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In re Marriage of Jenn

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 23, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF THOMAS H. JENN AND VERMONA L. JENN Upon the Petition of THOMAS H. JENN, Petitioner-Appellant/Cross-Appellee, And Concerning VERMONA L. JENN, n/k/a VERMONA L. BOYLE, Respondent-Appellee/Cross-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Chickasaw County, John J. Bauercamper, Judge.

         Thomas and Vermona appeal and cross-appeal, respectively, from their dissolution decree.

          Christopher F. O'Donohoe of Elwood, O'Donohoe, Braun & White, LLP, New Hampton, for appellant/cross-appellee.

          Laura J. Parrish of Miller, Pearson, Gloe, Burns, Beatty & Parrish, P.L.C., Decorah, for appellee/cross-appellant.

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

          MAY, JUDGE.

         Thomas and Vermona Jenn appeal and cross-appeal, respectively, from the decree dissolving their marriage. We affirm the decree but modify it.

         Thomas and Vermona married in 2006. Thomas was fifty years old, and Vermona was fifty-two years old. It was her sixth marriage and his third. Thomas entered the marriage with more assets than Vermona. For example, Thomas had a farm.

         Prior to the marriage, the parties executed a premarital agreement. As will be discussed, the agreement provided that "if their marriage is not successful that each [would] retain all property owned by them at the time of their marriage."

         Thomas filed for dissolution in 2016. The district court dissolved the marriage and distributed the assets and liabilities between the parties.

         The court also awarded Vermona spousal support in the amount of $500 per month until either party dies. The payment reduces to $250 per month when Thomas reaches sixty-six years old. The payment obligation continues even if Vermona remarries.

         On appeal, Thomas argues Vermona is entitled to no spousal support. Vermona argues the spousal-support award should be increased. She also challenges the division of property and requests appellate attorney fees.[1]

         Dissolution proceedings are reviewed de novo. In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). "Although we give weight to the factual findings of the district court, we are not bound by them." In re Marriage of Mauer, 874 N.W.2d 103, 106 (Iowa 2016). We will only "disturb the district court's 'ruling only where there has been a failure to do equity.'" McDermott, 827 N.W.2d at 676 (citation omitted).

         We first address Vermona's cross-appeal challenging the property settlement. She asks us to modify the decree to award her an equalization payment of $228, 000, a tractor, and skid loader. She reasons this award would be equitable because her efforts helped Thomas's farm appreciate in value over the course of the marriage. Cf. In re Marriage of Keener, 728 N.W.2d 188, 193 (Iowa 2007) (noting "Iowa is an equitable distribution state" ...


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