Property Distribution

Iowa follows the “equitable distribution” rule when it comes to dividing property accumulated throughout a marriage. That means that, in a divorce, the parties are entitled to a “just and equitable share” of the marital property accumulated through their joint efforts based upon the circumstances. That also means that each party is responsible for an equitable share of the debts accumulated throughout the marriage as well. Property and debts then are generally divided equally between the parties. However, there is no rule requiring the property to be divided precisely down the middle. The only absolute requirement is that the division be fair and equitable under the circumstances.

Also, it is important to note that tot all property belonging to a party in a divorce is marital property subject to division. Generally, inherited property or property gifted to only one party will generally not be subject to division and will remain with the party to whom it was given assuming such property was kept separate from the other spouse. Conversely, some property that one may traditionally think of as belonging to only one person- like a retirement or pension plan- is actually marital property subject to division. Also, premarital property is generally included in the divisible estate or in another words, considered martial property. However, courts can and will set aside premarital assets in some circumstances depeding on how the property was held and used during the marriage, the length of the marriage, the many other factors. It is important to speak to a knowledgeable attorney to determine which assets are subject to division and which are not.

Many factors are considered by the courts when determining what is part of the divisible marital estate as well as what constitutes a fair and equitable division. Some of the most important factors include the following:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The property each brought into the marriage
  • The contribution of each spouse (to the marriage and marital estate)
  • Age, physical and emotional health of spouses
  • The contribution to education, training or increased earning power of the other spouse
  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • Whether a family home should be awarded to either party (especially the spouse with physical custody of children)
  • The amount and duration of support (including child support and alimony)
  • Any other economic factors
  • Tax consequences of the property and debt division
  • Any written agreements or prenuptial agreements
  • Other factors that the court determines to be relevant

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