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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we explain Iowa alimony law, also referred to as spousal support.  The questions “what is alimony?”, “when is alimony awarded in Iowa?”, “what factors do courts consider when awarding alimony in Iowa?’”, “how is the amount and duration of alimony calculated in Iowa?”, “how does the division of property affect spousal support in Iowa?”, “How does child support affect alimony in Iowa?”, and “can alimony be modified in Iowa?” will be answered.

What is Alimony?

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a court-ordered provision for support based on financial need.  Spousal support can be temporary, short-term, or permanent depending on each spouse’s circumstances.  The Court will consider a variety of factors to determine if alimony should be awarded and to which party.  If alimony is granted, a judge will decide the amount to be paid, the means by which it will be paid, and how long the payments will continue, unless there is an agreement between the parties that has been approved by the Court.

When is Alimony Awarded in Iowa?

“Spousal Support” is typically awarded when one party has a greater earning potential than the other.  For example, if one spouse worked outside of the home while the other took care of the majority of homemaking responsibilities, “spousal support” may be awarded to the party that stayed in the home if they would not be financially stable without assistance from their spouse.  Sometimes “spousal support” is awarded temporarily while a spouse gains education or training to increase marketability in the workforce.  Conversely, if a spouse can be awarded support if one spouse was entirely devoted to the education and career of the other.  In this case, “spousal support” is meant to reimburse a spouse for sacrifices made during the marriage.  Either party is entitled to request “spousal support,” so you should consult with a family law attorney to determine if your circumstances would qualify.

What Factors Do Courts Consider When Awarding Alimony in Iowa?

Awards of alimony vary greatly.  The Court will consider factors as follows:

  • Duration of the marriage;
  • Standard of living during the marriage;
  • Any agreements the parties had (whether prenuptial or during the marriage) that promised one spouse would compensate the other for contributions to a career;
  • Financial resources of both parties (determined after the division of assets);
  • Training or education the receiving spouse would need to sustain employment;
  • Earning capacity of the spouse seeking support, including the length of absence from the job market, skills, education, and experience;
  • Whether the receiving spouse is responsible for children of the marriage;
  • Relevant tax consequences; and
  • The age, physical, and mental health of both spouses.

How is the Amount and Duration of Alimony Calculated in Iowa?

The amount and duration of alimony is awarded at the discretion of the judge, based on weighing factors on a case to case basis.  There is no mathematical formula for guidelines in Iowa as in other states.  There are three types of alimony that judges use as a basis for determining the amount and duration of alimony: rehabilitative, traditional and reimbursement. 

How Does the Division of Property Affect Spousal Support in Iowa?

The distribution of assets gained during the marriage can significantly impact the amount of alimony awarded to the seeking spouse, if any.  For example, if a profit-sharing or trust account is awarded to one spouse, the Court may forgo an award of alimony and direct the receiving spouse to use the funds to provide sufficient income.  Divorcing spouses could also attend mediation, allowing a neutral third-party to assist in the distribution of assets and other contested issues such as alimony.

How Does Child Support Affect Alimony in Iowa?

If the custodian of the child or children of the marriage is unable to support themselves due to the children being of an age or condition that hinders an individual’s ability to support said children, the court may grant both child support and alimony to the custodial parent.  However, if a party is already receiving child support and no extenuating circumstances prevent the spouse from working, this could highly impact the final decision to award alimony or the amount to be awarded.

Can Alimony be Modified in Iowa?

Yes.  Alimony payments can be modified in the event of a “substantial change in circumstances.”  Examples of a “substantial change in circumstances” include: changes in employment, earning capacity, income, or resources of a party; receipt of an inheritance, pension, or large gift; changes in medical expenses of a party; changes in number or needs of dependents of a party; changes in the residence of a party; remarriage of a party; or other factors deemed relevant by the Court.

When Does Alimony End in Iowa?

Alimony will end automatically if both spouses agree, either spouse dies, or the receiving spouse remarries.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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