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Iowa Court Decisions

Iowa Attorneys Handling All Types of Family Law Cases

At the Klass Law Firm, L.L.P., we work hard to see that our Iowa clients are informed about all areas of family law. To read more about some types of family law cases that have been handled in Iowa courts, please see the summaries that are linked below or contact our office today by calling 800-613-7989 ext. 213.

The Iowa Supreme Court finds that medical support payments were spousal support and subject to modification. The parties were divorced in 2004. As part of the dissolution, Husband agreed to pay to Wife $300.00 per month for health insurance costs. Wife remarried and Husband sought a modification to terminate his obligation to pay the $300.00 per month. The district court determined that the monthly health insurance payments were part of the property settlement and determined that, as such, were not modifiable. This was affirmed by the Iowa Court of Appeals. Upon further review the Supreme Court stated that as a matter of law a provision in a dissolution decree requiring one spouse to provide medical support in the form of health insurance payments to the other spouse is modifiable spousal support under Iowa Code §598.21(3).

Iowa allows claim for invasion of privacy between spouses. During the parties' marriage, the husband installed recording equipment secretly in his wife's bedroom. She did not discover the cameras for some time. Although the cameras did not catch anything illicit, the wife was very upset about the situation. The husband filed for divorce, and the wife alleged she was entitled to compensation for her husband's violation of her privacy rights. The husband argued that his actions were not tortious because his wife had no expectation of privacy in the home they shared. The Iowa Supreme Court did not agree, and held that a spouse had a reasonable expectation that his or her activities in the bedroom of the home were private when the spouse was alone in that room. Any right of access to the bedroom held by the husband did not include the right to videotape the wife's activities without her knowledge or consent. The Supreme Court determined the husband had violated the wife's privacy and affirmed the district court's decision to award her damages. In re the marriage of Tigges, 2008 Iowa Sup. LEXIS 165.

Iowa Supreme Court awards alimony to former homemaker. A husband and wife divorced after 22 years of marriage. The husband was the sole shareholder in a successful corporation and earned over $500,000 per year. The wife had dropped out of college early in the marriage in order to stay home with their children. At the time of the divorce, she had not worked in many years. Each spouse was awarded $3.3 million in assets, and the wife was awarded $5,000 a month in alimony for 4 years. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court determined that the lower court had not accurately taken into account the wife's sacrifices and role in the family during the marriage. She had enjoyed a high standard of living prior to the divorce, and could not earn more than $30,000 a year based on her skills. The Court awarded her $8,000 a month for three years in alimony so she could return to school, and $5,000 a month in alimony for seven years after that. This alimony award was both a rehabilitative award-to allow her to get an education-and a traditional award of alimony. In re Marriage of Becker, --- N.W.2d --- (Iowa 2008).

Guardian must have notice before custody determination is made. The Iowa Supreme Court found that the guardian of a Child in Need of Assistance should have had advance notice that the State wanted to modify custody arrangements. The guardian, the grandmother of the child, did not have any advance notice of the State's intent to seek a modification, and at a review hearing, the guardian did not agree to proceed with any changes in the custody. The district court modified the custody over her protest. The Supreme Court held the district court was not able to proceed to modify custody at that hearing without the guardian's consent. The State should have provided notice ahead of time so the guardian would have been aware of its position. In the Interest of K.B., ---N.W.2d --- (Iowa 2008).

Sole legal custody appropriate where history of domestic abuse. In Iowa, a district court granted joint legal custody to both parents in a divorce, and granted primary physical custody to the mother. The district court granted joint custody in part because the father spoke better English than the mother, who spoke very little English. The mother appealed the decision, arguing the father should not have legal custody due to his extensive history of domestic violence, including an attempt to run over the mother and one of his children. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court's decision, finding that evidence of domestic violence created a rebuttable presumption against granting joint legal custody. Here, the domestic abuse history was so extensive that it clearly outweighed the fact that the father spoke English better than the mother. In re Marriage of Hamoda and Shakshak (Iowa Ct. App., August 13, 2008).

