Equitable Distribution of Property

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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