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LegalGems, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
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Experience:  Experienced Family Law Attorney
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FAMILY LAW in Equitable division of assets state: I earned

Customer Question

FAMILY LAW in Equitable division of assets state:
I earned my medical degree 2 years prior to marriage. I incurred $300k of student loan debt, and it took me 13 years. If I had earned that degree DURING my marriage, then that medical degree may be deemed a marital asset, and my future earnings may also be on the table for division.
My question is this: What good was it to earn my degree on my own prior to marriage if, now that I am divorcing after a mere 7 years of marriage, it seems to make no difference in that I still have to divide my assets of cash I've saved? (But of course not student loans.) How is it that this Johnny-Come-Lately gigolo is entitled to my earnings during my marriage even though he had nothing to do with my obtaining an MD?
We have comingled nothing, zero, for this reason. We have essentially lived separately, at least financially.
Let's say I have $200k in savings. It seems to me that I EARNED that money prior to the marriage in the 12 years I spent working 80 hours a week with little sleep and only a stipend, but that most of that money ARRIVED during my marriage.
Can a case be made for this? What's the point of graduating med school prior to marriage if my husband, who has basically not worked most of his life, gets paid for doing nothing in a divorce, and having nothing to do with my degree?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  LegalGems replied 1 year ago.

I understand your frustration.

The statute lists the factors that will be used to determine what is equitable- and please remember, equitable does not mean equal necessarily, but rather fair.

I will post the factors and then continue below:

(1) the contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property, including the contribution of each spouse as homemaker or in childcare; (2) the value of any property brought to the marriage; (3) the contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning capacity of the other; (4) the length of the marriage; (5) the age and physical and emotional health of the spouses; (6) the vocational skills of the spouses; (7) the time and expense necessary to acquire skills and training to become self-sufficient; (8) the federal income tax consequences of the court’s division of the property; (9) the time and expense necessary for a spouse to acquire sufficient education to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment; (10) any premarital or marital settlement agreement; (11) the present and potential earning capability of each spouse, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, and length of absence from the job market; (12) whether the property award is instead of or in addition to alimony and the amount and duration of any such alimony award; (13) the total economic circumstances of the spouses, including any pension benefits; (14) the desirability of awarding the family home to the spouse with custody of any children; (15) any custodial provisions for the children; and (16) the amount and duration of any maintenance payments. [Iowa Code Annotated; Section 598.21].

So as you can see, the court will look to see who was responsible for earning the money. If one spouse is working steadily and diligently and is able to accumulate savings, then the court will take that into consideration, particularly if the other spouse is failing to carry his/her own weight so to speak (now if there are minor children that are being cared for, that can sway the judge's decision as to what is equitable- for example, if the couple agreed that one spouse would be primary caregiver of the children while the other supported the family unit).

It can be argued that the advanced degree is an asset that was brought into the marriage, and thus excess earnings resulting from that asset should be assigned to that spouse. If there are no marital contributions towards the education, the court is less likely to be as generous to the other spouse when dividing assets.

Furthermore, there is a public policy consideration of not encouraging a capable person from obtaining gainful employment. The court will expect Both parties that are physically and mentally capable of working to do so.

This is a detailed pamphlet that will explain the various issues often presented during a divorce:

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