Divorce In Iowa

Divorce, a legal dissolution of a marriage, is a process that can be emotionally challenging and legally complex. It’s a transition that involves significant decisions concerning property, assets, and, most importantly, the welfare of children. Hence, understanding the process and being aware of the legalities involved is crucial to ensure a fair outcome for all parties involved.

Divorce in Iowa is governed by Title XV, Subtitle 1, Chapter 598 of the Iowa Code. This set of laws outlines the requirements, processes, and consequences of divorce proceedings within the state. It is crucial to comprehend these specific laws, as they directly impact how divorce is carried out and settled in Iowa.

Understanding divorce laws, particularly in Iowa, cannot be overstated. Familiarity with these laws can guide one’s expectations, help prepare for the different stages of divorce, and aid in making informed decisions.

Considering issues related to property division, alimony, child custody, or child support, a solid understanding of Iowa’s divorce laws can provide a foundation for navigating these challenging life changes.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of divorce in Iowa, shedding light on its various aspects and helping readers understand the legal intricacies.

The Basics of Divorce in Iowa?

Divorce, as legally defined, is the formal termination of a marriage by a court or other competent body. In other words, it is the legal process through which two individuals dissolve their marital union, divide their assets and liabilities, and determine the custody and care of their children, if any.

In the state of Iowa, per Iowa Code Title XV, Subtitle 1, Chapter 598, divorce can be granted on no-fault and fault grounds.

No-Fault Divorce in Iowa (Iowa Code 598.5(1)):

A no-fault online divorce is where the spouse filing for divorce does not have to prove any fault on the other spouse’s part. To obtain a no-fault divorce, a spouse must state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Like many other U.S. states, Iowa allows for no-fault divorces. According to Iowa Code 598.5(1), a court of law can grant a divorce if there is evidence of a breakdown of the marital 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.

Fault Divorce in Iowa (Iowa Code 598.5(2)):

In contrast, a fault divorce occurs when one spouse can prove that the other spouse’s misconduct led to the breakdown of the marriage. Iowa Code 598.5(2) allows for a fault divorce in situations where a spouse has committed any of the following:

  • If the spouse has committed adultery.
  • If the spouse has behaved in such a way as to amount to a cruel and inhuman treatment.
  • If the spouse has deserted the petitioning spouse for at least two years.

Understanding the difference between a no-fault and fault divorce is critical as it can impact the divorce proceedings, including the division of assets, determination of alimony, and other aspects of the divorce settlement. However, in most cases in Iowa, divorces tend to be no-fault, as it is typically simpler to prove that a marriage is irretrievably broken than to prove fault.

Requirements for Divorce in Iowa

As in other states, the divorce process in Iowa comes with specific requirements as per Title XV, Subtitle 1, Chapter 598 of the Iowa Code. These include residency requirements, a mandatory waiting period, and in some cases, legal separation.

Residency Requirements

For a court in Iowa to have jurisdiction over a divorce case, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of Iowa for the year leading up to the filing of the divorce petition (Iowa Code 598.2). Suppose the defendant’s spouse is a non-resident. In that case, the residency requirement is satisfied if the spouse filing for divorce (the petitioner) has been a resident of Iowa for the year leading up to the divorce.

The Divorce Process in Iowa

Divorce in Iowa involves several steps, as outlined in Title XV, Subtitle 1, Chapter 598 of the Iowa Code.

Filing for Divorce: Where, When, and How

  1. Where to File: The divorce petition should be filed in the county’s district court where one or both spouses reside. One can file the petition both online or offline.
  2. When to File: One of the spouses must have been a resident of the state of Iowa for at least a year before filing for divorce, as per Iowa Code 598.2. However, suppose the defendant (the spouse who did not file the divorce) is a non-resident, and the petitioner (the spouse who filed the divorce) has lived in Iowa for the year leading up to the divorce. In that case, the residency requirement is considered satisfied.
  3. How to File: The petitioner must fill out a ‘Petition for Dissolution of Marriage form, which includes information about the marriage, grounds for divorce, children (if any), and any requests regarding property division, child custody, child support, or spousal support. This petition is then filed with the appropriate district court. A filing fee is usually required.

