a void
order. Iowa Supreme Ct. Bd. of Prof'l Ethics v.
Hughes, 557 N.W.2d 890, 892 (Iowa 1996) (citing Clark v.
Dist. Ct., 125 N.W.2d 264, 266 (Iowa 1963)). A void judgment
may be stricken at any time. Williamson v. Williamson, 161
N.W. 482, 485 (Iowa 1917). A court order is void when it is
entered without subject matter jurisdiction. Hughes,
557 N.W.2d at 892. Subject matter jurisdiction is the
authority to hear and determine cases of the general class to
which the proceedings in question belong. Id.
"If there is jurisdiction of the parties and legal
authority to make an order, it must be obeyed, however
erroneous or improvident." Lutz v. Darbyshire,
297 N.W.2d 349, 352 (Iowa 1980) (overruled on other grounds
by Phillips v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 380 N.W.2d 706, 709
(Iowa 1986)). Violations of orders merely alleged to be
erroneous may be punished as contempt. Hughes, 557
N.W.2d at 892. The stipulated order for modification entered
in January 2013 is not void. The district court had . . .
personal jurisdiction over the parties and had subject matter
jurisdiction to modify dissolution decrees. The arguments
offered here-that the order is void because it modifies the
property award, improperly awards alimony, and errs in
finding a substantial change in circumstances-could have been
raised on direct appeal. However, they were not. It
is proper to hold respondent in contempt for violating the
order for modification. See White v. Iowa Dist. Ct.,
[No. 11-1831, 2012 WL 1864596 (Iowa Ct. App. May 23, 2012)]
(holding that a party could be held in contempt for violating
a protective order that exceeded the one-year limit set forth
in applicable statute). The 2013 order for modification,
which was agreed to by both parties, is final and the time to
challenge it has passed. See Iowa Code § 624A.1; Iowa R.
Civ. P. 1.1013. It is not subject to collateral attack here.
court dismissed the modification action.
appeal, both parties reprise the arguments they made in the
district court. We discern no error in the court's
analysis and conclusion. We affirm the court's dismissal
of the petition to modify the decree.
parties seek an award of appellate attorney fees. Okrzynski
was "obligated to defend the trial court's decision
on appeal." See Spiker v. Spiker, 708 N.W.2d
347, 360 (Iowa 2006) (considering an application for
appellate attorney fees in a modification action). For that
reason, we conclude Okrzynski is entitled to have Campos pay
her appellate attorney ...