In a marriage we get accustomed to our way of life, develop a standard of living, and most generally live a rigid routine. Needless to say, a divorce often shatters the routine. However, a divorce may not as greatly affect one’s standard of living – if the circumstances are right.
Iowa Courts may award spousal support (a.k.a. alimony) to either party. There are three different types of alimony: (1) traditional; (2) rehabilitative; and (3) reimbursement. Traditional alimony is support provided until the dependent spouse remarries or dies. This type of alimony requires the dependent spouse to overcome a high burden of proof. Typically, traditional alimony is awarded in long marriages where the dependent spouse is unlikely to be able to become self-supporting. Traditional alimony may be changed in the future if there is a significant change in circumstances – e.g. the paying spouse loses his/her job or involuntarily makes less income.
Reimbursement alimony is often awarded when both parties maintain similar incomes, but equity (“fairness”) requires one spouse to repay the other spouse for a contribution he or she made during the marriage. For example, if husband financially supports wife while she attends school full time and obtains her master’s degree – thus allowing wife to have a higher earning potential due in part to husband’s sacrifices and financial support during the marriage – the Court may order wife to reimburse husband a certain amount. Reimbursement alimony is not subject to modification or termination until full compensation, except upon the recipient’s death.
Rehabilitative alimony serves to support the dependent spouse so that the spouse can train or educate themselves to become self-supporting. Unlike traditional spousal support, rehabilitative alimony is temporary (for a fixed number of months or years), but requires a lesser burden of proof. Like traditional alimony, rehabilitative alimony may also be modified if a substantial change in circumstances occurs after the divorce. However, for all types of alimony, it is important to note that unless spousal support is awarded in the initial divorce case, it CANNOT be awarded later. Therefore, it is highly advisable to have an attorney review a potential settlement agreement before signing off to ensure you are properly advised of your rights and protected in the event of unforeseen future circumstances.
The Court looks at various factors in awarding alimony, such as: (1) length of marriage; (2) age and emotional and physical health of the parties; (3) property distribution; (4) educational level of the parties at the time of marriage and when the divorce action is filed; (5) earning capacity of the party seeking alimony; (6) feasibility of the alimony-seeking party becoming self-supporting with a reasonably comparable standard of living to that enjoyed during the marriage; and (7) provisions of a prenuptial agreement.
While a divorce may certainly rock one’s routine, spousal support may be available to help lessen the impact on one’s standard of living. Every marriage and every divorce is different, so it’s important to meet with experienced legal counsel to understand the likely outcome of your case so you may plan accordingly.
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.