In re the Marriage of Hutchens

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA No. 21-1055 Filed August 3, 2022 IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF BARRY RAY HUTCHENS, JR. AND LAURA HUTCHENS Upon the Petition of BARRY RAY HUTCHENS, JR., Petitioner-Appellee, And Concerning LAURA HUTCHENS, Respondent-Appellant. ________________________________________________________________ Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Marshall County, John J. Haney, Judge. Laura Hutchens appeals from a dissolution decree. AFFIRMED. Julio C. Gomez of Argueta & Gomez Law, Des Moines, for appellant. C. Aron Vaughn of Kaplan & Frese, LLP, Marshalltown, for appellee. Considered by May, P.J., Greer, J., and Blane, S.J.* *Senior judge assigned by order pursuant to Iowa Code section 602.9206 (2022). 2 MAY, Presiding Judge. Laura Hutchens appeals from the decree dissolving her marriage to Barry Hutchens Jr. She contends the district court should have granted her physical care of the parties’ two children. We affirm. In dissolution proceedings, our review is de novo. In re Marriage of McDermott, 827 N.W.2d 671, 676 (Iowa 2013). But we give weight to the fact findings of the trial court, who is “greatly helped in making a wise decision about the parties by listening to them and watching them in person.” In re Marriage of Vrban, 359 N.W.2d 420, 423 (Iowa 1984) (citation omitted). We will affirm unless the district court “failed to do substantial equity.” See Boatwright v. Lydolph, No. 18-0532, 2019 WL 719026, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 20, 2019) (citation omitted). Laura argues the district court erred in granting Barry physical care of the children. When deciding physical care, “[t]he children’s best interest is the ‘controlling consideration.’” In re Marriage of Hoffman, 867 N.W.2d 26, 32 (Iowa 2015) (citation omitted). This standard requires us to examine each family’s unique circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Id. We consider which parent would support the other’s relationship with the children as well as continuity, stability, and approximation. In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683, 700 (Iowa 2007). We also consider additional factors relating to the children’s safety and other needs. See Iowa Code § 598.41(3) (2020); In re Marriage of Winter, 223 N.W.2d 165, 166–67 (Iowa 1974). As is often the case, our determination of physical care depends heavily on testimony and—therefore—witness credibility. See In re Marriage of Vrban, 359 3 N.W.2d 420, 422 (Iowa 1984). Accordingly, when the parties present contrasting versions of events, we generally defer to the district court’s credibility determinations. In re Marriage of Wallert, No. 16-1669, 2017 WL 4843183, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 27, 2017). Here, the district court generally found Laura less credible than Barry. So, we assess their respective testimony accordingly when considering whether the court properly determined physical care. With that in mind, we turn to Laura’s claims on appeal. She contends she would be a superior caregiver for six reasons: (1) she has historically served as the children’s main caregiver; (2) she “has more emotional capacity to provide for the emotional needs of the children”; (3) Barry “will not support Laura’s relationship with the children”; (4) …

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