Marriage and Divorce in Iowa
If you are thinking about getting married, planning a wedding, or are already married, you may want to consider a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. More and more couples are choosing to develop an agreement prior to marriage or after the ceremony to protect their assets should they end the marriage down the road. Premarital agreements are not only for the wealthy. They are for any couple who wants to discuss priorities and voluntarily agree to terms without the anger and other emotions they may experience in divorce.
Unfortunately, marriages can end in divorce and create conflict for those involved. Navigating the terms of the divorce can be complex. Alimony or “spousal support” is one such factor of divorce that might need to be addressed. It may be granted to either spouse with an economic need and paid by either spouse with the ability to provide it. Alimony can be awarded temporarily or permanently depending on numerous factors, such as the need for further education or training, the health and age of a spouse, and the duration of the marriage.
Asset division during divorce can also be complex and contentious. Iowa is an equitable distribution state which means that assets will be divided fairly between the spouses, which doesn’t necessarily mean equally. Property that is “separate” meaning it was owned by a spouse before marriage or acquired during marriage by gift or inheritance will generally not be subject to division.
Child Support and Custody
Dividing marital assets is difficult but dividing the time each parent spends with their children is particularly emotional. Child custody arrangements include physical custody and legal custody. The former addresses routine care and with whom the children will spend their time. The latter concerns making major decisions regarding the children’s education, medical treatment, education, and other issues. Custody may be awarded jointly, that is, to both parents, or awarded as sole custody, to one parent.
In addition to spending time with their children, both parents are legally responsible for the financial support of their children, whether the parents are married or not. Child support is designed to ensure that both parents contribute to the child’s care although that does not mean both pay the same dollar amount. For example, the court will consider that the parent with primary physical custody of the children is assuming much of the financial obligations for them. The noncustodial parent will, therefore, pay the custodial parent an amount approved by the court. The child support awarded depends on multiple factors concerning the children and the parents. Support can be modified under certain circumstances when a parent experiences a material change in their situation.
Other Family Law Matters
Other family matters may also arise including child adoption, guardianships for minor or incapacitated children, and the establishment of paternity.
Adoption is always an emotional event. It also must comply with the requirements of the law, so it helps to have a family law attorney guiding you through the journey. Domestic adoption involves adopting a child from Iowa or elsewhere in the United States. A parent may also opt for international adoption.
Parents should prepare for the care of their children should they no longer be here to care for them themselves. Naming a guardian for minor children in their will is one way to express their wishes. Parents of adult children with disabilities that prohibit their ability to live independently may also want to make plans for their children’s ongoing care.
Another common family issue is the paternity of a child. Paternity is established in Iowa by marriage, genetic testing, or via affidavit or agreement. There are times when a man who is not the biological father of a child is considered to be, and that obligates him to provide financial support for the child. If, for example, a married couple has a child, the husband is considered to be the legal father; however, if the child was fathered by another man, the husband, particularly during a divorce, may want to disestablish paternity. Doing so would free him from any present or future obligation to support a child who is not his. Disestablishing paternity can be done at the request of the assumed father via genetic testing, during a divorce, or by petitioning the court.
How Legal Counsel Can Help
Families are complicated, and so are the legal issues surrounding major events such as marriage, divorce, adoption, child custody and support, guardianships, and paternity. A knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney can help clients avoid some of the direct contact in contentious situations and leave the legal entanglements to their attorney. A family law attorney will be driven by your best interests and can provide the guidance that helps make even the most difficult decisions easier to make.