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Granstra v. Driesen

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

CHRISTOPHER HANS GRANSTRA, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
SHEA BRIANNE DRIESEN, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for O'Brien County, Charles Borth, District Judge.

         A father appeals a decree establishing paternity, custody, visitation, and child support.

          Matthew G. Sease of Kemp & Sease, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Jenny L. Winterfeld of Winterfeld Law, P.L.C., Sioux Center, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and May, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Christopher Granstra and Shea Driesen are the unmarried parents of a child, born in 2017. Following trial on Granstra's petition to establish paternity, custody, and visitation, the district court granted Driesen physical care of the child. The court reasoned:

[Driesen] has been the primary caretaker for [the child] her entire life. She has also been the primary caretaker of her older son . . . . [The child] and [the older half-sibling] are only separated in age by approximately four years. They have a strong bond with each other. The record establishes that under [Driesen's] care, these children are both well-adjusted and appropriately developed children. The successful caregiving by one parent in the past is a strong predictor that future care of the child will be of the same quality. While [Driesen] had some instances of poor judgment following her separation from [Granstra], she seems to have again stabilized after a short bout with immaturity. Even during her issues, she never did anything which would put either of the children in danger. Along with [Granstra], the court is concerned about [Driesen's] living arrangement due to the fact that the home in which she is residing has been foreclosed upon. No execution has yet been filed, however, nor has any sheriff's sale been scheduled. [Driesen's boyfriend] testified that he is actively seeking new employment and working to obtain mortgage assistance in order to remain in the home. In the unfortunate event they must find alternative living arrangements, nothing in the record indicates they would absolutely be unable to do so. In the meantime, this is the home that [the child] has known for the past several months. As shown by photographic evidence in the record, the home is well-maintained.

         On appeal, Granstra contends the court should have granted him physical care of the child. In his view, (A) he "offers more stability than [Driesen]"; (B) he "will better promote a healthy relationship between [Driesen] and all family members"; (C) "Driesen does not make decisions based upon the best interests of [the child]"; (D) "[Driesen's] relationship with [her boyfriend] was not given appropriate weight"; and (E) the "court gave too much weight to [the child's] relationship with" her older half-sibling. Driesen seeks appellate attorney fees.

         I. Physical Care

         Our analysis of who should have physical care is the same whether the parents are married or unmarried. Lambert v. Everist, 418 N.W.2d 40, 42 (Iowa 1988). Specifically, we apply the factors set forth in our chapter on dissolutions of marriage. Id.; see Iowa Code §§ 598.41(3), 600B.40(2) (2018). Our review is de novo. See McKee v. Dicus, 785 N.W.2d 733, 736 (Iowa Ct. App. 2010).

         A. Stability.

         Granstra argues the court "gave undue weight [to Driesen's] purported history as primary caregiver" and did not consider that he "provides more stability." See Iowa Code § 598.41(3)(a) (considering "[w]hether each parent would be a suitable custodian for the child"), (d) (considering "[w]hether both parents have actively cared for the child before and since the separation"). He points to his ownership of a home in which the child was born, his steady employment, and the availability of extended family support "within the area." He asserts Driesen, in contrast, was at imminent risk of losing the home she shared with her boyfriend, had "several jobs," and moved constantly.

         Granstra did indeed have more stable housing than Driesen. He purchased an acreage with a five-bedroom home while he was involved with Driesen, and he remained in the home after his breakup with her. Driesen, on the other hand, lived with a new boyfriend whose home was the subject of a foreclosure decree. However, the house had yet to be sold at a sheriff's sale and Driesen remained on the property at the time of trial. Driesen's boyfriend ...


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