Spousal Support (Alimony) in Iowa Divorce Cases

As part of a divorce or legal separation case in Iowa, the court can award spousal support (also called alimony). There are a few types of spousal support in Iowa that the court can award, for various reasons.

Traditional spousal support is what most people think of when they think of alimony in Iowa. It is money that the court awards a former spouse who is not capable of financially supporting themselves. Traditional spousal support is common in Iowa divorce cases where one spouse has been the primary breadwinner during a longer-term marriage, and the other spouse lacks the ability (in relative or absolute terms) to earn an income.

Rehabilitative spousal support can be granted by the Iowa court as a shorter-term means of giving an ex spouse money to use during the time it takes them to gain or regain their financial footing. For example, a spouse may be given rehabilitative support for the 2 years it takes to finish a college degree or technical training.

Reimbursement spousal support is another type of temporary spousal support that is given in Iowa to pay a spouse back when the other spouse has reaped what otherwise would be an unfair windfall. The most common example would be in the case of education, where one spouse puts the other through school by paying tuition and living expenses, and then there is a divorce after graduation.

A common question about spousal support is whether the infidelity of a spouse will have an effect upon an alimony award.  The answer is that in Iowa, adultery has no impact (positive or negative) upon an award of spousal support, and the law has been that way for over 30 years.  The Iowa court system sees spousal support as something that is intended to address support needs, not to punish a person.  However, since support is the concern, it is possible that adultery that leads to the transmission of a disease which then requires ongoing medical care can form the basis for a spousal support award, insofar as the award is addressing those medical or related expenses.

See also  Extension of Domestic Abuse Protective Orders in Iowa

Iowa code section 598.21A provides that the Iowa District Court in a dissolution (divorce) or legal separation case is to consider all the following factors when determining whether to award spousal support (also known as alimony):

a. The length of the marriage.

b. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.

c. The distribution of property made pursuant to section 598.21.

d. The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced.

e. The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, responsibilities for children under either an award of custody or physical care, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment.

f. The feasibility of the party seeking maintenance becoming self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.

g. The tax consequences to each party.

h. Any mutual agreement made by the parties concerning financial or service contributions by one party with the expectation of future reciprocation or compensation by the other party.

i. The provisions of an antenuptial agreement.

j. Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case.

Making the case for spousal support, or arguing against the award of spousal support, is a process that involves many factual issues that must be presented to the court.  While some factual situations make an award of spousal support more likely, there are plenty of situations where the outcome reached by the court will differ from what a person might have guessed prior to trial.  There is no absolute right to spousal support under Iowa law, although Iowa public policy does favor its award in cases where such an award would serve justice.

See also  Child Custody in Iowa

A person who is considering a divorce or legal separation in Iowa and believes that they may be entitled to spousal support, or a person who is concerned that their spouse will make such an alimony claim, is well advised to seek an Iowa attorney at once.  Since spousal support determinations are so factually driven, the actions taken (and not taken) by parties during the case can have a significant impact upon the spousal support ruling reached by the Iowa district court.