Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage

Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage

Basic information about obtaining a divorce in Iowa.


Dissolution of Marriage Video


Residency Requirement and Where to File

If the defendant spouse is a resident of Iowa and was personally served the dissolution of marriage papers, there is no residency requirement for the spouse filing the dissolution of marriage. Otherwise, there is a 1-year residency requirement. In addition, there is a 90-day waiting period prior to the dissolution of marriage becoming final. The dissolution of marriage may be filed in a county where either spouse resides. [Iowa Code Annotated; Sections 598.2, 598.6, and 598.19].


Legal Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage

No-Fault: 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 Annotated; Sections 598.5 and 598.17].


General

The only grounds for dissolution of marriage in Iowa are 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 Annotated; Sections 598.5 and 598.17].


Legal Separation

If the defendant spouse is a resident of Iowa and was personally served legal papers, there is no residency requirement for the spouse filing the legal separation. Otherwise, there is a 1-year residency requirement. The grounds for legal separation in Iowa are 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 Annotated; Sections 598.5, 598.6, 598.17, and 598.28].


Simplified or Special Dissolution of Marriage Procedures

There are no legal provisions in Iowa for simplified dissolution of marriage. However, sample petition captions and contents are contained in Iowa Code Annotated; Sections 598.4 and 598.5. In addition, both spouses are required to file Financial Affidavits on official forms which are available from the clerk of every district court. [Iowa Code Annotated; Sections 598.4, 598.5, and 598.13].


Mediation or Counseling Requirements

If either spouse requests, or on the court’s own initiative, the spouses may be ordered to participate in conciliation procedures for a period of 60 days. A course on children’s needs is required for all parents when custody is at issue within 45 days of the commencement of the case. [Iowa Code Annotated; Section 598.16 and 598.19A].


Property Distribution

Iowa is an "equitable distribution” state. The court will divide all of the spouse’s property whether it was acquired before or after the marriage, except any gifts and inheritances received prior to or during the marriage. A portion of the property may be set aside in a fund for the support, maintenance, and education of any minor children. Marital fault is not a factor. The following factors are considered in any division of property: (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].


Alimony, Maintenance and Spousal Support

Maintenance may be granted to either spouse for a limited or indefinite time, based on the following factors: (1) the time necessary to acquire sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment and become self-supporting; (2) the duration of the marriage; (3) the financial resources of the spouse seeking alimony, including marital property apportioned to such spouse and such spouse’s ability to meet his or her needs independently; (4) the tax consequences to each spouse; (5) the age of the spouses; (6) the physical and emotional conditions of the spouses’ (7) the work experience and length of absence from the job market of the spouse seeking alimony; (8) the vocational skills and employability of the spouse seeking support and alimony; (9) the probable duration of the need of the spouse seeking support and alimony; (10) custodial and child support responsibilities; (11) the educational level of each spouse at the time of the marriage and at the time the action for support is commenced; (12) any premarital or other agreements; (13) the earning capacity of the spouse seeking maintenance, including the educational background, employment skills, and work experience; and (14) any other factor the court deems just and equitable. Marital misconduct is not a factor. Maintenance payments may be ordered to be paid through the court [Iowa Code Annotated; Sections 598.21, 598.22, and 598.32].


Spouse's Name

Upon dissolution of marriage, either spouse may request to change his or her name to a former or maiden name. [Iowa Code Annotated; Section 598.37].


Child Custody

Joint or sole custody may be awarded in the best interests of the child and in a manner which will encourage the parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child. Joint custody may be awarded if either parent requests and if it is in the best interests of the child and based on the following factors: (1) the ability of the parents to cooperate; (2) the ability to support the child’s relationship with the other parent; (3) the physical proximity of the parents to each other; (4) the fitness and suitability of the parents; (5) the reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference; (6) whether both parents have actively cared for the child before and since the separation; (7) whether the psychological and emotional needs and development of the child will suffer because of lack of contact with both parents; (8) whether the safety of the child will be jeopardized by an award of joint custody or unsupervised visitation; (9) whether 1 or both parents agree to, or are opposed to, joint custody; and (10) any history of domestic abuse. However, the court may grant joint custody even when both parents do not agree to joint custody. [Iowa Code Annotated; Section 598.41].


Child Support

Either or both parent may be ordered to pay a reasonable and necessary amount of child support. Child support payments may be ordered to be paid directly to the court. Specific Child Support Guideline Charts are available at www.judicial.state.ia.us/families/childsupg.asp. The amount of child support determined by use of the Guideline Charts is presumed to be correct, but may be adjusted for fairness or special needs of the child. [Iowa Code Annotated; Section 598.21].


Additional Resources

Self-Help Divorce Forms

You can file a divorce in Iowa without an attorney. The Iowa Courts website now has free forms for couples with children as well as the forms for couples with no children. You must use these forms to file a divorce in Iowa without an attorney. You should not pay for forms from other websites. Content Detail

By: Iowa Judicial Branch

Children in the Middle

This overview written by "Children in the Middle" instructor Charlie Easterly describes how a program which became a state law in 1997 provides parents with information on children and divorce. Read More

By:  Charlie Easterly, Children in the Middle Instructor

Common Myths About Family Law

Often people have been misinformed about the law, especially family law such as divorce and custody. Here is a list of common misunderstandings about family law. Read More

By: Iowa Legal Aid

Limited Representation (Unbundled Legal Services)

Questions and answers about new rules changing how lawyers can provide services to clients.  
Sometimes called:

Limited scope representation
Unbundled service
Discreet legal representation

It is when an attorney helps you with part of your case, but not all of the case. Read More

By: Iowa Legal Aid


Legal Separation - Separating Before Divorce

Questions and answers if a married couple separates.

A separation could provide insight into how you will support yourself and your children, if you have any.  A separation could also help determine what to do about marital property and debts.  Separating before filing for divorce allows both parties a chance to work out disagreements regarding those issues before filing an action in court.  This may help the parties come to a stipulation instead of going through a difficult trial.     Read More

By: Iowa Legal Aid


How to Represent Yourself in Court

Information and links to Iowa Court forms to use if you are representing yourself without an attorney. Read More

By: Iowa Judicial Branch

 

Misconceptions About Common Law Marriage

Questions often arise about the legal rights of persons who are, or were, part of a couple, but who have not gone through a marriage ceremony. This resource looks at some misconceptions about common law marriage. Read More

By: Iowa Legal Aid