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In re Marriage of Hansen

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 7, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JAMES MATHIAS HANSEN AND BRANDY SUE HANSEN Upon the Petition of JAMES MATHIAS HANSEN, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning BRANDY SUE HANSEN, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jackson County, John D. Telleen, Judge.

         Brandy Hansen appeals from the decree dissolving her marriage.

          Taryn R. McCarthy of Clemens, Walters, Conlon, Runde & Hiatt, L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellant.

          Jamie A. Splinter of Splinter Law Office, Dubuque, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and May, JJ.

          MAY, JUDGE.

         Brandy Hansen appeals from the decree dissolving her marriage to James Hansen. She argues the district court erred in granting James physical care of two children and child support. We affirm.

         The parties' relationship began in 2004. Soon after, Brandy gave birth to a child, referred to here as the "oldest child." In 2010, James and Brandy married. James adopted the oldest child. James and Brandy had two more children, referred to here as the "younger children."

         By 2014, the parties' relationship was deteriorating. It was marred by substance abuse and domestic violence. By 2016, the Iowa Department of Human Services was involved.

         Also in 2016, James commenced this dissolution action. Although the parties agreed they should be awarded joint legal custody of the children, neither party suggested joint physical care was appropriate. Instead, each party asked for physical care.

         Following a two-day trial, the district court entered a decree dissolving the marriage. The court granted physical care of the oldest child to Brandy, physical care of the younger children to James, and child support to James. Brandy appealed.

         We review dissolution proceedings de novo. In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). Even so, we afford deference to the district court. Hensch v. Mysak, 902 N.W.2d 822, 824 (Iowa Ct. App. 2017). "[W]e will affirm . . . unless the district court failed to do substantial equity." Id.; see also In re P.C., No. 16-0893, 2016 WL 4379580, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 17, 2016) (identifying "reasons to exercise 'de novo review with deference,' including: notions of judicial comity and respect; recognition of the appellate court's limited function of maintaining the uniformity of legal doctrine; recognition of the district court's more intimate knowledge of and familiarity with the parties, the lawyers, and the facts of a case; and recognition there are often undercurrents in a case-not of record and available for appellate review-the district court does and should take into account when making a decision").

         Brandy argues the district court erred in granting James physical care of the younger children. When deciding physical care, "[t]he children's best interest is the 'controlling consideration.'" In re Marriage of Hoffman, 867 N.W.2d 26, 32 (Iowa 2015) (quoting In re Marriage of Leyda, 355 N.W.2d 862, 865 (Iowa 1984)). This standard requires us to examine each family's unique circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Id. We consider which parent would support the other's relationship with the children as well as continuity, stability, and approximation. In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 700 (Iowa 2007). We also consider additional factors relating to the children's safety and other needs. See Iowa Code § 598.41(3) (2016); In re Marriage of Winter, 223 N.W.2d 165, 166-67 (Iowa 1974).

         As is often the case, our determination of physical care depends heavily on testimony and-therefore-witness credibility. See In re Marriage of Vrban, 359 N.W.2d ...


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