IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF JESSALYN C. BROCKMAN AND MATTHEW C. BROCKMAN Upon the Petition of JESSALYN C. BROCKMAN, Petitioner-Appellant, and Concerning MATTHEW C. BROCKMAN, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Page County, Timothy
Brockman appeals the child custody provisions of the decree
dissolving her marriage to Matthew Brockman.
Mez (until withdrawal) and William C. Bracker, Council
Bluffs, for appellant.
B. Howie of Shindler, Anderson, Goplerud & Weese, P.C.,
West Des Moines, for appellee.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Schumacher, JJ.
(Jess) Brockman appeals the child custody provisions of the
decree dissolving her marriage to Matthew (Matt) Brockman.
She contends the court erred in granting Matt physical care
of their child. She instead asks for joint physical care or,
in the alternative, for the child's placement in her
physical care. We review this claim de novo with an eye to
the child's best interests. See In re Marriage of
Murphy, 592 N.W.2d 681, 683 (Iowa 1999).
court grants joint legal custody of a child, the court may
award joint physical care if either parent requests it.
See Iowa Code § 598.41(5)(a) (2017). "If
the court denies the request for joint physical care, the
determination shall be accompanied by specific findings of
fact and conclusions of law that the awarding of joint
physical care is not in the best interest of the child."
Id. The court must consider the factors listed in
Iowa Code section 598.41(3) in determining what custody
arrangement is in the child's best interests.
district court noted that both parents are suitable
custodians, love the child, and want what is best for him. It
noted that although each parent had contributed to raising
the child in different ways, each had made a substantial
contribution. The court found the child's "emotional
and social development will be fostered by maximizing contact
with both parents" and that both would do their best to
attend to the child's best interests. But the court noted
that joint physical care was not practical or in the
child's best interests, noting:
Despite their commendable cooperation, Jess and Matt cannot
agree on which school [the child] should attend. They have
not agreed on where [the child] should live. Jess and Matt
plan to live more than eighty miles decide what school [the
child] should attend. Neither party was willing to compromise
on these issues.
weighing the merits of each parent, the court determined that
it is in the child's best interests to grant Matt
moved the court to reconsider, enlarge, or amend its ruling.
She stated, "If the court will award the parties joint
physical care, Jess plans to move back to Clarinda, keep the
child in the Clarinda School System and commute to her job in
Omaha." The court overruled this request, noting that
the distance between the parties' residences was a factor
in deciding physical care, but "it was not the sole
factor or even the most important factor." Instead, the
court found the most significant factors to be Matt's
suitability as a caretaker and his role in providing a
significant portion of the child's care in recent years.
It also cited Matt's involvement with the child's
school and activities, his willingness to support the
child's relationship with Jess when compared to
Jess's willingness to support the child's
relationship with Matt, and Matt's willingness to support
the child's relationship with extended family. Finally,
the court found "Matt's candor in his
testimony" to be a factor in granting him physical care.
It concluded by stating that after revisiting the evidence,
it again concluded the child's best interests are served
by placing the child in Matt's physical care.
weight to the trial court's findings. Murphy,
592 N.W.2d at 683. That is because, although our review is de
novo, we do not "decide the case in a vacuum, or
approach it as though the trial court had never been
involved." See Albert v. Conger, 886
N.W.2d 877, 880 (Iowa Ct. App. 2016).
Unlike this court, the trial court has a front row seat to
observe the witness's facial expressions, vocal
intonation, eye movement, gestures, posture, body language,
and courtroom conduct, both on and off the stand, as well as
the witness's nonverbal leakage demonstrating hidden
attitudes, feelings, and opinions that are not reflected in
the cold transcript this court reviews. Consequently, the
trial judge is in the ...