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In this article, we discuss changes to Iowa alimony/spousal support laws. With respect to spousal support, the standard continues to be found in Chapter 598 of the Iowa Code.
At the start of a new year, it’s always a good practice to be aware of any new laws that may affect you. Spousal support changes can have a direct and immediate impact on your finances. Iowa didn't see any significant changes to alimony law in 2022, but there was further clarification in how payments are made for certain types of spousal support in Iowa. Read on to learn more, and know that the full, detailed definition of Iowa spousal support continues to be found in Chapter 598 of the Iowa Code.
Before discussing the changes to spousal support that went into effect in 2022, it is helpful to understand the basics of alimony such as:
- The definition of spousal support
- Types of spousal support
- When can someone receive spousal support?
- What Does The Court Consider When Determining Spousal Support?
- How is the length of time and amount of spousal support decided?
- Does the division of property affect spousal support in Iowa?
- Is it possible to change or modify spousal support In Iowa?
- If awarded spousal support, does it ever end?
Defining Spousal Support in Iowa
Spousal support is money paid by one spouse to another for the purpose of maintaining the standard of living that the parties enjoyed while they were married. It is based on the parties’ financial needs. It can be an amount that the parties agree is fair and reasonable and decide on together through a Marital Settlement Agreement, or it can be a disputed issue that one party requests and the Court determines is warranted. Either spouse can be ordered to pay spousal support. It is case specific and is not an automatic right. If you have been ordered to pay spousal support, and do not pay the required amount, your spouse could file petition for contempt against you, which could result in the Court ordering you to pay any missed payments, pay for your spouse’s attorney fees, and could even result in jail time depending on the circumstances.
Types of Spousal Support in Iowa
Iowa law recognizes several different types of spousal support including traditional, rehabilitative, or reimbursement. If the Court does decide to grant spousal support to one party, it may find that need to be more permanent or temporary.
Traditional spousal support is awarded typically in marriages of longer duration in which one party has a significant barrier to earning an appropriate standard of living. Perhaps one party was out of the workforce for a long time and now the parties are of an advanced age, or one party has a serious illness that prevents him or her from working.
Rehabilitative spousal support is support that is provided for a fixed period of time. Rehabilitative spousal support allows one party to get the education or training needed to re-enter the workforce. For instance, the court may determine that the wife must pay the husband $1,000 a month for 30 months.
Reimbursement spousal support is not very common in Iowa but may be awarded in marriages of short duration which are dedicated nearly completely to the educational goals of one spouse and in which there are few tangible assets. Courts base reimbursement support on the future earning potential of the parties. For instance, if one party worked full time while the other party attended medical school, the Court might award reimbursement spousal support for the spouse that worked to be paid over a fixed period of time.
If spousal support is something you believe you may qualify for, it is important to talk to your attorney or file an application for temporary spousal support at the outset of your case dissolution case. This will allow the Court to have a limited hearing on spousal support that would determine whether you would be awarded spousal support during the time the dissolution is pending.
When Can Someone Receive Spousal Support in Iowa?
As mentioned above, spousal support may be something you receive as a result of your marriage stipulation agreement with your spouse, or it may be something that the Court orders after one party petitions for it. It is not usually granted if both parties' income is similar.
What Does The Court Consider When Determining Spousal Support?
Whether someone receives spousal support depends on the individual circumstances. The factors that the court considers are as follows:
- Length of the marriage
- The standard of living during the marriage
- Age of the parties
- Earning capacity of the parties considering education level and work history
- Whether the party seeking spousal support has primary custody of the children
- Any agreements of the parties (whether pre-nuptial or during the marriage, these agreements should be in writing, signed and notarized, and should clearly outline the arrangement of the parties)
- The financial resources of the parties after the assets are divided
- Mental and physical health of the parties based off recent and complete evaluations by doctors
- Training or education the spouse needs to receive to obtain a job
- Relevant tax consequences
How Do Courts Determine the Amount and Duration of Spousal Support Payments?
The courts will evaluate the parties’ individual circumstances and determine if spousal support is warranted and then will determine what amount is appropriate and for how long. A heavily considered factor is the earning capacity of the parties as well as length of the marriage.
How Does Division Of Property Affect Spousal Support?
Division of property affects the amount of spousal support because the overall goal of the Court is equity. Where the parties have substantial assets that, even when divided, support the parties after the dissolution of marriage, the court is less inclined to order spousal support. Where there are few assets or only debts and with an income disparity, the Court may order the higher income-earning spouse to pay spousal support.
How Does Child Support Affect Spousal Support?
It is important to understand that child support is an entirely different standard than spousal support. It is calculated pursuant to statutory guidelines and is not up to the parties to waive as it is in the best interest of the child to receive. The court considers the income of both parties and expenses of the parties to reach that statutory amount. For spousal support, the manner of calculating is different. There is not a precise formula for spousal support.
It is possible for someone to be court-ordered to pay both child support and spousal support. However, if someone is ordered to pay child support and spousal support is something the court determines is warranted, then the amount for spousal support awarded will likely be less because the paying spouse will have less income to provide.
Is It Possible To Change Or Modify Iowa Spousal Support?
The court may modify the amount of Iowa spousal support a party receives in a case upon request by either party based on a substantial and material change in circumstances not foreseen at the time of the dissolution. All relevant factors are considered in determining a substantial change in the circumstances, including changes in employment, income, earning capacity, health, and medical expenses of a party. § 598.21C(1). In re Marriage of Sisson, 843 N.W.2d 866, 868 (Iowa 2014). The change should be more or less a permanent one. Either the receiving party or the paying party may Petition the court to have the award modified.
If Awarded Spousal Support, Does It Ever End?
Spousal support in Iowa can end if the Court sets a finite period of time to receive the spousal support and that time ends, or by agreement of the parties, or Court order (usually retirement of the paying spouse, either party dies, or the receiving spouse remarries). If circumstances materially change either party can request a modification.
Changes To The Law Affecting Spousal Support In 2022
There were few changes in the laws affecting spousal support, but there were some minor clarifications. For temporary rehabilitative or traditional permanent spousal support the amount of spousal support will be deducted from a paying party’s income and added to the receiving party’s income prior to the calculation of child support. Reimbursement spousal support is not added or deducted to one’s income.
Remember that laws can quickly change, and appellate decisions can change how the current laws are interpreted, so it is important to have an attorney who follows these updates to Iowa law to help guide you.
Navigating spousal support is a complicated matter and can have lasting effects. It is important to hire a competent attorney to help advocate on your behalf. Consider giving an attorney at O'Flaherty Law a call at (630)-324-6666 to assist you in this difficult process or fill out our confidential contact form and a member of our team will be in touch.
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