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In re Marriage of Widdison

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF AMY A. WIDDISON AND HAROLD K. WIDDISON Upon the Petition of AMY A. WIDDISON, n/k/a AMY A. DENDY, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning HAROLD K. WIDDISON, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, James S. Heckerman, Judge.

         Harold Widdison appeals various district court orders in the ongoing litigation following the dissolution of his marriage to Amy Widdison (now Amy Dendy).

          Harold K. Widdison, Sioux City, self-represented appellant.

          Amanda Van Wyhe of Van Wyhe Law Firm & Mediation Center, PLC, Sioux City, for appellee.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Richard D. Arnold and Gary J. Otting, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee CSRU.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          Doyle, Judge.

         This appeal follows Harold Widdison's previous appeal of a modification order. See In re Marriage of Widdison, No. 17-2034, 2018 WL 4361004 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 12, 2018). The modification order increased Harold's child support obligation and made the increase retroactive-creating an instant arrearage. Harold appealed. While the appeal was pending, the Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) seized funds from Harold's retirement account to collect the arrearage. Later, we reversed the district court's order increasing the amount of Harold's child support obligation because Amy Widdison (now Amy Dendy) never requested an increase. Id. at *4. After our ruling, Harold applied for return of the seized funds and sought compensation for $1136.39 in adverse tax consequences and $778.35 in early-withdrawal fees resulting from the CSRU's levy on his retirement account. The district court credited Harold for the overpayments that the CSRU disbursed to Amy and applied this credit to his ongoing child support payments. Harold moved to amend the ruling to expand his child support credit by the amount of the taxes and penalties he incurred as a result of the CSRU's levy. The district court denied the motion in an order that addressed several "pending motions" in the ongoing litigation between Amy and Harold. In the same order, the court granted Amy attorney fees associated with contempt proceedings and denied Harold's motion for sanctions against Amy and her attorney. It is from this order that Harold now appeals.

         In his appellate brief, Harold states he "preserved error by timely filing a Notice of Appeal." We have stated time and time again, the filing of a notice of appeal does not preserve error for our review.[1] See Thomas A. Mayes & Anuradha Vaitheswaran, Error Preservation in Civil Appeals in Iowa: Perspectives on Present Practice, 55 Drake L. Rev. 39, 48 (Fall 2006) ("However error is preserved, it is not preserved by filing a notice of appeal. While this is a common statement in briefs, it is erroneous, for the notice of appeal has nothing to do with error preservation.").

         On appeal, Harold contends he is entitled to either reimbursement or credit against his future child support obligation for the taxes and penalties assessed when the CSRU seized funds from his retirement account. We typically review actions about support orders de novo. See In re Marriage of Carr, 591 N.W.2d 627, 628 (Iowa 1999). But when an appeal involves undisputed facts and statutory interpretation, our review is for correction of errors at law. See id.

         Iowa Code chapter 252I (2018) authorizes the CSRU to seize financial accounts to collect delinquent support payments. See Iowa Code § 252I.6(1). The chapter also outlines the mechanism to challenge the seizure of those accounts- first by submitting the challenge to the CSRU and, if the challenge does not succeed, in a hearing before the district court. See generally id. § 252I.8(1)-(5). If, during this process, the CSRU returns the funds to the financial account because of a mistake of fact or error of the court, it must reimburse any additional fees or costs levied against the account. See Iowa Code § 252I.8(7).

         The record does not show that Harold followed the procedure outlined in section 252I.8 to challenge the seizure of funds from his retirement account. Instead, Harold applied to stay enforcement of the increased child support obligation after appealing the modification order, but both the district court and Iowa Supreme Court denied his request. After receiving the CSRU's notice that it was seizing funds from his retirement account, Harold moved to quash the levy rather than following the statutory procedure to challenge it. The district court denied the motion. Because Harold failed to follow the statutory procedure to challenge the levy, he cannot avail himself to the remedy outlined in section 252I.8(7).

         In denying Harold's motion to amend and enlarge, the district court determined:

For purposes of clarification, this Court considered the issue of taxes and penalties submitted by [Harold] due [to] the involuntary seizure of funds from [his] retirement account. It is not unusual in litigation that the parties incur collateral costs and expenses. The increase in [Harold]'s support obligation, which was later reversed on appeal, was the result of an error by the district court, not [Amy]. This court, in considering his arguments ...

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