The thought of pursuing a divorce is a difficult decision for a number of reasons including whether you can financially make it on your own.
Typically, the more vulnerable spouse in the divorce equation is the one who makes less income. For this spouse, they will likely be concerned with how they can afford the lifestyle they have become accustomed to without their spouse’s financial assistance. If you are contemplating divorce and are not the family bread winner, you may be a candidate to receive spousal support. This is especially given the Iowa Supreme Court’s recent recognition of a new category of spousal support that helps dependent spouses financially bridge the gap after a divorce. See In Re Marriage of Pazhoor, 2022 WL 815293 (2022).
In an Iowa divorce proceeding, courts may order spousal support after assessing the following factors:
- 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 to 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.
In light of these factors, Iowa courts have routinely recognized three distinct categories of spousal support: traditional/permanent, reimbursement, and rehabilitative. Traditional or permanent spousal support is usually awarded in long-term marriages where one spouse is incapable of self-support. Rehabilitative spousal support is typically awarded in cases where the dependent spouse needs retraining or education to re-join the workforce. Lastly, reimbursement spousal support is commonly awarded in marriages where the dependent spouse made economic sacrifices for the other spouse to increase his or her earning capacity.
Sometimes, however, a party’s circumstances do not fit neatly into one of these categories, which is why In Re Marriage of Pazhoor recognized a fourth type of support: transitional spousal support. With transitional spousal support, dependent spouses who make significantly less income have an opportunity to request temporary financial assistance until they get back up on their feet. This expansion of spousal support will likely increase spousal support awards in shorter term marriages and cases where the property division does not provide the dependent spouse adequate resources to rebound from the marriage.
If you are wondering whether you are a candidate for transitional spousal support or want more information on spousal support in Iowa, feel free to contact Regan Conder.