Serving Divorce Papers and Waiting Period

After the petition has been filed, the next step is to serve the divorce papers to the other spouse (the defendant). This can be done through a process server, law enforcement officer, or certified mail. After being served, the defendant has 20 days to file a response, as stated in Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure 1.302(5).

Mandatory Waiting Period

Iowa has a mandatory 90-day waiting period from when the respondent (the spouse who did not file for divorce) is served with divorce papers before the court finalizes the divorce (Iowa Code 598.19). The purpose of this waiting period is to allow for the possibility of reconciliation or to ensure that divorce is the path both parties wish to pursue. However, the court may waive this waiting period in certain circumstances if both parties agree and the court finds a good cause.

Forms Needed To File Divorce In Iowa (Free Download)

Forms Required in Divorce Without Minor Children Cases(Free Download)

Form 101: Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with no Minor or Dependent Adult Children—> Download Now

Form 104: Original Notice for Personal Service—> Download Now

Form 105 : Acceptance of Service—> Download Now

Form 106 : Directions of Service of original Notice—> Download Now

Form 107: Motion and Affidavit to Serve by Publication—> Download Now

Form 108: Original Notice by Publication—> Download Now

Form 109: Application and Affidavit to Defer Payment of Costs—> Download Now

Form 110: Affidavit of Service of Original Notice and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage—> Download Now

Form 111: Protected Information Disclosure—> Download Now

Form 115: Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with no Minor or Dependent Adult Children—> Download Now

Form 116: General Answer to a Petition—> Download Now

Form 122: Motion—> Download Now

Form 123 : Response to a Motion—> Download Now

Form 124 : Financial Affidavit for Dissolution of Marriage with no Minor Children—> Download Now

Form 125: Affidavit of Mailing Notice—> Download Now

Form 126: Notice of Intent to File Written Application for Default Decree—> Download Now

Form 127: Request for Relief in a Dissolution of Marriage with no Minor or Dependent Adult Children—> Download Now

Form 128: Settlement Agreement for a Dissolution of Marriage with no Minor or Dependent Adult Children—> Download Now

Forms Required in Divorce With Children Cases(Free Download)

Form 201 : Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Children—> Download Now

Form 202 : Coversheet for a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Children.—> Download Now

Form 203 : Confidential Information Form.—> Download Now

Form 204 : Original Notice for Personal Service.—> Download Now

Form 205 : Acceptance of Service of Original Notice.—> Download Now

Form 206 : Directions for Service of Original Notice—> Download Now

Form 207 : Motion and Affidavit to Serve by Publication.—> Download Now

Form 208 : Original Notice by Publication.—> Download Now

Form 209 : Application and Affidavit to Defer Payment of Costs.—> Download Now

Form 210 : Affidavit of Service of Original Notice and Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.—> Download Now

Form 211 : Protected Information Disclosure.—> Download Now

Form 212 : Joint Written Statement About Paternity—> Download Now

Form 213 : Motion to Disestablish Paternity—> Download Now

Form 215 : Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Children—> Download Now

Form 216 : General Answer to a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Children—> Download Now

Form 221 : Affidavit for Temporary Custody and Visitation—> Download Now

Form 222 : Motion in a Dissolution of Marriage With Children—> Download Now

Form 223 : Response to a Motion.—> Download Now

Form 224 : Financial Affidavit for a Dissolution of Marriage with Children—> Download Now

Form 225 : Affidavit of Mailing Notice—> Download Now

Form 226 :  Notice of Intent to File a Written Application for Default Decree.—> Download Now

Form 227 :  Request for Relief in a Dissolution of Marriage with Children.—> Download Now

Form 228 : Settlement Agreement for Dissolution of Marriage with Children.—> Download Now

Form 229 :  Form Agreed Parenting Plan.—> Download Now

Form 230 :  Proposed Parenting Plan.—> Download Now

Alimony (Spousal Support) in Iowa

Alimony, or spousal support or maintenance, is a series of payments made by one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. It is designed to help the receiving spouse maintain a standard of living similar to what they had during the marriage, primarily if they cannot support themselves adequately.

