Articles Posted in Family Law

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Mother, who was sixty-nine years old, filed a petition for relief from elder abuse, naming her son John Wilkinson as the defendant. After a hearing, the district court entered a final protective order against Wilkinson, finding that Wilkinson committed elder abuse by financial exploitation as an adult child. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the legislature intended that if a person’s age makes a person unable to protect himself or herself from elder abuse, that person is a vulnerable elder as defined by the Iowa Code; and (2) Mother was a vulnerable elder under Iowa Code 235F.1(17). View "In re Petition of Judith Ann Chapman" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Patrick Alan Ney and John Glenn Ney were brothers with an acrimonious relationship. Patrick filed a petition for injunctive relief seeking a temporary injunction against John. The parties entered into a stipulation and agreement asking the district court to incorporate the terms of their agreement in an order for injunctive relief. The parties agreed that The court approved the terms of the agreement and issued an order incorporating the terms of the stipulated agreement. Patrick subsequently sought a contempt order against John for violation of the injunction. The district court dismissed the action on the ground that the injunction was void because the conduct it restrained was not among the grounds for which protective orders are statutorily authorized. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court had jurisdiction to issue the injunction. Remanded. View "Ney v. Ney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Department of Human Services filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights to his minor child. After a hearing, the district court terminated Father’s parental rights under Iowa Code 232.116(1)(e) and (f). Under section 232.116(1)(e) and (f), a child must be “removed from the physical care” of his parents for at least twelve of the last eighteen months to establish a necessary element for termination of parental rights. Father appealed, alleging, primarily, that physical custody of the child had never been “removed” from him because he at no time had actual physical custody of the child. Therefore, Father argued, the district court erred in granting termination of his parental rights under the statute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that mere lack of physical custody is insufficient to satisfy the statutory requirement of “removal of physical custody.” View "In re Interest of C.F.-H." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Father filed a petition seeking a permanent injunction precluding communication and contact between his minor children and their former softball coach. The district court granted a permanent injunction against the former coach that prevented him from contacting or communicating with the children but allowed him to attend certain extracurricular activities and to be present in the home of the children’s mother. The district court also ordered that the ruling granting permanent injunctive relief be sealed and not be disseminated. Father filed a motion requesting that the district court allow for the redissemination of the ruling and expand the terms of the permanent injunction. The district court denied the motion but allowed redissemination of the terms of the permanent injunction. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision with regard to the terms of the injunction and remanded for further proceedings, holding (1) because no hearing was conducted pursuant to the Iowa Open Records Act in support of the district court conclusion that the permanent injunction be sealed, the case must be remanded for a hearing regarding redissemination of the ruling granting permanent injunctive relief consistent with the requirements of the Act; and (2) the terms of the permanent injunction should not be expanded. View "In re Petition of Kent Langholz" on Justia Law

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Erika Spitz and Bradley Gentz, the parents of three minor children, were divorced in 2011. Erika and Bradley were later found in contempt for willfully violating provisions of the dissolution decree. Both Erika and Bradley were given an opportunity to avoid jail by purging their respective contempts. After a hearing, the district court ordered each party to serve time in jail, concluding that neither party had purged their contempt. Erika sought a writ of certiorari. The court of appeals rejected her arguments and annulled the writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Erika’s constitutional rights were not violated at the hearing when she was allowed to proceed without counsel, as she was not entitled to the right to counsel at the hearing; (2) the district court did not err in imposing a time limitation on the hearing; and (3) the district court did not err in refusing to allow the children to testify. View "Spitz v. Iowa Dist. Court for Mitchell County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Mother and Father were divorced pursuant to a decree that called for the continuation of a rotating custodial framework that the parties had followed during the previous two years. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that that parties’ children were thriving under the joint physical care arrangement. Mother later filed a petition for modification, alleging that several changes justifying a modification of the custodial arrangement had occurred after the dissolution decree was entered. The district court denied the motion for modification, concluding that the evidence did not support a finding of a substantial change in circumstances. The Supreme Court reversed and modified the dissolution decree to allocate to Mother the primary physical care of the children, holding that a substantial change of circumstances has occurred since the dissolution decree was entered and that Mother proved she was better suited than Father to minister to the needs of the children. View "In re Marriage of Harris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Mother and Father were divorced pursuant to a decree that called for the continuation of a rotating custodial framework that the parties had followed during the previous two years. The Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that that parties’ children were thriving under the joint physical care arrangement. Mother later filed a petition for modification, alleging that several changes justifying a modification of the custodial arrangement had occurred after the dissolution decree was entered. The district court denied the motion for modification, concluding that the evidence did not support a finding of a substantial change in circumstances. The Supreme Court reversed and modified the dissolution decree to allocate to Mother the primary physical care of the children, holding that a substantial change of circumstances has occurred since the dissolution decree was entered and that Mother proved she was better suited than Father to minister to the needs of the children. View "In re Marriage of Harris" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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R.D., now age fifty-one, was born in Iowa to parents who gave her up for adoption. The adoption records were sealed. R.D.’s adoptive family was loving and supportive, but R.D. struggles with depression, anxiety, and alcohol abuse. R.D. requested that the juvenile court open her adoption records to obtain information about her biological parents for “treatment purposes.” The juvenile court denied R.D.’s petition on the grounds that R.D.’s sole purpose was to learn the identity of her biological parents. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that R.D. failed to meet her burden to overcome the statutory protection set forth in Iowa Code 600.16A(2)(d) for the confidentiality of the identity of biological parents. View "In re Interest of R.D." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights to two of her children, M.W. and Z.W., concluding that each of the statutory grounds advanced by the State in its petition for termination of parental rights as to the children was supported by clear and convincing evidence and that termination was in the best interest of each child. The court of appeals affirmed the termination of parental rights to M.W. but reversed the termination of parental rights as to Z.W. The State appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the juvenile court order terminating parental rights to M.W. was proper; but (2) the juvenile court order terminating parental rights to Z.W. was also proper and supported by clear and convincing evidence in the record. View "In re Interest of M.W." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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After a trial, the district court entered judgment in this divorce case distributing the parties’ assets, ordering Husband to pay spousal support, awarding primary physical custody of the parties’ two children to Wife, and ordering Husband to pay child support. The court of appeals affirmed the property valuations and distribution in the decree, affirmed the child support determination, but modified the spousal support award. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the decision of the court of appeals, holding (1) the spousal support award by the district court was too low, and the spousal support award as modified by the court of appeals was too high; and (2) the court of appeals did not err in its judgment with respect to the property distribution, child support, life insurance, and appellate attorney fees. View "In re Marriage of Mauer" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law