Traditional spousal support is typically awarded in long-term marriages to provide the recipient spouse with a standard of living comparable to that experienced during the marriage. When determining whether to award traditional spousal support, a judge will consider the factors set forth in Iowa Code §598.21A(1). Probably the most important factors are: the duration of the marriage, the earning capability of the spouses, and property distribution.
Once a judge determines that traditional spousal support is warranted, he must then determine the amount and length of support to be paid. Since the amount of traditional spousal support is established based on an analysis of multiple factors, it is difficult to determine the amount a judge will order. As a guideline, the Iowa Supreme Court recently provided some guidance in In re Marriage of Gust. The Court stated that an award of spousal support equal to thirty-one percent of the difference in the parties’ yearly income is not unreasonable. This is only a guideline, not a set equation.
Courts must also determine the duration of payments when awarding traditional spousal support. Traditional spousal support generally terminates at the death of either party or if the recipient spouse remarries. Cohabitation and retirement of the payor spouse are generally considered a substantial change in circumstance, which may allow for the modification of the spousal support order. In certain circumstances, typically marriages over 30-years or when it is clear the recipient spouse will not be able to support herself at the marital standard of living, unlimited traditional spousal support may be appropriate.
While there is some guidance from the Supreme Court, awards for spousal support vary, and it is good to talk to an experienced attorney about the particular facts in your case will likely result in an award for support. We would be happy to assist you with this evaluation.