Pension Rights in Divorces in the State of Iowa

by Heather Frances J.D. Google
Dividing property in a divorce can be a confusing process.

Dividing property in a divorce can be a confusing process.

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Iowa considers pensions to be marital property, which makes them divisible by the court in a divorce. In each case, Iowa courts determine how the pension should be divided and how the amount awarded should be paid.

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Equitable Division

Iowa law requires the court to divide all marital property “equitably,” which means the court will divide the property fairly but not necessarily equally. To decide what distribution is equitable in your case, the court must consider many factors such as the length of your marriage, the property each spouse brought into the marriage, and the age and health of each spouse. The court must also consider the economic circumstances of each spouse, including any pensions a spouse will receive.

Immediate Distribution

If either spouse is already receiving pension benefits at the time of divorce, the court can award a percentage of those benefits to each spouse. For example, the court could award 50 percent of the monthly payment to each spouse. A spouse can also receive immediate payment if the court awards a lump sum instead of a percentage. This lump sum would be based on the value of the pension at the time of the divorce even though the pension’s value might change in the future.

Deferred Distribution

If a couple is divorcing before a spouse begins receiving his pension benefits, Iowa courts can defer payment of the pension shares until those benefits are received. For example, if you must work 20 years with your company before receiving your pension and you are divorcing when you have worked there for only 15 years, the court can distribute your future pension benefits either by awarding a specific dollar amount to your spouse or by awarding a percentage. If your pension benefits never become payable, perhaps because you leave the company before completing 20 years of service, the court’s award has no effect.

Modification of Divorce Decree

If your ex-spouse is receiving a pension that is not addressed in your divorce decree, you may petition the court to modify your divorce decree to include the pension. However, Iowa courts can modify your divorce decree only if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, so you must be able to show the court that the pension is significant enough to justify a modification of the decree.