from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County,
Gregory W. Steensland, Judge.
Batterman appeals the district court's refusal to modify
the physical-care placement of his child.
M. Hart, Omaha, Nebraska, for appellant.
E. Benson, Council Bluffs, and William C. Bracker, Council
Bluffs, for appellee.
Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and May, JJ.
case is about B.B., who was born in 2009. Jason Batterman and
Amanda Biggs are B.B.'s parents. They were never married.
They split up shortly after B.B. was born. In 2010, the
district court entered a paternity decree granting joint
legal custody, awarding physical care to Amanda, and
providing visitation for Jason.
2017, Jason got married. That same year, Jason filed the
present modification action. Jason asked the district court
to switch physical care from Amanda to him. The district
court denied Jason's request. The court also awarded
Amanda $1000 in attorney fees. Jason appeals.
review is de novo. Iowa R. App. 6.907. However, we
"afford deference to the district court for
institutional and pragmatic reasons." Hensch v.
Mysak, 902 N.W.2d 822, 824 (Iowa Ct. App. 2017).
argues the district court erred in declining to switch
physical care. "A party seeking modification of the
legal or physical custodial provisions of a dissolution
decree must meet a high standard." In re Marriage of
Sawyer, No. 09-0558, 2009 WL 2514176, at *4 (Iowa Ct.
App. Aug. 19, 2009).
To change a custodial provision of a dissolution decree, the
applying party must establish by a preponderance of evidence
that conditions since the decree was entered have so
materially and substantially changed that the child's
best interests make it expedient to make the requested
change. The changed circumstances must not have been
contemplated by the court when the decree was entered, and
they must be more or less permanent, not temporary. They must
relate to the welfare of the child. A parent seeking to
take custody from the other must prove an ability to minister
more effectively to the child's well being. The heavy
burden upon a party seeking to modify custody stems from the
principle that once custody of child has been fixed it
should be disturbed only for the most cogent reasons.
Id. (quoting In re Marriage of Frederici,
338 N.W.2d 156, 158 (Iowa 1983)).
the district court, we doubt Jason has proven a significant,
continuing change in circumstances that negatively impacts
the welfare of the child. Assuming he has, however, Jason
must also demonstrate his superior ability to care for B.B.
See In re Marriage of Whalen, 569 N.W.2d 626, 628
(Iowa Ct. App. 1997).
sure, both parents have their deficiencies. We note Amanda
has moved several times, forcing B.B. to change schools
repeatedly. Our concerns regarding this are somewhat alieved
by Amanda's assurance, "I'm not going to
move." The district court described Amanda as
"testif[ying] rather convincingly" to the stability
of her current relationship. We defer to the district court
on this issue and anticipate increased stability in
Amanda's future. See In re Marriage ...