Iowa Divorce Laws
The state of Iowa has unique divorce laws for people who wish to terminate their marriage.
We are providing this online divorce information to you as an easy divorce reference guide to help you while you are doing your own divorce. This information (and much more) is available inside your personal 3StepDivorce account area in order to help you understand how Iowa addresses the most important issues in the divorce process and certain elements throughout your divorce forms.
The following overview of Iowa divorce laws will help you understand the filing procedure and other primary issues concerning your divorce. Please keep in mind that our Iowa online divorce service and support staff will make the process easy for you from start to finish. We take the difficulty out of doing your own divorce.
Residency Requirements: In order to file for a Dissolution of Marriage in Iowa, you or your spouse must meet the strict residency requirements. These requirements permit the court to have jurisdiction of your case, resulting in allowing you to use their judicial system. These requirements are only a concern for spouses who have recently relocated or plan to relocate in the near future. They are as follows:
There is a 1 year residency requirement for all spouses filing in the state, unless the plaintiff in the case is not a resident, then he or she does not have a residency requirement in order to file for a dissolution of marriage.
The parties shall file for a dissolution of marriage in the county where either party resides. No decree dissolving a marriage shall be granted in any proceeding before ninety days shall have elapsed from the day the original notice is served. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.2, 598.6 and 598.19)
No-Fault Grounds: Most uncontested Dissolution of Marriage cases are filed according to a "no-fault" ground. We are using the term "no-fault" in a generic fashion by labeling all grounds that do not actually declare a "fault" as "no-fault". In the state of Iowa the "no-fault" grounds are as follows:
Allege that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the legitimate objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.5 and 598.17)
Filing Party Name: The Petitioner. This is the spouse who is recognized as the initiator of the Dissolution of Marriage and is the one who actually files the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the county court.
Non-Filing Party Name: The Respondent. This spouse plays a lesser role in an uncontested Dissolution of Marriage versus a contested Dissolution of Marriage. He or she will be required to sign and/or respond in a timely fashion to the documents filed by his or her spouse.
Family Law or Domestic Relations Court: In the District Court for the County of __________, Iowa. All Dissolution of Marriage cases in the state of Iowa are facilitated through this court for that particular county.
Clerk's Name: All correspondence with a Iowa clerk of the court should formally address him or her as follows: District Clerk's Office.
Property and Debt Division: Iowa is considered an "equitable distribution" state. If you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on how the marital property will be divided, the court shall use a three step process. First, it will determine what property is marital. Second, it will put a value on the marital property. Third, it will divide the marital property in an equitable fashion, which is not necessarily equal, but rather what is considered to be fair.
The court shall divide all property, except inherited property or gifts received by one party, equitably between the parties after considering all of the following: 1. The length of the marriage. 2. The property brought to the marriage by each party. 3. The contribution of each party to the marriage, giving appropriate economic value to each party's contribution in homemaking and child care services. 4. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties. 5. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other. 6. The earning capacity of each party 7. The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live in the family home for a reasonable period to the party having custody of the children, or if the parties have joint legal custody, to the party having physical care of the children. 8. The amount and duration of an order granting support payments to either party and whether the property division should be in lieu of such payments. 9. Other economic circumstances of each party, including pension benefits, vested or unvested, and future interests. 10. The tax consequences to each party. 11. Any written agreement made by the parties concerning property distribution. 12. The provisions of an antenuptial agreement. 13. Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.21)
Changing Name: When petitioning the court for a dissolution of marriage, the husband or the wife may request to have his or her name restored to a former or maiden name. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.37)
Spousal Support, Maintenance, or Alimony: Determining the amount of spousal support, if any, is not as objective as determining child support. Spousal support, whether permanent or temporary, is typically decided on a case-by-case basis, because it is very likely that unique circumstances and factors regarding the marriage and the property award will play a significant role in allowing the court to arrive at the appropriate amount.
The court may grant an order requiring support payments to either party for a limited or indefinite length of time after considering all of the following: 1. The length of the marriage. 2. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties. 3. The distribution of property 4. The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced. 5. The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance 6. The feasibility of the party seeking maintenance becoming self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and the length of time necessary to achieve this goal. 7. The tax consequences to each party. 8. Any mutual agreement made by the parties concerning financial or service contributions by one party with the expectation of future reciprocation or compensation by the other party. 9. The provisions of an antenuptial agreement. 10. Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.21, 598.22 and 598.32)
Custody and Visitation: Shared or joint child custody has become more and more popular with the Iowa courts. If you and your spouse request to have joint or shared "legal" custody, it will almost always be granted. As for joint or shared "physical" custody, the court will examine this a bit more closely to determine if it is a realistic choice that would result in an arrangement that is best for the children.
In considering what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the minor child, the court shall consider the following factors: 1. Whether each parent would be a suitable custodian for the child. 2. Whether the psychological and emotional needs and development of the child will suffer due to lack of active contact with and attention from both parents. 3. Whether the parents can communicate with each other regarding the child's needs. 4. Whether both parents have actively cared for the child before and since the separation. 5. Whether each parent can support the other parent's relationship with the child. 6. Whether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child's wishes or whether the child has strong opposition, taking into consideration the child's age and maturity. 7. Whether one or both the parents agree or are opposed to joint custody. 8. The geographic proximity of the parents. 9. Whether the safety of the child, other children, or the other parent will be jeopardized by the awarding of joint custody or by unsupervised or unrestricted visitation. 10. Whether a history of domestic abuse exists. (Iowa Code - Section 598.41)
Determining Child Support: The basis for determining a monthly support amount is best achieved by referring to the Iowa child support worksheet. The worksheet utilizes the child support guidelines that are defined by state law. The court will use this same worksheet as a building block for determining the support obligation, that is if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement on this issue.
The parties cannot agree on a monthly support amount, the court will apply the support guidelines. This amount determined by the use of the guidelines may be adjusted for fairness or the special needs of a child.
The court may subsequently modify existing orders when there is a substantial change in circumstances. In determining whether there is a substantial change in circumstances, the court shall consider the following: a. Changes in the employment, earning capacity, income or resources of a party. b. Receipt by a party of an inheritance, pension or other gift. c. Changes in the medical expenses of a party. d. Changes in the number or needs of dependents of a party. e. Changes in the physical, mental, or emotional health of a party. f. Changes in the residence of a party. g. Remarriage of a party. h. Possible support of a party by another person. i. Changes in the physical, emotional or educational needs of a child whose support is governed by the order. j. Contempt by a party of existing orders of court. k. Other factors the court determines to be relevant in an individual case. (Iowa Code - Section 598.21)
Copyright Notice: These Iowa divorce laws above are copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This abbreviated and revised version of the state laws has been compiled from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction in any fashion is prohibited. Violation of this copyright notice may result in immediate legal action.
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