Iowa Divorce Laws & Resources

Here is the Iowa divorce information you need, providing you with the tools to make the best decisions in your situation. You can educate yourself about the pertinent divorce laws or use the online child support calculator to estimate the amount of child support for your case. You can find divorce and separation forms which you can download in addition to online divorce services if you want to do your own divorce. If you need legal assistance, there is the option for locating divorce lawyers in your area to manage your divorce for you. There are also groups offering divorce support, domestic violence resources, and additional resources.

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Divorce Lawyers

Need a family lawyer? You can request a divorce case evaluation by a qualified local divorce attorney and find out what your options are. 

Divorce and Separation Forms

Separation Forms - If you and your husband can agree on all the relevant issues, you can purchase and download your own separation forms from this service. With step-by-step instructions to walk you through the process, you can fill out your own separation papers at home and file the paperwork yourself.

Divorce Papers - For uncontested divorces, this is one of the best online services for preparing your Iowa divorce papers. By walking you through a series of questions and answers (with detailed explanations), you can complete the papers at your own pace. You'll also receive detailed filing instructions to complete the process once everything is complete.

Iowa Divorce Support Groups

Iowa City Parkview Church has a divorce recovery group that meets periodically throughout the year. You can find out more about the group and meeting times by calling (319) 354-5580.

You can also look up additional organizations in your area by visiting our divorce groups page. There are separation and divorce support meetings, groups for children affected by divorce, and domestic abuse support organizations.

Domestic Violence Services

Victim Service Programs in IA 

Iowa Divorce Laws

By WomansDivorce

In Iowa, the legal terminology for divorce is "Dissolution of marriage". In the following discussion, the terms may be used interchangeably.

Iowa Residency Requirements for Divorce and Separation:
The person filing for a divorce or separation must live in the state for at least one year prior to filing, unless his or her spouse would be considered a resident of the state and is served with divorce papers by personal service.

Where do you file for a divorce in Iowa? 
The petition for divorce must be filed in the district court of the county where either spouse lives. Once the other party has been served with the divorce petition, he or she has 20 days to file an answer or respond to the petition.

Is there a waiting period before a divorce will be granted?
Yes. A divorce decree won't be granted until 90 days have passed since the divorce petition was served or until conciliation (if ordered) is completed, except in cases where the court determines granting the decree sooner is necessary to protect a spouse's rights or interests.

What is Conciliation?
Conciliation is basically court-ordered marriage counseling for a period of 60 days to determine if the marriage can be saved. The court can waive the conciliation requirement if there is evidence of domestic abuse.

Iowa Legal Separation:
A legal separation will be granted in Iowa based on the breakdown of the marriage to the point where reconciliation is improbable. With a legal separation agreement, a married couple can address issues concerning child custody and support, spousal maintenance, division of assets and debts, etc. A legal separation does not dissolve a couple's marital status.

Annulment in Iowa:
To qualify for an annulment, the court needs to determine that the marriage was never valid in the first place (void) or voidable due to certain circumstances. An annulment may be granted for the following reasons:

  1. Where the spouses are close blood-relations. A person may not marry his/her aunt or uncle, brother or sister, niece or nephew, grandchild, or a first cousin.
  2. If either party was under the age of 18 and did not have the written permission of a parent or guardian consenting to the marriage.
  3. When the marriage was entered into by one party still married to third person.
  4. If either party was unable to consummate the marriage relationship.
  5. If a spouse is under guardianship and lacks the ability to contract a valid marriage

All children born of an annulled marriage will be considered legitimate.

What are the grounds for divorce in Iowa?
Iowa is a no-fault state in which the court only requires proof that the marriage is irretrievably broken with no hope of reconciliation. If a divorce is granted due to the mental illness of one spouse, the court may order ongoing support for that spouse unless it would cause undue hardship for the obligated spouse.

