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In re Marriage of Christy

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 18, 2019

IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JAMIE L. CHRISTY AND MATTHEW CHRISTY Upon the Petition of JAMIE L. CHRISTY, Petitioner-Appellant, And Concerning MATTHEW CHRISTY, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Bradley McCall, Judge.

         A mother appeals the order modifying the physical-care provisions of a dissolution decree and finding her in contempt.

          Cami Eslick of Eslick Law (until withdrawal), Indianola, for appellant.

          Jamie Leigh Plambeck, f.k.a. Jamie Leigh Christy, Indianola, self represented.

          Ryan J. Ellis, Nicholas A. Carda, and Tracy A. Eaton of Ellis Law Offices, P.C., Indianola, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, Presiding Judge.

         Jamie Plambeck[1] appeals the district court order modifying the physical-care award in the decree dissolving her marriage to Matthew Christy. She also contends the district court wrongly found her in contempt for denying Matthew's spring break visitation with their daughter P.L.C., for refusing to allow Matthew telephone contact with P.L.C. for two weeks, and for failing to communicate regarding the child's preschool enrollment. After reviewing the record, we find Matthew failed to prove a substantial change in circumstances since the court entered the decree in June 2015. Therefore, we reverse the modification of physical care. But on two of the three contempt counts, we agree with the district court's finding of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Jamie violated the terms of the original decree. Thus, we leave two of the three contempt findings in place.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Jamie and Matthew married in December 2011. In 2012, Jamie gave birth to their daughter, P.L.C. In May 2014, Jamie filed for divorce. The district court entered a decree dissolving their marriage in June 2015. That decree awarded Jamie physical care of P.L.C. with visitation to Matthew. At that time, Jamie lived with P.L.C. in Indianola. Jamie worked in the health care field as a certified nurse's assistant. Matthew served in the Marines for fifteen years and was a recruiter in Iowa. At the time of the decree he "spent most of [his] time in California." He eventually retired from the Marines and moved to Florida. After leaving the Marines, Matthew pursued a degree in business management at the University of South Florida.

         The divorce decree provided Matthew with these visitation times: (1) one week during P.L.C.'s spring break from school or other relevant time and (2) two twenty-one day periods during the summer months or P.L.C.'s "summer break" from school. Between those three-week periods, Jamie was allowed a minimum of one three-day visit. The decree also ordered Matthew to pay all transportation costs associated with exercising his visitation. But both Matthew and Jamie were to take measures to ease the costs of traveling. Each party was to provide the other with notice of the exchanges thirty days in advance. Under the decree, if a party did not provide proper notice, he or she, would be "completely responsible for the exchange."

         The decree also provided the parties with "the rights to have legal access to information pertaining to P.L.C. including, but not limited to medical, educational and law enforcements records." In addition, both parties had equal right to participate in decisions affecting P.L.C.'s legal status, medical care, education, extracurricular activities, and religious training.

         In August 2016, Jamie moved from Indianola to Nebraska with her paramour Josh. Then in January 2017, Jamie moved from Nebraska to Laurens, Iowa, taking P.L.C. out of preschool for about three months. Jamie re-enrolled P.L.C. in daycare in March 2017.

         Then in April 2017, the parties sparred over Matthew's spring break visitation. Matthew flew from Florida to Iowa, but did not end up having visitation with P.L.C. because Jamie did not agree to the timing of Matthew's visit. Jamie testified she was tired of accommodating Matthew's schedule. She recalled a time in 2016 when Matthew asked her to drive five and half hours from O'Neill, Nebraska, to Des Moines to drop off P.L.C. for her visit. Jamie objected, and Matthew eventually switched his flight to the Omaha airport. But Jamie still drove three and one-half hours to meet with Matthew. Jamie pointed out the decree specified visitation would be during P.L.C's spring break. She also believed the decree placed responsibility on Matthew to bear the cost of transportation for P.L.C during her visits.

         One month after the spring break conflict, Jamie emailed Matthew that there was "no need" to call her phone to talk to P.L.C. for two weeks because "she will not be with me while I have the new baby." P.L.C. was staying with her maternal grandparents while Jamie gave birth to her half sibling. Matthew was unsuccessful in contacting P.L.C. through her grandparents.

         Motivated by those incidents, in May 2017, Matthew petitioned for modification of the decree, as well as applying for a rule to show cause why Jamie should not be held in contempt. In late 2017 and again in early 2018, ...

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