In Iowa, alimony is not an automatic right. The court decides whether to award alimony based on various factors outlined in Iowa Code 598.21A. The court may grant alimony 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 marital property, including whether additional property may need to be set aside for support.
  4. The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and when the action is commenced.
  5. The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, and custodial responsibilities for children.
  6. The feasibility of the party seeking maintenance becoming self-supporting at a standard of living comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage and the 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 law recognizes three types of alimony:

  1. Temporary Alimony: This type of alimony is awarded during the divorce proceedings to help the lower-earning spouse meet financial needs.
  2. Rehabilitative Alimony: This is awarded for a limited time and is meant to support a spouse while they acquire the necessary education or training to become self-supporting.
  3. Permanent Alimony: This is awarded indefinitely, usually in long marriages where one spouse cannot become self-supporting due to age, health conditions, or lack of employable skills.

Here is an example to understand alimony better: Suppose a couple has been married for 20 years. One spouse has been a homemaker throughout the marriage and lacks the skills or education to secure a high-paying job. The other spouse has a lucrative career. In this case, the court may award rehabilitative alimony to the homemaker spouse, providing them with financial support while they acquire skills or education to enter the workforce.

Child Custody and Child Support in Iowa


Child Custody in Iowa

In Iowa, as in other states, child custody refers to the legal rights and responsibilities parents have towards their children. There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody pertains to decision-making power about the child’s upbringing, such as decisions about education, healthcare, and religion. Physical custody refers to where the child lives.

According to Iowa Code 598.41, the court has the discretion to award joint or sole custody based on the best interest of the child. Joint custody means both parents share legal custody, decision-making responsibilities, and physical custody. Sole custody means only one parent has primary legal or physical custody.

Best Interests of the Child Standard

The ‘best interests of the child’ standard is paramount in all decisions about child custody in Iowa. The court considers several factors to determine what would best serve the child’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being. These factors may include but are not limited to:

  1. The child’s age, health, and emotional ties to each parent.
  2. The parent’s ability to provide stable, loving environments.
  3. The mental and physical health of the parents.
  4. Any history of domestic violence.
  5. The child’s ties to school, home, and the community.

Child Support in Iowa

Child support is a financial contribution paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent to assist with the costs of raising a child. In Iowa, child support is calculated using the Income Shares Model, as outlined in Iowa Code 598.21B.

The Income Shares Model calculates child support based on both parents’ net income. The model assumes that the child should receive the same proportion of parental income that they would have received if the parents were living together.

The Iowa Child Support Guidelines provide a detailed formula for calculating child support based on the number of children and the parent’s net income. Here’s a simple example:

Suppose one parent earns $3,000 per month and the other parent earns $2,000 per month. The combined income is $5,000. Let’s assume that, according to the Iowa Child Support Guidelines, the total cost to raise a child with a combined parental income of $5,000 per month is $1,000. Since the first parent earns 60% of the total income, they would be responsible for $600 per month. The second parent, who earns 40% of the total income, would be responsible for $400 per month. If the first parent is a non-custodial parent, they would typically pay $600 per month in child support.

Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) is responsible for enforcing child support orders. They can implement wage garnishment, tax offset, license suspension, and other methods to ensure child support is paid.

Keep in mind that child custody and child support laws can be complex, and the outcomes significantly affect both parents and children. Therefore, it’s advisable to seek legal counsel when dealing with these issues.

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  • How much is the divorce filing fees in Iowa?

    The filing fee for a divorce in Iowa was approximately $185. This fee is paid when the petitioner files the initial divorce paperwork with the court.

  • How long does it take to get an uncontested/mutual divorce in Iowa?

    The timeline for an uncontested divorce can vary in Iowa, but there are specific minimum time requirements.

    Iowa law includes a 90-day waiting period for divorces. This waiting period begins when the respondent (the spouse who did not file the divorce petition) is served with the divorce papers or when they file an Appearance or Answer, whichever comes first. This waiting period is mandatory and cannot be waived, except in certain circumstances where both parties agree, and the court finds that it would be in the best interest of the parties or their children to waive it.

