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In re Marriage of Mann

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 6, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF ANDREA KAY MANN AND STEVEN ROBERT MANN Upon the Petition of ANDREA KAY MANN, Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning STEVEN ROBERT MANN, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dickinson County, Carl J. Petersen, Judge.

         Steven Mann appeals several provisions of the decree dissolving his marriage to Andrea Mann.

          Matthew G. Sease of Sease & Wadding, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Joseph L. Fitzgibbons of Fitzgibbons Law Firm, L.L.C., Estherville, for appellee.

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


         Steven and Andrea Mann married in 2002 and divorced in 2017. The district court denied Steven's request for spousal support and assigned a higher value to his guns and accounts receivable than he requested. On appeal, Steven asks us to revisit both issues.

         I. Spousal Support

         Steven requested spousal support based on the disparity in his income relative to Andrea's. The district court denied the request, reasoning as follows:

This is a marriage of 16 years. Steven was married previously. The parties entered the marriage with modest means and now leave the marriage with reasonable assets. Steven['s] employment circumstances have not changed over the period of the marriage. Andrea has improved her earning capacity through her own determination. Steven did not sacrifice for Andrea to improve her earning capacity. Traditional alimony would not be appropriate based upon the length of the marriage and the earning capacity of both parties. Rehabilitative alimony is not appropriate based upon the parties' current employment circumstances. Finally, Steven is not entitled to reimbursement alimony. The record before the Court does not demonstrate that Steven is in need of alimony. Based upon the entire record, the property distribution above and the factors set forth above, the Court concludes alimony shall not be awarded to either party.

         On appeal, Steven argues the following factors justified an award of traditional alimony: (A) the length of his marriage, (B) the disparity between his earnings and Andrea's, (C) the fact that most of the couple's assets were accumulated during the marriage, (D) a claimed inequitable property distribution (E) his limited education, (F) the age difference between the parties, and (G) what he characterizes as Andrea's reasonable ability to pay spousal support. See Iowa Code § 598.21A(1) (2017) (setting forth the factors for consideration in award of spousal support). Based on these factors, he seeks (H) modification of the dissolution decree to grant him spousal support "from anywhere between $2395 per month to $3329 per month." He does not specify a duration.

         Although a district court has "considerable latitude" in making an award of spousal support, we will modify the award if "it fails to do equity between the parties." In re Marriage of Schenkelberg, 824 N.W2d 481, 486 (Iowa 2012). Our review is de novo. In re Marriage of Anliker, 694 N.W.2d 535, 540 (Iowa 2005).

         A. "[D]uration of the marriage is an important factor for an award of traditional spousal support." In re Marriage of Gust, 858 N.W.2d 402, 410 (Iowa 2015). "[M]arriages lasting twenty or more years commonly cross the durational threshold and merit serious consideration for traditional spousal support." Id. at 410-11. But the supreme court has approved an award of traditional spousal support in a marriage lasting sixteen years. Schenkelberg, 824 N.W.2d at 486- 87.

         We agree with Steven that the length of the marriage did not preclude an award of traditional spousal support. We turn to the other factors he raises.

         B. "The comparative income of the spouses is another factor for the court to consider when evaluating an award of spousal support." Id. at 486. "Where there is a substantial disparity, . . . [w]e have . . . approved spousal support where it amounts to approximately thirty-one percent of the difference in annual income between spouses." Gust, 858 N.W.2d at 411-12.

         Steven and Andrea's earnings differential was significant. Andrea acknowledged as much in confirming the accuracy of figures included in a summary prepared by Steven. Those annual earnings figures for the four years preceding the dissolution trial were as follows:




$118, 286

$15, 730


$137, 734



$107, 129

$14, 416


$124, 843

$16, 847

         Although Andrea testified Steven could earn more if he consistently billed his customers, she agreed she handled the bookkeeping for the business until 2017 and there was no issue with billing until then. Notably, Andrea's annual salary would far outstrip Steven's even if we accepted her testimony that he could earn as much as $5000 per month.

         The district court found Andrea's annual income was $118, 000 and Steven had an earning capacity of $36, 000. Joint tax returns support these figures. We conclude the disparity in earnings justified an award of spousal support.

         C., D. "All property of the marriage that exists at the time of the divorce, other than gifts and inheritances to one spouse, is divisible property." In re Marriage of Sullins, 715 N.W.2d 242, 247 (Iowa 2006). "Property division and alimony should be considered together in evaluating their individual sufficiency." In re Marriage of Trickey, 589 N.W.2d 753, 756 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). "Alimony may . . . be awarded to a spouse in addition to the distribution of property." In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 702 (Iowa 2007).

         Steven argues the parties accumulated most of their assets during the marriage and "obtained a certain style of living that [he] will have no opportunity to recapture." He also contends, "A majority of the assets awarded to [him] are non-liquid and are nonrevenue generating" and "the assets which are liquid[] are mostly retirement accounts which cannot be truly liquidated without severe tax penalties." Finally, he notes that he "was also left with all of the parties' marital debt obligations, totaling $57, 000." In his view, these property-related factors support an award of spousal support.

         The couple appeared to live a comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle. Although many of the assets allocated to Steven were non-liquid, they were business-related assets that assisted him in generating revenue. In addition, Steven received a non-retirement stock fund with a value of $53, 503.05. As for the debt allocation, most if not all the debts were accumulated by Steven in connection with his business or following the couple's separation. See id. at 703. Specifically, the parties testified to the following purposes for each debt assigned to Steven:

$14, 934 Steve's 2014 Chevrolet Silverado
$6500 Steve's 2004 Chevrolet pickup
$3726 Steve's business credit ...

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