Iowa Supreme Court Limits the Scope of Transitional Spousal Support

View post titled Iowa Supreme Court Limits the Scope of Transitional Spousal Support

Posted on 02/02/2023 at 12:29 PM by Regan Conder

In April of 2022, the Iowa Supreme Court recognized a fourth type of spousal support in Iowa called transitional spousal support. See my blog about it here.  Although the Iowa Supreme Court recognized transitional spousal support in In Re Marriage of Pazhoor, it did not provide the lower courts much guidance in how to apply it. 

The issue recently reemerged in In Re Marriage of Sokol[1]. In Sokol, the Iowa district court dissolved a nineteen-year marriage between a 45 year-old physician and a 43 year-old entrepreneur. At the time of their dissolution, the wife earned $440,000 per year while the husband owned a home repair and remodeling business where its revenue exceed $500,000 in 2020. Although the husband’s business had been profitable, he never paid himself a salary and the COVID-19 pandemic caused its profitability to plummet.

In its order, the district court awarded each party approximately $660,000 in net assets and awarded the husband $3,000 per month in rehabilitative spousal support for four years. The district court rationalized its spousal support award based upon its belief that the husband needed a period of time to rebuild his business or reenter the workforce. On appeal, the Iowa Court of Appeals modified the spousal support award to $5,000 per month in transitional spousal support for seven years.

Upon further review, the Iowa Supreme Court said the Iowa Court of Appeals improperly awarded transitional spousal support rather than rehabilitative spousal support. Although transitional and rehabilitative spousal support both have components of being short in duration, the Iowa Supreme Court distinguished them by stating, “Transitional spousal support addresses short-term liquidity needs associated with splitting one household into two; whereas rehabilitative spousal support addresses training, education, work-readiness, and human capital development.”  

In the Sokol’s case, the court opined that the husband did not need transitional spousal support when he was awarded liquid assets totaling $660,000. In addition, the Court emphasized that transitional spousal support awards should be short in duration and generally should not exceed one year. In sum, the Iowa Supreme Court has directed the lower courts to be conservative in transitional spousal support awards and careful in its labels.

If you would like more information in whether you would be a candidate for spousal support in your dissolution of marriage, please contact Regan Conder.  


Categories: Family Law, Regan Conder


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