Spousal support is often ordered by the court in dissolution or separate maintenance proceedings.
The factors the court considers in deciding the size and appropriateness of a spousal support order are contained in Iowa Code Section 598.21A, and consist of the following:
- 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 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 any ante-nuptial agreement.
Alimony takes different forms. Traditional alimony is common after a long marriage or where one spouse is dependent on the earning efforts of the other spouse, suffers from a disability, cannot become self-sufficient, or has a substantially lower earning capacity.
Rehabilitative alimony, on the other hand,“was conceived as a way of supporting an economically dependent spouse through a limited period of re-education or retraining following divorce, thereby creating incentive and opportunity for that spouse to become self-supporting. Because self-sufficiency is the goal of rehabilitative alimony, the duration of such an award may be limited or extended depending on the realistic needs of the economically dependent spouse, tempered by the goal of facilitating the economic independence of the ex-spouses.” In re Marriage of Anliker, 694 N.W.2d 535, 540-41 (Iowa 2005). Rehabilitative alimony is common after short-term marriages, and are generally of relative short duration.
Reimbursement alimony“is predicated upon economic sacrifices made by one spouse during the marriage that directly enhance the future earning capacity of the other, . . . . Similar to a property award, but based on future earning capacity rather than a division of tangible assets, it should be fixed at the time of the decree.In recognition of the personal nature of the award and the current tax laws,however, a spouse’s obligation to pay reimbursement alimony must terminate upon the recipient’s death.” In re Marriage of Francis, 442 N.W.2d 59, 64 (Iowa 1989).Reimbursement alimony is common when one spouse assisted the other during the earning of an advanced degree.
Modification of alimony. Unlike orders for the division of marital property, alimony orders are often subject to modification when economic and financial circumstances of the parties change. In some circumstances, an award of alimony that has been terminated can be reinstated, as long as there was some order of alimony in the original divorce decree.