from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Patrick R.
Conrad appeals the dismissal of her contempt actions in
domestic abuse proceedings.
L. Teig, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.
Patricia J. Meier and Jonathon Muñoz of Nidey Erdahl
Fisher Pilkington & Meier, PLC, Cedar Rapids, for
Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and May, JJ.
MULLINS, PRESIDING JUDGE
April 2018, the parties filed competing petitions for relief
from domestic abuse under Iowa Code chapter 236 (2018). At
the time, the parties were husband and wife. They share a
child, born in 2016. On May 11, the district court entered
final domestic abuse protective orders in each proceeding,
protecting each of the parties from the other. Each
protective order awarded Brianna temporary custody of the
child, with visitation to Charles, and ordered Charles to pay
$467.25 for temporary child support and $168.31 for temporary
cash medical support, resulting in a total monthly support
obligation of $635.56. Neither order specified the date the
support payments were to commence nor the periodic due date
for each monthly payment. Brianna filed motions to enlarge
pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904(2), requesting
the court to specify when payments would be due. Charles
agreed the court should specify the due date for his
23, the child support recovery unit (CSRU) entered an order
for income withholding. On May 30, the court ordered the
support payments were due on the fourth day of each month,
commencing June 4. On June 1, Charles paid CSRU $440.00
toward his support obligations; the payment was distributed
on June 6. On June 12, Brianna filed an affidavit to start
contempt proceedings based on the arrearage of $195.56 in the
proceeding in which Charles was the protected party. By June
14, an additional $293.33 had been withheld from
Charles's wages. The arrearage in the amount of $195.56
was distributed on June 18. The remaining $97.77 was not
distributed, apparently because it was not yet due. That
amount was ultimately distributed on June 29. Charles moved
for dismissal of the contempt action noting his obligation
was paid in full. $293.33 was withheld from Charles's
wages on both June 28 and July 12, for a total of $586.66.
Those funds were distributed on July 2 and 13, respectively,
bringing Charles current on his obligation. On July 11,
Brianna filed a second affidavit to start contempt
proceedings, this time in the proceeding in which she was the
protected party, alleging Charles failed to pay his support
obligation for July.
18, the court held a consolidated hearing on Brianna's
applications for rule to show cause why Charles should not be
held in contempt of court for failing to pay all sums that
had been ordered by the court. The court subsequently filed
orders dismissing Brianna's contempt actions against
Charles, concluding that because there was an
income-withholding order in place pursuant to Iowa Code
chapter 252D, by operation of section 252D.19A, "she
cannot be successful in this instance due to the initiation
of and subsequent payments under income withholding."
The court also stated: "Finally, even if Charles was
technically late on his June payment, this Court does not
find that he did so willfully or contumaciously despite
Brianna's claim that Charles understated his income at
the hearing where child support was established." The
court concluded Brianna failed to prove beyond a reasonable
doubt Charles was in contempt. Brianna appeals, arguing the
court misapplied existing law in its ruling. We will not
recite each argument and sub-argument raised in her
sixty-page brief, but our analysis will address them either
directly or indirectly.
generally argues the district court erred in failing to find
Charles in contempt, alleging three errors: (1) the court
relied on superseded caselaw in concluding it had discretion
whether to hold Charles in contempt, (2), the court
inappropriately considered the case a collection action under
Iowa Code chapter 252D rather than an enforcement action
under chapter 664A, and (3) the court erred in finding
Charles's actions were not willful.
employ a unique standard of review in contempt proceedings.
Our review is not de novo; rather we review the evidence to
assure ourselves the judgment is supported by the evidence.
Den Hartog v. City of Waterloo, 926 N.W.2d 764, 770
(Iowa 2019). Contempt is defined as willful disobedience.
Ary v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 735 N.W.2d 621, 624 (Iowa
2007). "A party alleging contempt has the burden to
prove the contemner had a duty to obey a court order and
willfully failed to perform that duty."
