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In re Marriage of Palmer

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF STEVE RICKY PALMER AND DEBRA SUE PALMER Upon the Petition of STEVE RICKY PALMER, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning DEBRA SUE PALMER, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mills County, Timothy O'Grady, Judge.

         Steve Palmer appeals the decree dissolving his marriage to Debra Palmer. AFFIRMED.

          Kyle E. Focht of Focht Law Office, Council Bluffs, for appellant.

          Stephen C. Ebke of Ebke Law Office, Council Bluffs, for appellee.

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

          MAY, JUDGE

         The district court dissolved the marriage of Steve and Debra Palmer. On appeal, Steve argues the district court did not award him enough spousal support.[1] We conclude the district court did not fail to do equity. Therefore, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts

         Steve and Debra married in September 1998. Throughout their marriage, Debra worked at Glenwood Resource Center, a state facility. Steve worked in manual labor positions until 2012 when he was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome. After that, Steve received disability benefits instead of pay.

         In 2018, Steve filed for divorce. That fall, the district court entered a decree of dissolution. Debra's IPERS account was one of the assets divided. Relying on In re Marriage of Benson, 545 N.W.2d 252 (Iowa 1996), the district court determined Steve was entitled to 29.42% of the account.

         As for spousal support, the district court crafted a two-tiered structure. See Iowa Code § 598.21A (2018). Initially, Debra must pay Steve $1000 per month. But when Steve begins to receive benefits from Debra's IPERS account, Debra's support payment will decrease to $400 per month.

         On appeal, Steve asks that we increase his spousal support award to $2500 per month for life.

         II. Standard of Review

         Our review of dissolution proceedings is de novo. Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. Yet we recognize "the district court is best positioned to evaluate the needs of parties." In re Marriage of Dirkx, No. 18-0422, 2019 WL 3330625, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. July 24, 2019). Therefore, we afford the district court "considerable latitude" in determining spousal support. In re Marriage of Anliker, 694 N.W.2d 535, 540 (Iowa 2005). "We will disturb that determination only when there has been a failure to do equity." Id. "This deference to the trial court's determination is decidedly in the public interest." Benson, 545 N.W.2d at 257. "When appellate courts unduly refine these important, but often conjectural, judgment calls, they ...


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