    Suppose the divorce is uncontested and all required paperwork is completed correctly. In that case, the divorce can often be finalized shortly after this 90-day waiting period, assuming the court’s schedule allows for a final hearing to be held.

    However, the overall timeline can be influenced by several factors, including how quickly and accurately the necessary paperwork is completed, whether or not minor children are involved, and the court’s schedule. The process can take longer if there are disagreements or complications, even in an uncontested divorce.

    Remember that every case is unique, and it’s always a good idea to consult with a legal professional to get a clearer understanding of the timeline for your specific situation.

  • Can I file for divorce in Iowa if I got married in a different state?

    Yes, you can file for divorce in Iowa even if you were married in a different state. The location of your marriage generally does not affect your ability to get a divorce in Iowa. The key factor is residency.

    To file for divorce in Iowa, at least one of the spouses must have been a state resident for at least one year immediately before filing the divorce petition. The divorce petition is typically filed in the county where one of the spouses resides.

  • How to serve divorce papers in Iowa to the other party?

    There are several accepted methods for serving divorce papers in Iowa:

    1. Personal Service: This is the most common method of service. The divorce papers are delivered directly to the respondent by a sheriff’s deputy in the county where the respondent lives or works or by a private process server authorized to serve legal papers in Iowa. The server then files a return of service with the court as proof that the respondent received the documents.
    2. Service by Certified Mail: The petitioner can mail the divorce papers to the respondent via certified mail with the return receipt requested. Once signed by the respondent, the green return receipt card serves as proof of service.
    3. Service by Publication: If the respondent cannot be located after diligent efforts, the petitioner can ask the court for permission to serve the divorce papers by publication in a newspaper. This method is generally a last resort when other service methods have failed. The court requires a good faith effort to locate the respondent before allowing service by publication.
    4. Acceptance of Service: In some cases, the respondent may agree to accept the papers without formal service. The respondent signs an “Acceptance of Service” form, which is then filed with the court.

    It’s important to note that the respondent must be served within 90 days of filing the petition, according to Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure. Failure to properly serve the respondent can delay the divorce process. 


  • How do you get a divorce in Iowa when you don’t know where your spouse is?

    When you want to get a divorce in Iowa but don’t know your spouse’s whereabouts, you can still proceed with the divorce process by using a method called “service by publication.”

    Here are the steps you would typically follow:

    1. Attempt to Locate Your Spouse: Before the court allows service by publication, you must make a good-faith effort to locate your spouse. This could include contacting family members and friends, checking with their last known employer, or searching online. Consider hiring a private investigator.
    2. File the Divorce Petition: You’ll file the divorce petition with the court like you would for a regular divorce.
    3. Apply for Service by Publication: If you still cannot locate your spouse, you can petition the court for permission to serve the divorce papers by publication. This usually involves submitting an affidavit to the court detailing all your efforts to locate your spouse.
    4. Publication in a Newspaper: If the court grants your request, you will be allowed to publish a notice of the divorce action in a newspaper that is likely to be seen by your spouse. This newspaper is often in the last known location of your spouse. The notice must be published for several weeks as prescribed by Iowa law.
    5. Waiting Period: After the notice has been published for the required time, and if your spouse does not respond, you can proceed with the divorce. The court can issue a divorce decree even without your spouse’s participation.
  • How do I change my name back to my maiden name after a divorce in Iowa?

    In Iowa, if you wish to change your name back to your maiden name (or another former name) after a divorce, you can typically do so as part of the divorce proceedings.

    When filing for divorce, you can include a request for a name change in the divorce petition. This request should specify the full name you wish to resume using. The judge can then have the name changed as part of the final divorce decree.

    If the divorce has already been finalized and you did not request a name change, then you can still change your name, but the process is a bit more involved. You’ll need to file a separate Name Change Petition with the court, which includes a filing fee. This process also typically requires a notice of the intended name change to be published in a local newspaper and a court hearing.

