Alimony / Spousal Support – There has been a lot of talk about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress in December, 2017. While the media focus primarily on the changes in the tax brackets and business deductions, the Act’s impact upon spousal support of a soon-to-be ex-spouse has not received as much attention. Specifically, under the Act, spousal support paid as a result of a divorce decree effective or after January 1, 2019 will no longer be tax deductible to the paying spouse. Likewise, the spousal support received will not be taxed as income to the receiving spouse. Inevitably, this will have a major impact on negotiations, settlement agreements, and Court considerations when alimony is an issue. Given that the change does not take effect until January 1, 2019, persons who are at risk of paying alimony may be rushing to the Courthouse to file for divorce faster than he/she rushed to the alter.
Children in Custody Cases – The State of Iowa has also introduced a new law which will affect not only spouses in a divorce case, but parents and minor children when child custody is an issue. Contrary to popular belief, in the majority of cases, the Court will not rely solely (or sometimes even at all) upon a child’s preference to live with one parent over the other. However, in July of 2017, Iowa passed a law to assist the Court in considering not only the best interest, but the legal rights, of children. This law separates the guardian ad litem (GAL) and attorney roles for children in custody cases. The Court may still appoint a GAL, who is a practicing attorney, to represent the child’s best interests. However, under the new statute, the Court may also appoint another attorney to represent the child’s legal interests. The GAL and the attorney for the children cannot be the same person. In addition to a GAL and an attorney for a child, child custody investigators may also assist the Court in makings its decision. Following is a summary of the distinctions between these representative capacities in child custody cases:
1. GAL – Often appointed in high conflict custody matters when parents use the child as leverage or a child refuses to see a parent; custody modifications; custody matters when the child is very young; custody cases where the parents are young and need guidance; or all termination of parental rights cases. A GAL is an attorney appointed to solely represent the best interests of the child. The GAL is under no obligation to advocate for the child’s wishes. Instead, the GAL conducts an independent, impartial investigation to determine what he/she believes to be in the child’s best interest, and advocate for that position.
2. Attorney for child – This attorney is appointed to represent the child’s legal interests in a traditional attorney-client relationship. The attorney is obligated to advocate for the child’s wishes, most appropriately when the child is of sufficient age and maturity to express and rationalize his/her wishes.
3. Child custody investigators and child and family reporters – These professionals have training and experience to investigate the family’s history, child vulnerabilities, and strengths and weaknesses of each parent. The primary purpose of the investigator’s evaluation is to obtain information regarding both parties’ home conditions and parenting capabilities and practices. In addition to personal interviews, the investigations may include things such as psychological testing, an exploration of mental health issues, substance abuse, parenting conflicts, parental deceptiveness and negative attitudes toward the other parent which negatively affect the child(ren).
The information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not legal advice or a substitute for legal counsel. You should not act or rely on any information herein.