Family Law

Family Law

There are multiple potential matters that can be issues in any Family Law case. The issues can be emotional and long term, and effect relationships among the adults, the children and the extended family. It takes wise, experienced legal counsel to  help most people get through the issues. The issues  to be resolved, by negotiations , or mediation or in court include issues such as how and when to terminate the marriage, or seek  annulment, or separation, paternity, legal custody, physical custody of children, child support, medical support, division of property and debts, alimony or spouse support, visitation matters and grandparent  visitation,  retirement allocation. Once a divorce is over, it is possible the court orders may be modified in the future , if there are substantial changes. There may be claims of abuse or juvenile neglect  

Dissolution of Marriage

"Dissolution of Marriage" is a termination of the marriage relationship and means the same as "divorce." Iowa law also recognizes separate maintenance, which is a legal separation but spouses remain married. Annulment is an additional remedy that annuls the marriage, a  type of cancellation of the marriage

A dissolution of marriage case involves many different issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony), and equitable distribution of assets and liabilities.

FACTORS THE COURT WILL CONSIDER IN DIVIDING PROPERTY: The law requires both spouses to disclose their financial status on a form provided by the court. The court makes the final division of the property between the spouses. In so doing, it will look at:

  •  The length of the marriage;
  •  The property brought into the marriage by each spouse;
  •  The contribution of each spouse to the marriage giving approximate economic value to each contribution in homemaking and childcare services;
  •  The age and physical and emotional health of each spouse;
  •  The contribution of one spouse to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other;
  •  The earning capacity of each spouse. This includes educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from job market, custodial responsibilities for children. Also considered are the time and expense necessary to require sufficient education or training to enable the spouse to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage;
  •  The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live in the family home for a reasonable period to the spouse having custody of any children, or if there is joint legal custody, to the spouse having physical care of the children;
  • The amount and duration of any order granting support payments to either spouse and whether a property division should be made instead of other payments;
  • Other economic circumstances of each spouse, such as pension benefits (vested or unvested) and future interests;
  • The tax consequences to each party;
  •  Any written agreement made by the husband and wife concerning property division;
  • The provisions of antenuptial agreement; and
  • Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case.

GIFTED OR INHERITED PROPERTY: Property inherited by or given to either spouse remains the property of that spouse unless it is inequitable to the other or to the children of marriage.

Child Custody

Child custody can be a part of a divorce or a separate action between two parents who are not married to each other. Iowa law defines joint legal custody as an award of custody of a minor child to both parents under which both parents have rights and responsibilities for the child which neither parent has rights superior to those of the other parent. Iowa law presumes joint legal custody, but that presumption is rebuttable. If the presumption is rebutted, the Court can award primary legal custody to one parent in appropriate cases.

Physical care means the rights and responsibilities to maintain the principal home of the minor child and provide for routine care of the child. The Court can award physical care to one parent or to both parents jointly. There is no presumption in Iowa in favor of physical care to one parent or joint physical care.

Child support is calculated based on the physical care arrangement.

Child Support and Alimony

Child Support is based on Iowa's uniform child support guidelines. A parent's basic child support obligation is based on a percentage of the total family adjusted net monthly income. Family adjusted net monthly income is the total of each parent's individual adjusted net monthly income. The basic child support obligation is then determined from a chart of the family adjusted net monthly income and the number of children. The basic support obligation is shared between the parents in proportion to his/her respective share of the family adjusted net monthly income. Where one parent is awarded physical care and the other parent is awarded visitation, the non-custodial parent pays child support. Child support is calculated differently for joint physical care and split physical care.

Spousal Support

Spousal support (alimony) is a court-ordered stipend to a spouse in lieu of the other spouse's legal obligation for support. Alimony is not an absolute right, but depends upon the circumstances of each particular case. The Court can grant an order requiring support payments to either party for a limited or indefinite length of time.

Spousal support has four types: temporary, reimbursement, rehabilitation, and traditional. An alimony award will differ in amount and duration according to the purpose of the alimony and the facts of the case.

Premarital Agreements

Premarital agreements are contracts signed before marriage. With the Iowa version of the Uniformed Premarital Agreement Act (IUPAA), the parties to a prospective marriage have an opportunity by contract to alter the usual course of law with respect to various issues. These issues include: their rights and obligations regarding property, the making of a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement, the ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy, the choice of law governing the construction of the agreement, and any other matter, including the personal rights and obligations of the parties, not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty. Under the IUPAA the parties may not adversely affect the right of a spouse or child to support in their premarital agreement.

MODIFICATION: After the divorce, a court may change a decree only if a former spouse can show a substantial and material change of circumstances that the court did not contemplate at the time it entered the decree. Once custody of the children, visitation rights of the non-custodial parent, amount of child support, and a property settlement are determined, these decree provisions will remain in effect unless a judge orders a change. Property settlements cannot be modified later.

In determining whether there is a substantial change in circumstances, the court can consider the following:

1) Changes in the employment, earning capacity, income or resources of a party;

2) Receipt by a party of an inheritance, pension, or other gift;

3) Changes in the medical expenses of a party;

4) Changes in the number or needs of dependents of a party;

5) Changes in the physical or emotional health of a party;

6) Changes in residence of a party;

7) Remarriage of a party;

8) Possible support of a party by another person;

9) Changes in physical, emotional, or educational needs of a child whose support is governed by the order;

10) Contempt by a party of existing orders of court;

11) Other factors the court determines to be relevant in an individual case.

CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS: If a party willfully disobeys a court order, that party may be required to come before the court and be punished for contempt. A person found guilty of contempt may be committed to jail for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days. If the violation is of a support order, the court may also direct the payor to assign a portion of future salary or wages for both what is overdue and future support payments as they come due.

 PROTECTIVE ORDERS: The court may order a spouse not to enter the marital household and protect the other spouse from harassment, intimidation, or injury if there is imminent risk of physical or emotional harm to the other spouse or the children. Talk to your lawyer if you have a concern for your protection. The threatened spouse must show the threat of real and immediate physical, mental, or emotional injury.

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