IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF MATTHEW T. PONTIER AND JESSICA L. PONTIER Upon the Petition of MATTHEW T. PONTIER, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning JESSICA L. PONTIER, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Richard B.
Pontier appeals several provisions of the decree dissolving
his marriage to Jessica Pontier.
B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, P.C.,
West Des Moines, for appellant.
Brick of Brick Gentry, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
Vaitheswaran, Presiding Judge.
and Jessica Pontier divorced after thirteen years of
marriage. On appeal, Matt challenges the following portions
of the dissolution decree: (1) the spousal support provision;
(2) the parenting schedule associated with the court's
award of joint physical care of their three children; (3) a
child support award of $350 per month; and (4) a provision
requiring him to pay Jessica's portion of a
district court ordered Matt to pay Jessica rehabilitative
alimony of $1000 per month for thirty-six months. The court
reasoned that this was "an almost thirteen year
marriage"; Matt earned far more than he disclosed;
Jessica was "out of the workforce" for six years
and "had only been working six months when this divorce
was initiated by" Matt; Jessica was "doing
everything she" could "to make as much money as
she" could "and still be a mom"; Jessica
lacked savings and would have to pay for her own health
insurance after the divorce was finalized; and Jessica would
have to pay more for housing following the divorce. The court
concluded this was "not an appropriate case for
traditional alimony" but found the case was
"particularly suited for rehabilitative alimony."
is the primary goal of rehabilitative alimony." In
re Marriage of Smith, 573 N.W.2d 924, 926 (Iowa 1998).
Matt argues Jessica was self-sufficient without an award of
spousal support. On our de novo review, we disagree.
Jessica was relatively young-just thirty-eight at the time of
trial-she did not earn significant wages for several years
during the marriage. While she had a four-year college degree
and experience with a technology company, her full-time wages
before she transitioned to being "a stay-at-home
mom," were only "around 30[, 000]." By
agreement with Matt, she cared for their twins and a third
child almost full-time, working "early mornings and a
couple evening[s]" at a local fitness center. Her wages
from that employment were less than $3200 annually. See
In re Marriage of Martin, No. 14-0568, 2015 WL 576065,
at *7 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 11, 2015) ("Although Dawn has
a four-year degree, she has not pursued a career in the area
of visual arts. Instead, she spent more than half of the
marriage staying home to raise the couple's
children."). At the time of trial, Jessica earned $45,
in contrast, had peak earnings of more than $200, 000. He
testified to earning far less in the years preceding trial,
but the district court called his testimony into question.
After noting he worked for his father's company, the
Despite the fact that he works for his family, his income has
somehow gone down over $100, 000 in five years. Despite the
fact that his income appears to be dropping precipitously, he
testified that he hasn't discussed the issue with his
boss and father. He testified that he hasn't discussed
the issue with his brother, whom he works with. He testified
that he has no idea what his brother makes and they have
never talked about it. . . . The Court does not find this
court averaged Matt's income over five years, exclusive
of his peak earning year, and adopted an annual income figure
of $114, 202 in lieu of an actual income figure of $75, 000.
The court's findings concerning Matt's income are
fully supported by the record. The earnings disparity
together with Jessica's need to re-establish herself in
the workforce justified the award of rehabilitative alimony.
See In re Marriage of David, No. 06-0239, 2006 WL
3613805, at *4 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 13, 2006) ("We, like