Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Iowa

Find out how alimony (spousal support) is awarded and calculated in Iowa.

In a divorce or legal separation proceeding in Iowa, either spouse may ask the court to make a spousal support order based on financial need (spousal support is also known as alimony). If you request spousal support, a family law judge will examine evidence that you submit about your financial need and the reasons why you cannot support yourself. These reasons may include lack of employment, lack of financial resources such as property or a pension, or the need to care full time for a child whose condition does not allow you to work outside the home.

Spousal support in Iowa may be temporary, short-term, or permanent depending on each spouse's circumstances. You may receive temporary support while the divorce is pending and short-term support if you need financial assistance to receive education or job training. The court may order permanent or long-term support if you were in a lengthy marriage or cannot maintain a reasonable standard of living without some help from your spouse. However, spousal support is not meant to last indefinitely, and the court expects the supported spouse to become self-supporting as soon as possible.

The court will look at several factors to determine whether you or your spouse may receive spousal support. The factors include:

  • the financial resources of both spouses (determined after property is divided)
  • any training or education the receiving spouse may need to find appropriate employment
  • the standard of living during the marriage
  • the tax consequences of support
  • any agreement the parties had, whether in a prenuptial agreement or during marriage, that promised one spouse would compensate the other for contributions to a career
  • the earning capacity of the spouse seeking support, including the length of absence from the job market, skills, education, and experience
  • whether the spouse seeking support is responsible for children of the marriage, and
  • the length of the marriage.

The court also considers each spouse's physical and emotional health, education level, and age. To determine the amount of support, the court will use guideline calculations based on both spouses' incomes and earning ability.

If your spouse fails to pay the required support, you can ask the court to issue an order to withhold income. This order requires your spouse's employer to withhold income from your spouse's paycheck so that the ordered amount can be sent directly to you.

Either spouse may request a modification of spousal support if there is a substantial change in circumstances. A substantial change may be either spouse's change in jobs, medical needs, or residence. The court will then ask both spouses to provide updated financial and employment information, and it has the power to change the amount or duration of support. Spousal support will end automatically if both spouses agree, when either spouse dies, or when the receiving spouse remarries.

Federal law requires the spouse receiving spousal support to declare it as income for tax purposes. The spouse paying support may declare it as a deduction on federal tax returns.

Iowa Code § 598.21A

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