Alimony in Iowa: When, Why and How Much?

In Iowa, there are standard guidelines to calculate child support. However, there are no such guidelines to calculate alimony. Attorneys have no certain way to predict the amount or duration of alimony. When a party requests alimony, the Court will evaluate the circumstances of the case and many other factors required by the law to determine whether alimony will be awarded and if so, the amount and duration.

Iowa Code § 598.21A provides the Court with the following specific factors to consider in awarding alimony:

  1. The length of the marriage.
  2. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
  3. The distribution of property.
  4. The education level of each party at the time of the marriage and at the time the action is commenced.
  5. The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance (support), 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.
  6. The feasibility of the party seeking maintenance becoming self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the the marriage, and the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.
  7. The tax consequences to each party.
  8. 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.
  9. The provisions of an antenuptial agreement.
  10. Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case.

It is important to note the judge has discretion in determining how much weight to apply to the individual factors. The judge also has the discretion to determine how long one spouse must pay alimony to the other. In Iowa, there are three “types” of alimony:

  1. Traditional alimony is payable for life or for so long as a dependent spouse is incapable of self-support. The amount of alimony and the duration will differ depending on the purpose it is designated to serve. For example, a spouse may be awarded traditional alimony where the parties were married for 30 years and the other spouse is a high-earning professional and the other spouse has a low earning capacity.
  2. Rehabilitative alimony serves to support an economically dependent spouse through a period of education and retraining. The objective of rehabilitative alimony is self-sufficiency. For example, a spouse may be awarded rehabilitative alimony for three years while he or she obtains a college degree.
  3. Reimbursement alimony is predicated upon economic sacrifices made by one spouse during the marriage that directly enhanced the future earning capacity of the other. For example, one spouse may be awarded reimbursement alimony where he or she made sacrifices during the marriage in order for the other spouse to obtain a doctorate degree.

The spouse receiving alimony does not pay taxes on the alimony paid to him/her; rather, the spouse paying the alimony pays the taxes on his/her income, then pays the recipient spouse. It is also important to note that if alimony is not awarded at the time of divorce, it is forever waived. A party cannot ask for the divorce decree to be modified and request alimony.

If alimony is an element of your divorce and you need legal advice, contact Sailer Law at 319-260-2096 to schedule a consultation. We will answer any questions you have about alimony and advise you of your options for moving forward.