Monthly Archives: April 2013

Divorces, or dissolutions as they are referred to in Iowa, can be messy.  Not only is there an irreparable breakdown of the marital relationship, but also the couple needs to come to an agreement as to the custody of their children, if they had any, and the distribution of their property.  In Iowa, property will be divided according to what the court feels is equitable to both parties.  Equitable distribution is decided by the judge presiding over the dissolution case.  The judge will decide what is fair to both parties based on the facts and circumstances of their specific situation.

In Iowa, Iowa Code 598.21 controls the disposition of property in a dissolution.  Section 5 of 598.21 states the following in regards to property distribution:

 5.  Division of property.  The court shall divide all property, except inherited property or gifts received or expected by one party, equitably between the parties…

Although equitable distribution is meant to be fair to both parties, it does not mean an equal distribution of property.  One party may receive more or less than the other because of a certain fact or circumstance.  In deciding what is fair to the parties, the judge must take certain factors into consideration, which is what the rest of section 5 of Iowa Code 598.21 states:

a.  The length of the marriage.

b.  The property brought to the marriage by each party.

c.  The contribution of each party to the marriage, giving appropriate economic value to each party’s contribution in homemaking and child care services.

d.  The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.

e.  The contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other.

f.  The earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage.

g.  The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live in the family home for a reasonable period to the party having custody of the children, or if the parties have joint legal custody, to the party having physical care of the children.

h.  The amount and duration of an order granting support payments to either party pursuant to section 598.21A and whether the property division should be in lieu of such payments.

i.  Other economic circumstances of each party, including pension benefits, vested or unvested.  Future interests may be considered, but expectancies or interests arising from inherited or gifted property created under a will or other instrument under which the trustee, trustor, trust protector, or owner has the power to remove the party in question as a beneficiary, shall not be considered.

j.  The tax consequences to each party.

k.  Any written agreement made by the parties concerning property distribution.

l.  The provisions of an antenuptial agreement.

m.  Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case.

Once the judge has considered the factors in light of the specific facts and circumstances of the couple’s situation, he or she will make a ruling as to the distribution of property.

An important consideration in the equitable distribution of property in an Iowa dissolution is the distinction between marital and non-marital property.  Look for more on this distinction here on the Iowa Family Law Bulletin in the coming weeks!

 

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As discussed in a previous post on the increasing use of technology in family law, people interested and involved in adoption are also making use of the internet.  The New York Times published a story a few months ago explaining the positives and negatives of using the internet as a resource in adopting a child.  The article referenced a study completed by  The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.  The Institute found both positive and negative effects of internet use on the adoption process.

Of course, the internet can serve as a wonderful and informative place to turn when researching adoption options.   There are hundreds, if not thousands, of personal blogs, articles and adoption stories online that can be an inspiration and a comfort to adopting families.  Adoption can be an extremely long, consuming and detailed process and these resources and advice can be invaluable to families looking to find out more about the adoption journey.  Additionally, many birth parents and their biological children have used the internet as a tool to reunite.  Others have used the internet to search out prospective adoption agencies or used the internet as a tool to complete research on the adoption laws in certain states or even other countries.  There are countless ways in which the internet can be used as a helpful place to turn when thinking of or going through adoption.

If you happen to be looking for information on adoption in Iowa, a reliable place to begin your research is in the law itself.  Iowa Code Chapter 600 controls adoption law in Iowa.  Here you will find information on adoption petitions, qualifications for filing for adoption, international adoption, closed adoption records, and much more.  However, adoption law and the process itself can be extremely complicated and it is always helpful to consult an attorney well-versed in Iowa adoption law before starting your adoption journey.

Internet use in adoptionHowever, as the Times story indicates, the internet can also prove to be a place where the unsuspecting can easily be taken advantage of.  The Donaldson Adoption Institute study describes cases in which fraudulent adoption agencies scammed thousands of dollars away from unsuspecting people simply attempting to gain more information about adoption.  Adoption is known as a very expensive process, and therefore makes it even easier for criminals to nab cash from people.

Another problem that crops up with internet access, and in particular Facebook and other social networking sites, is when adopted children attempt to contact their birth parents and vice versa.  This could lead to potentially dangerous situations of abusive or criminal biological parents, whose parental rights have been terminated, contacting their biological children and attempting to meet with them in person.  Internet access to biological parents and children can also prove problematic for the adoptive parents if they are caught unaware and have not prepared their course of action for this meeting.  The study tells of one case where a child was contacted and needed to attend therapy after the incident.

As with all things “internet”, there are positives and negatives on both ends of the spectrum.  The internet has clearly lead to many happy reunions, useful research sites, and legitimate adoption agencies where adoptive parents have found their new children.  However, it has also clearly led to crimes, sometimes dangerous, when not used cautiously.  What do you think?  Should there be more regulation of adoption websites?  Possibly some way to tell fraudulent sites from legitimate sites?  Should Facebook and other social networking sites put more effort into security measures, or should it be left up to parents to protect their children from who they may find?

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