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Understanding Iowa Alimony Laws

Daniel Willems May 22, 2019

Alimony, commonly referred to as spousal support, may be ordered in any dissolution of marriage case. The court awards three types of alimony: traditional, rehabilitative, or reimbursement. The type of alimony order, if it is ordered, depends on several factors including the distribution of property.

Iowa is an equitable distribution state, which means that each spouse gets an equitable portion—not equal. The division could be anything from 90/10 to 50/50.

Types of Spousal Support

The types of spousal support that may be ordered include:

  • Traditional alimony, which is permanent. Generally, spouses have to have been married for many years and the receiving spouse did not work for many of those years.

  • Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to a spouse that needs some education or training so that he or she is capable of supporting himself or herself. This type of alimony is generally awarded for a short period of time, usually, the time needed to get the education or training.

  • Reimbursement alimony is awarded to a spouse that contributed in a significant manner while the other spouse increased his or her earning potential. For example, a spouse that supported the family while the other spouse went through medical school may receive reimbursement alimony. Here is another example: husband and wife have few assets except a business built during the marriage which the judge is giving to the wife. The wife may have to pay alimony as a way of compensating him for the greater value of the division of assets she is receiving.

Factors Considered in Awarding Spousal Support

Factors a judge considers in awarding spousal support can be found in Iowa Code 598.21A (PDF), which states:

Upon every judgment of annulment, dissolution, or separate maintenance, the court may grant an order requiring support payments to either party for a limited or indefinite length of time after considering all of the following:

  • The length of the marriage.

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

  • The distribution of property made pursuant to section 598.21.

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The tax consequences to each party.

  • 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.

  • The provisions of an antenuptial agreement.

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

Spousal Support

For the court to order spousal support, the parties need to meet the requirements as outlined under Types of Spousal Support. Once it has been determined that one of the spouses will receive alimony, the court will look at the distribution of property and then make a determination on the amount of alimony.

As with equitable distribution, the court looks at several factors before awarding alimony. Those factors are the same factors the court uses to determine the split of the parties’ estate. Each spousal support order will include the names, addresses, birth dates, and counties of residence for each spouse.

Contact Willems Law

If you have been served with divorce papers or are thinking of filing for divorce, contact Willems Law for a consultation. Unlike child support, spousal support does not use a formula. Rather, the amount ordered is at the discretion of the court, as is the percentage split for equitable distribution. A family law attorney will explain your rights to you and will ensure that spousal support and property division is fair and equitable.