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Wessels v. Wessels

Supreme Court of Iowa
542 N.W.2d 486 (1995)


Facts

James Wessels (defendant) and Yvonne Wessels (plaintiff) were married for 21 years. In the early years of the Wesselses’ marriage, Yvonne worked as a nurse, while James completed medical school. The couple later had two children, and Yvonne became a homemaker, while James served as the breadwinner. Over time, the marriage deteriorated, and the couple divorced. The Wesselses stipulated that James would pay $3,100 per month in rehabilitative alimony for a period of 60 months. As a condition of the award, Yvonne was to make every effort to become self-sufficient. In the years following the couple's divorce, Yvonne's mental state deteriorated. Yvonne suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. Although Yvonne made multiple efforts to become employed, she was unable to maintain employment due to her psychiatric state. One month before the rehabilitative alimony was set to expire, Yvonne filed a petition to modify the divorce decree and extend the rehabilitative alimony award or convert it to a permanent award. Following a trial, the district court found that due to unforeseen changed circumstances, it was appropriate to modify the decree and convert Yvonne's award to a permanent-alimony award. James filed an appeal and alleged that the trial court exceeded its authority, because a rehabilitative-alimony award cannot be converted into a permanent-alimony award.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Harris, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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