Iowa Separation Agreement Law


Divorce – Separation Agreements – Iowa

Note:  This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of separation agreements in Iowa, but does include basic and other provisions.

General Summary: Upon the dissolution of a marriage in Iowa, the parties forfeit all rights acquired by marriage, unless they are preserved in the decree. A Property Settlement Agreement is a contract between the parties to a dissolution proceeding.  It does not become a final contract until it is accepted and approved by the court.  Once the Property Settlement Agreement is approved and incorporated into the decree, by attachment or reference, the decree then dictates the standing and rights of the parties and not the property settlement agreement.

When considering an award of child support, spousal support, property division, the Property Settlement Agreement, as a contract between the parties, is one of the statutory factors considered by the Court.  Therefore, these statutory factors must be addressed by the Property Settlement Agreement where possible.

Statutes:

Iowa Code
TITLE XV JUDICIAL BRANCH AND JUDICIAL PROCEDURES
SUBTITLE 1 DOMESTIC RELATIONS
Chapter 598 DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE AND DOMESTIC RELATIONS

Forfeiture of marital rights:
When a dissolution of marriage is decreed the parties shall forfeit all rights acquired by marriage which are not specifically preserved in the decree. This provision shall not obviate any of the provisions of section 598.21.  Section 598.20.

Orders for disposition and support.

1.  Upon every judgment of annulment, dissolution or separate maintenance the court shall divide the property of the parties and transfer the title of the property accordingly…The court shall divide all property, except inherited property or gifts received by one party, equitably between the parties after considering all of the following:

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 subsection 3 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, and future interests.
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…

3.  Upon every judgment of annulment, dissolution or separate maintenance, the court may grant an order requiring support payments to either party for a limited or indefinite length of time after considering all of the following:

a.  The length of the marriage.
b.  The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
c.  The distribution of property made pursuant to subsection 1.
d.  The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced.
e.  The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, responsibilities for children under either an award of custody or physical care, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment.
f.  The feasibility of the party seeking maintenance becoming self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.
g.  The tax consequences to each party.
h.  Any mutual agreement made by the parties concerning financial or service contributions by one party with the expectation of future reciprocation or compensation by the other party.
i.  The provisions of an antenuptial agreement.
j.  Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case.  section 598.21

Case Law:

A Property Settlement Agreement is a contract between the parties to a [annulment, legal separation, or] dissolution proceeding, it does not become a final contract until it is accepted and approved by the court. Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Cormaney,258 Iowa 237, 243-44, 138 N.W.2d 50, 54-55 (1965). When the stipulation is merged in the dissolution decree, it is interpreted and enforced as a final judgment of the court, not as a separate contract between the parties. Bowman v. Bennett, 250 N.W.2d 47, 50 (Iowa 1977).