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In re Marriage of Griffith

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JOYCE CAROL GRIFFITH AND SCOTT REID GRIFFITH Upon the Petition of JOYCE CAROL GRIFFITH, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning SCOTT REID GRIFFITH, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Emmet County, Don E. Courtney, Judge.

         Scott Griffith appeals from the decree dissolving his marriage to Joyce Griffith.

          Michael H. Johnson of Johnson Law Firm, Spirit Lake, for appellant.

          Matthew T.E. Early of Fitzgibbons Law Firm, L.L.C., Estherville, for appellee.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and May, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Scott Griffith appeals from the decree dissolving his marriage to Joyce Griffith. Scott argues the district court erred in failing to order continued conciliation efforts, in finding Joyce was capable of establishing the breakdown of the marriage, and in refusing to grant Scott's motion to compel discovery of mental health records. We affirm.

         Scott and Joyce were married on July 6, 1979. On May 25, 2017, Joyce filed a dissolution petition. On July 5, Scott filed an answer denying there had been a breakdown of the marriage relationship and prayed the court dismiss the petition and order conciliation. Trial was scheduled for December 5.

         On November 17, counsel for Scott filed a motion to continue the trial and order conciliation, noting Joyce had refused to voluntarily participate in conciliation. Joyce resisted. Following a hearing, the court ordered conciliation and continued the trial.

         On February 8, 2018, Scott filed a motion to enforce court-ordered conciliation. Joyce responded, noting she had attended one meeting and the conciliator had indicated she need not attend further conciliation sessions as they would be futile. Later, Joyce filed an affidavit from Tina Friesner, Joyce's daughter, who opined further conciliation or counseling sessions were not in Joyce's best interest: "My mother suffers from dementia and has indicated to me that she never wants to see Scott Griffith again and is in fear of him. She gets very tearful and upset when we discuss the possibility of continued counseling sessions with her husband." Also filed was a letter from the person selected by Scott to be the conciliator, Chelsi Jahn, who wrote she met with Joyce on December 28, 2017, and Joyce stated "she wishes to get divorced and she has felt this way for a long time" and she no longer wanted to attend sessions.

         On March 1, Scott filed a motion to compel discovery of Joyce's medical records for the past five years. Joyce resisted, asserting the motion was technically deficient and without merit.

         The district court denied the motions to compel further conciliation and to compel discovery.

         Trial was held on March 20. Scott asked that the court find Joyce was not competent to request dissolution due to dementia. Joyce and Scott both testified. Joyce stated she wanted a dissolution of the marriage and there had been a breakdown of the marriage. Scott testified it was not Joyce's desire but the dementia speaking. The court accepted Joyce's testimony as credible and found there had been a "breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the legitimate objects of matrimony have been destroyed, and that there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved." A decree of dissolution was entered, incorporating the parties' stipulated property division. Scott appeals.

         We review dissolution proceedings de novo. In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). Nonetheless, we give weight to the findings of the trial court, particularly with respect ...


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