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Property Issues

Iowa Property Division Attorney

Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska Property Division Attorneys

The division of assets and property is frequently an issue during a divorce. At the Klass Law Firm, L.L.P., we have years of experience handling all levels of property division cases. For more information about types of cases that fall into this area of law, please see the summaries that are linked below or contact our office today by calling 800-613-7989 ext. 213.

Wife was entitled to traditional alimony when she was able to support herself but husband had significantly higher earning potential. The wife in this case was capable of earning approximately $32,000-$36,000 per year; however, the husband was capable of earning a salary of $92,000. The trial court awarded $1,000 per month in "rehabilitative" spousal support. The award of "rehabilitative" spousal support is not appropriate here because the wife was not intending to seek training or education. However, $1,000 per month was deemed appropriate as traditional spousal support. The trial court also valued a business property at $110,000 after an expert appraisal testified the value was actually $80,000. Both the husband and wife agreed that the $80,000 valuation was accurate. The Supreme Court modified the valuation from $110,000 to $80,000 and adjusted the husbands equalization payment accordingly.

Property that was owned before marriage is only a factor to consider when splitting marital property. Husband and Wife were splitting up. During the process the husband claimed that he owned some land prior to the marriage. This appears to be disputed, but he contends that he purchased the land with inheritance and borrowed against other assets he owned before the marriage. He also claimed that he used inheritance to purchase the land. The court considered the fact that the couple had been married for 15 years, the land had appreciated during that time, a building had been erected on the land, and any inheritance was deposited into a joint checking account and was marital property. In consideration of all those factors, the court determined the equitable division required the wife be awarded half the value of the property. Because she was successful on appeal the court also awarded her a portion of her attorney's fees.

Court did not abuse discretion in valuing marital home between both parties' valuations and also did not abuse discretion in valuing husband's 401k as of the date of separation. Husband and wife separated and the lower court valued the husband's 401k as of the date of separation which was nearly 4 years before the complaint for dissolution. The Court recognized that there is no hard and fast rule concerning the date on which marital property is valued. The husband claimed the value of the home was between $15,000 and $16,000 while the wife valued the home at $35,000. The lower court valued the home at $23,078.78 and ordered the husband to pay the wife half of the equity they had acquired in the home. The Court held that both of these decisions were reasonable and were not an abuse of discretion.

Inherited property divisible after 50 year marriage and after jointly spending nearly half the inheritance proceeds. Wife filed for divorce after 50 years of marriage. In late 2006 or early 2007, Husband inherited $306,849 from his mother, and the couple subsequently spent $160,000 of this inheritance on trips and otherwise improving their standard of living. The money was left solely to the husband, but the wife also had access to the account. A primary issue at hearing was whether the court should equitably distribute the inherited property. They noted that inherited property is not divisible unless failure to do so would be inequitable. The court held that based on the length of the marriage, and the standard of living enjoyed by the parties prior to divorce, it would be inequitable to award Husband all of the inherited property. The inherited property was therefore equitably divided between the parties.

Court expresses preference for percentage method in dividing defined benefit pension plans. Husband and wife were divorced on June 30, 1999. At the time of the dissolution, Husband had an IPERS pension plan. The dissolution decree awarded Husband 60% of the plan and Wife 40% of the plan. The husband's state pension was a defined-benefit plan. Under a defined-benefit plan, the future benefit received is determined in advance, based on a benefit formula. Such a plan provides a benefit that is related to the employee's earnings and length of service. There are two acceptable methods for dividing pension benefits: the present-value method and the percentage method. Under the first method, a court determines the current value of the plan and awards a spouse a share of the total. Under the percentage method, the court awards the spouse a percentage of the pension that is payable when the benefits mature. Although both methods may be used to divide a defined-benefit plan, the Iowa Supreme Court has expressed a preference for the percentage method. The present-value method presents problems because it requires the court to determine the present value of the plan before it can allocate a portion to the spouse. Determining the present value of a defined-benefit plan is complicated and requires actuarial science. This is partially because the present value actually represents a series of payments computed into one lump sum payment in current dollars. In expressing this preference, a court also considers the economic difficulty of paying a lump sum amount at the time of dissolution. In re Brown, 776 N.W.2d 644 (Iowa 2009).

The family farm was not a marital asset but the equity in the property was subject to division. Wife's mother and father owned a farm in Marion County, which was to eventually pass to the wife and her sister. The Wife's mother died and her father remarried. The father then sold the farm to the Husband and Wife at a substantial discount to "keep the farm in the family." Although the farm was in the Husband's and Wife's name, the court found that the farm was the Wife's and her Sister's property. The Court concluded it was appropriate to exclude the farm from the property settlement in the divorce action. However, it determined that the equity in the farm was subject to division as marital property because marital funds had been used to update and maintain it. In re Marriage of Angier, 2009 Iowa App. LEXIS 1374 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 7, 2009).

Court upholds award to wife of one-half of the marital assets. Husband contends that the court did not equitably divide the parties' assets in the divorce proceeding. The equitable division of property is a three-step process. The first step is to classify the parties' property as marital or non-marital. The second step is to value the marital assets and marital liabilities of the parties. The third step is to calculate and divide the net marital estate between the parties. The purpose of a property division is to distribute the marital assets equitably between the parties. The Nebraska Supreme Court determined that there was no abuse of discretion in the property division because the court attempted to arrive at a relatively equal division of assets and debts and its award fell within the general rule that an equitable division of property was achieved so long as a spouse was awarded one-third to one-half of the marital estate. Ging v. Ging, 18 Neb. App. 145 (Neb. Ct. App. 2009).

Contact a knowledgeable asset and property division 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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Klass Law Firm, L.L.P.
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Sioux City, IA 51106

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