Disposing of Property During Divorce Process in Iowa

By Stephanie Reid

Iowa law supports an equitable division of marital property during a divorce. Unlike states that implement a 50-50 split, divorcing spouses can expect to receive a portion of property based on fairness and each party's contribution to the marriage. Disposing of property pursuant to a divorce is accomplished either by mutual agreement in a prenuptial contract or a marriage settlement agreement, or by the court during a hearing. Division of marital property in Iowa is not subject to allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct in the marriage.

No-Fault Jurisdiction

Iowa is one of 18 U.S. jurisdictions offering no-fault divorce as the sole ground on which to dissolve a marriage. Other states offer grounds upon which a party can file for divorce, but Iowa spouses need only cite "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the dissolution. Marital misconduct such as adultery, abuse or abandonment are not considered when property is divided, unless the conduct impacted one spouse's earning potential, ability to work or health, which are factors considered in the equitable distribution of property.

Equitable Distribution of Property

When it comes time to divide marital property, the judge will consider each spouse's current needs and financial situation. The court will also consider each party's joint contribution to the marriage, including homemaking and child rearing efforts. Other factors that determine how marital property is divided include each spouse's age, health and employability; the duration of the marriage; and any contribution by one spouse to the training or education of the other. The court will decide which spouse receives the marital home, or right to live in the marital home, based on who has physical custody of the minor children. The court also considers tax consequences, benefits and written agreements between the spouses when dividing property.

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Separate Property

Not all property is subject to division by the court. Property received by either party during the marriage pursuant to an inheritance is considered separate property and is not subject to division. Gifts received by either spouse are also not subject to division. If one of the parties can properly show that refusal to divide gifts or inheritances would be unfair and inequitable to her or the children, the court can make an exception to this rule.

Marital Property

Marital property subject to division may include real estate, bank accounts, pension funds, savings and other assets acquired from the wedding date forward. If money that was acquired prior to the wedding was commingled with marital funds, the court will likely consider that money to be marital property, unless the party can provide detailed financial statements proving the assets originated prior to the marriage. Appreciation of assets gained during the marriage are subject to division, even if the asset was obtained prior to the marriage. Debts are also considered marital property and the court must assign liability to each party, depending on that party's ability to pay.

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