    Once your name change is legally approved through a divorce decree or a separate name change order, you should update your name on all personal records, accounts, and identification documents. This includes your driver’s license, social security card, passport, bank accounts, credit cards, and other legal or financial records.

  • How are retirement accounts divided in a divorce?

    Dividing retirement accounts during a divorce can be a complex process, mainly because different rules apply to different types of accounts, and the division can have significant tax implications.

    In general, both vested and non-vested retirement benefits that were accrued during the marriage are considered marital property and thus subject to division in a divorce. This can include pensions, 401(k) accounts, IRA accounts, and other types of retirement savings.

    The method for dividing these accounts can vary:

    1. Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO): For pension plans and 401(k)-type plans, you usually need a court order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. The QDRO instructs the plan administrator on how to pay the non-employee spouse’s share of plan benefits. A QDRO allows funds to be separated and withdrawn without penalty, and, in most cases, it will enable the receiving spouse to roll over the funds into their retirement account.
    2. Transfer Incident to Divorce: For IRAs, the division is usually handled by directly transferring a set amount of money from one spouse’s IRA to the other’s, in a process known as a “transfer incident to divorce.” If the receiving spouse keeps the funds in an IRA account, no tax will be due at the transfer time.

    The actual division of these accounts depends on the divorce settlement agreement or court order. Some couples choose to split each account, while others may decide that one spouse will keep the retirement assets while the other spouse receives more of another type of asset.

  • How can I protect my business during a divorce?

    Protecting a business during a divorce can be a complex and delicate process. The extent to which a business may be considered marital property subject to division in a divorce can depend on various factors, including when the business was established, whether both spouses contributed to the business and the laws of the state where you live.

    Here are some strategies that may help protect a business during a divorce:

    1. Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement: If you established your business before you got married, a prenuptial agreement could specify that the business remains your separate property in the event of a divorce. If the business was established after marriage, a postnuptial agreement could serve a similar purpose.
    2. Establish a Trust: Placing the business in a trust can protect it from divorce proceedings, as the business technically belongs to the trust, not you or your spouse.
    3. Keep Business and Personal Finances Separate: Mixing business and personal finances can make establishing the business as separate property easier.
    4. Pay Yourself a Competitive Salary: If you don’t take a salary or pay yourself less than someone in your position would normally earn, your spouse could argue that the money that should have been household income was instead invested in the business, making the business a marital asset.
    5. Get a Fair Valuation: Use a neutral, professional business appraiser to determine the value of the business. This can help ensure a fair division of assets.
    6. Buy-Out or Trade-Off: If the business is considered a marital asset, you could consider options like buying out your spouse’s share or trading other assets to keep full ownership of the business.
  • How can I enforce a child support order if my ex-spouse refuses to pay?

    Enforcing a child support order when your ex-spouse refuses to pay can be challenging, but there are legal mechanisms to help you. In Iowa, as in most states, the Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) can assist parents in enforcing child support orders. Here are some of the steps you can take:

    1. Contact Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU): The CSRU can provide services to enforce child support orders, including collecting payments from the non-paying parent and ensuring they are given to the custodial parent.
    2. Income Withholding: If the non-paying parent is employed, the CSRU can issue an income withholding order to the employer, which requires the employer to withhold the child support amount from the parent’s wages.
    3. Interception of Federal Payments: If the non-paying parent is due to receive federal payments such as a tax refund, these funds can be intercepted and applied to the child support debt.
    4. License Suspension: If the non-paying parent continues to avoid child support obligations, the CSRU can recommend the suspension of their driver’s license, professional license, or recreational license.
    5. Passport Denial: The non-paying parent may be denied a passport for child support debt exceeding a certain amount until they pay their child support.
    6. Contempt of Court: You may ask the court to find your ex-spouse in contempt for not obeying the child support order. This can result in various penalties, including fines and jail time.
    7. Legal Representation: If these enforcement mechanisms are unsuccessful, consider hiring a private attorney. An attorney can provide legal advice tailored to your situation and represent your interests in court.

    Remember, the welfare of the child is of utmost importance. If your ex-spouse refuses to pay child support, it’s crucial to take action to ensure your child’s needs are met.


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