from the Iowa District Court for Fayette County, Richard D.
Coulter appeals a district court decree awarding Stephen
Schoonover physical care of their child.
A. Dillon of Dillon Law, P.C., Sumner, for appellant.
Stephen Schoonover, Maynard, pro se appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Coulter and Stephen Schoonover are the unmarried parents of a
child born in 2013. Schoonover filed a petition for custody
and visitation in Fayette County. Coulter followed with a
similar petition in Woodbury County. The parents agreed to a
temporary custody and visitation arrangement, and the
district court in Woodbury County filed an order approving
the arrangement. Schoonover moved to incorporate the
temporary order from Woodbury County in the Fayette County
case. The Fayette County district court granted the
the temporary order, Schoonover received "temporary
primary physical care of the child" subject to
visitation with Coulter "every weekend from 3:00 p.m.
Fridays until noon on Tuesdays." The order allowed
either Coulter or her mother to pick up and drop off the
child. The parents operated under this order for several
months preceding trial.
trial, neither party was represented by counsel. Following
abbreviated testimony, the district court granted Schoonover
physical care of the child but modified the visitation
portion of the temporary order to limit Coulter's visits
to every other weekend from Friday through Sunday. Coulter
appealed the physical care portion of the
argues the district court's physical care decision did
not serve the child's best interests. 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),
novo review of the limited record discloses the following
facts. According to Schoonover, the parents followed the
temporary order "for the majority of the time" but
there were "hiccups along the way as far as
communication" on the part of both parents. The problems
stemmed in part from the fact that Coulter moved to the
western part of the state and Schoonover remained in the
eastern part of the state. Coulter returned to eastern Iowa
three months before trial.
asked what relief he was requesting, Schoonover responded
that he wanted the court "to amend the temporary
order" to allow him to have the child if she did not go
with Coulter on weekends. He also pointed out the child had
"been in the same [pre]school for the last year, she
"love[d] her teachers and her friends," and she was
expected to start kindergarten in the fall. When asked why he
should be granted physical care of the child, Schoonover
mentioned that Coulter declined to send the child to school
when she had magic marker on her face, put locks on the
child's bedroom door, and did not take advantage of all
the visitation time afforded her under the temporary order.
testimony also was brief. She stated she left Schoonover
"because of several instances of physical and verbal and
emotional abuse." She "basically begged him to
spend time with" his daughter "for the next four to
five months," but he demurred "until almost a year
later." By then, the child "was almost three."
She stated the child was with her "every single day of
her life since she was fifteen months old until she was
almost three when [Schoonover] finally decided he wanted to
spend time with her." She also noted the locks on the
bedroom doors were to keep the dog out and the child was
never locked in her room.
record, we agree Coulter should have been granted physical
care. First, under the temporary order, she effectively
exercised primary physical care through
"visitation" four overnights a week. See
Iowa Code § 598.41(3)(e). Second, Coulter was the
child's sole caretaker for almost two years preceding
entry of the temporary order. Third, her testimony that
Schoonover domestically abused her several times was
uncontradicted and is a relevant factor in the physical care
determination. See id. ...