Id. (emphasis added). The burden then "shifts
to the alleged contemner to produce evidence suggesting the
violation was not willful." Id. The contemnee
"retains the burden of proof to establish willfulness
beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. A dismissal of
a contempt action is appropriate absent proof of willfulness
beyond a reasonable doubt. Den Hartog, 926 N.W.2d at
begin with Brianna's final argument, that the court erred
in failing to conclude Charles willfully failed to pay his
child support on time. First, we hone in on the district
court's ultimate conclusion: "Brianna has failed to
prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Charles is in willful
violation of his support obligation." A finding of
willfulness "requires evidence of conduct that is
intentional and deliberate with a bad or evil purpose, or
wanton and in disregard of the rights of others, or contrary
to a known duty, or unauthorized, coupled with an unconcern
whether the contemner had the right or not."
Ary, 735 N.W.2d at 624 (quoting Lutz v.
Darbyshire, 297 N.W.2d 349, 353 (Iowa 1980),
overruled on other grounds by Phillips v. Iowa Dist.
Ct., 380 N.W.2d 706, 707, 708 (Iowa 1986)). Most of
Brianna's brief is premised on her claim she proved
contempt and the court then had no discretion to refuse to
order punishment. She claims she proved contempt by proving
Charles failed to comply with the terms of the support order.
The court, however, specifically found she did not prove
contempt beyond a reasonable doubt.
evidence shows total payments received by the Iowa Collection
and Reporting System from June 1 to July 12 and ultimately
distributed was $1319.99. The total due from Charles by July
4 was $1271.32. Following the hearing on July 18, the court
found Charles was not in contempt of court for failure to pay
all sums due by July 4. Timing of wage withholding creates
issues in accomplishing a strict compliance with due dates.
Iowa Code section 252D.19A acknowledges the same. Brianna
argues section 252D.19A is not applicable. We need not decide
that question and do not rest our decision on whether that
section is applicable to this case, but we cannot ignore the
statutory recognition that automatic wage withholdings can
result in disparities between support due dates and an
obligor's pay dates. We find Charles's upfront
payment of $440-though not all that was due on June 4-was a
good-faith effort to jumpstart the payment stream, which he
apparently knew would be further and regularly infused by the
court-ordered wage withholdings. The district court explained
that, "even if Charles was technically late on his June
payment, this Court does not find that he did so willfully or
contumaciously." A review of the evidence assures us the
district court's judgment was correct. See Den
Hartog, 926 N.W.2d at 770. We affirm the district
court's ultimate conclusion that Brianna failed to prove
willful contempt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Brianna's other claims, that the court relied on
superseded caselaw in concluding it had discretion whether to
hold Charles in contempt and improperly considered the case a
collection action under Iowa Code chapter 252D rather than an
enforcement action under chapter 664A, we agree with Charles
that Brianna has failed to preserve error. "It is a
fundamental doctrine of appellate review that issues must
ordinarily be both raised and decided by the district court
before we will decide them on appeal." Meier v.
Senecaut, 641 N.W.2d 532, 537 (Iowa 2002). Brianna's
first two allegations are complaints about the legal
correctness of the district court's analysis and ultimate
ruling. The issues raised on appeal were not placed before
the district court before its ruling, nor was the court
alerted of the complaints now made for the first time on
appeal after its ruling. The issues certainly were "not
considered by" the district court. See Lamasters v.
State, 821 N.W.2d 856, 864 (Iowa 2012) (distinguishing
"between the situation where error was preserved even
though 'the record or ruling on appeal contains
incomplete findings or conclusions, ' . . . and the
situation where the issue was 'not considered by' the
district court and thus error was not preserved."
(quoting Meier, 641 N.W.2d at 539–40)).
"[A] party may use any means to request the court to
make a ruling on an issue." Meier, 641 N.W.2d
at 539. In order to preserve error, Brianna should have filed
a motion to reconsider, enlarge, or amend pursuant to Iowa
Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904(2) and placed her complaints
before the district court for consideration prior to filing
her notice of ...