Iowa law gives weight to child's preference regarding physical care. The thirteen year old daughter testified in her parents' dissolution trial. She expressed a strong, unequivocal desire to live with her mother, and testified that her younger brother felt the same. The district court determined that the daughter was credible and sincere in her testimony, and granted the mother physical care of the children. The father appealed. The Iowa Supreme Court determined that Iowa law gives weight to a preference expressed by a child for one parent to be the primary caregiver over the other parent, depending on the age, maturity, and strength of the preference of the child. Here, the child was credible and mature enough to testify as to that decision, and the Supreme Court awarded physical care to the mother. In re Marriage of Powers, --- N.W.2d --- (Iowa 2008).

Action to enforce dissolution decree not barred by claim preclusion. The parties divorced in 2004. The decree stated that the ex-husband shall repay a debt to the wife's father, the amount of which was in dispute. Following the divorce, the ex-husband did not repay the debt. The wife eventually paid her father the debt owed by the ex-husband. She later filed a motion to enforce the decree in order to recover from her ex-husband the money she had paid. The district court ordered the ex-husband to pay the wife back. He appealed. The Court of Appeals determined that because neither party insisted the district court in the original divorce decide the amount of the debt, they had relinquished their right to litigate the disputed issue later on; therefore the issue was barred by claim preclusion. The Supreme Court reversed. Because the wife was not relitigating who owed the debt but was simply seeking to enforce the decree, claim preclusion did not prevent the enforcement of the decree as it was written. In re Marriage of Ginsberg, ---N.W.2d --- (Iowa 2008).

Offset method should be used in calculating child support for joint physical care. Where the court awarded joint physical care to the parents of three children, but provided that one parent had actual physical care for more days a year than the other parent, the district court did not calculate child support using the offset method provided in the Iowa Child Support Guidelines. The Iowa Supreme Court determined that child support in all joint physical care cases should be decided using the offset method, even in cases where one parent may have the children for more days each year. However, a district court may vary the amount of support if it makes written findings supporting a departure from the Guidelines. In re Seay, ---N.W.2d--- (Iowa 2008).

Court should not have invalidated adoption by lesbian "step-parent." Two women, Heather and Jamie, were in a relationship, and two children were born to Jamie. Heather adopted both the children. Heather and Jamie ended their relationship, and Heather asked the court to determine custody and related issues regarding the children. The district court decided that Heather's adoption of the children was not valid and thus, it could not decide any issues relating to custody. The Supreme Court held that the court granting the adoptions had jurisdiction over the issue, and the district court had no grounds to invalidate the adoption court's decision. Thus, the district court should have determined the issues relating to Heather's request for custody. Schott v. Schott, 744 N.W.2d 85 (Iowa 2008).

Joint physical care plans in Iowa. In cases where joint physical care is shared by divorced parents, the chances of a successful joint care plan are reduced when one parent objects to the agreement. The court will consider the child's best interests and the ability of the parents to communicate and cooperate. In re Marriage of Hansen, 733 N.W.2d 683 (Iowa 2007).

Debt allocation in Iowa divorce cases. The Iowa Supreme Court determined that debt accumulated by one spouse after divorce proceedings had been filed was not part of the marital estate. The court found the debt was a dissipation of the couple's assets when the spouse could not explain how he had gotten so much debt, and the debt was not related to household or business expenses. The spouse was solely responsible for the repayment of the debt, which was not included in the couple's property. In re Marriage of Fennelly and Breckenfelder, 737 N.W.2d 97 (Iowa 2007).

Contempt for failure to follow divorce decree. In Iowa, a man was found in contempt of court and sentenced to 30 days in jail for failing to pay his wife certain expenses as ordered in their divorce decree, including unpaid medical and dental costs for his children. A party is not excused from complying with the divorce decree simply because he is dissatisfied with its terms. Ary v. Iowa Dist. Court for Benton County, 735 N.W. 2d 621 (Iowa 2007).

Equitable division of business assets in Iowa. Where a couple had substantial business assets held in the wife's name, the court determined the value of the couple's business after listening to experts. Interest was awarded as part of the assets because the wife was given six years to pay her husband his share of the business assets. Finally, it was appropriate to place an equitable lien on the wife's stock in the business to ensure the assets were paid. In re marriage of Keener, 728 N.W.2d 188 (Iowa 2007).

Contact an Iowa family law and divorce lawyer at the Klass Law Firm, L.L.P., today to discuss your case and needs. Call 800-613-7989 ext. 213.

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