Temporary Orders:
While a divorce is pending, the court may set temporary orders for support and custody, the appointment of a guardian ad litem for the children, and outline a visitation schedule for the minor children of the marriage.

Will we have to go to court?
A couple may get a divorce without a hearing if they agree in writing that the marriage is irretrievably broken, have filed all the required documents, and have a signed settlement agreement outlining all the divorce issues. A hearing is also not required if the respondent has answered the divorce petition, the waiting period has expired, the petitioner has certified in writing that the marriage is irretrievably broken, and all the required documents have been filed with the court.

If the above requirements are not met (i.e. you both don't agree the marriage is broken, you can't reach an agreement, or you haven't filed all the proper paperwork), then a hearing will be scheduled after the 90-day waiting period is over. Before setting a hearing date, the court may order the couple to participate in mediation to settle their disputes.

How will the assets and debts be divided?
Property which was owned prior to the marriage, or acquired due to inheritance or by gift, is considered separate property and will not be divided in the divorce. Debts incurred prior to the marriage shall also remain the sole responsibility of the spouse who acquired the debt.

All other assets and debts acquired during the marriage are considered marital property. If the couple cannot mutually agree how to divide the marital estate, the court will take into account the following factors in order to reach an equitable division:

  • How long the couple was married.
  • How old each spouse is, as well as their emotional and physical health.
  • How much property each spouse brought into the marriage.
  • The provisions of agreements made after the couple were married.
  • Each spouses contribution to the marriage, including taking care of the home and children.
  • The support given to the other spouse during advanced schooling or training to further his or her career.
  • The ability of each spouse to be self-supporting and maintain a lifestyle similar to that experienced during the marriage. To make this determination, a judge considers the educational background, training and career skills, work history and absences from the job market, parental duties, and the expense and time it would take to become self-supporting.
  • The custody arrangements for the children and whether it would be appropriate to have the custodial parent remain in the family home with the children.
  • Whether property division should be used in place of alimony payments.
  • Other financial circumstances, including pension benefits, of each spouse.
  • How the property division will affect each spouse's taxes.
  • Any other considerations the court deems relevant to reach an equitable distribution

Once the court has settled the property distribution and it is entered into a divorce decree, it may not be modified.

Iowa Alimony:
Either spouse may be awarded spousal support. When determining the amount and duration of payments, the court will take into account:

  • How long the couple was married.
  • How old each spouse is, as well as their physical and emotional health.
  • How property and debt obligations will be allocated in the property settlement.
  • The level of education of each spouse before they married as compared to that at the time of the divorce petition was filed.
  • The ability of the spouse seeking alimony to be self-supporting and maintain a lifestyle similar to that experienced during the marriage. The court will take into consideration the educational background, training and career skills, work history and absences from the job market, parental duties, and the expense and time it would take to become self-supporting.
  • The tax consequences to each spouse.
  • Whether the couple mutually agreed that financial or other contributions by one spouse would be reciprocated in the future by the other spouse.
  • Any provisions of a post-marital agreement.
  • Any other factors the court considers relevant

Substantial and on-going changes in circumstances or the remarriage of the spouse receiving alimony can justify a modification of the alimony.

Name Change:
Iowa allows either spouse to request a name change as part of the divorce decree or annulment, requesting resumption of either their birth name or the name they had prior to the marriage.

Iowa Custody Issues:
If a couple has minor children, the court requires the parents to participate in a court-approved special class for divorcing parents within 45 days of serving the divorce petition. This requirement may be waived for good cause, including having previously participated in the same or an equivalent course. The court may also appoint an attorney to represent the best interest of the children during the divorce proceedings.

When determining custody of the children, the court generally awards joint legal custody to encourage the ongoing interaction between the children and each parent. But, if there is evidence of a history of domestic violence or abuse towards a parent or child, the court will rule otherwise.

If the parents cannot mutually agree on the custody arrangements for the children, the court will take the following factors into consideration in determining whether joint custody is appropriate:

  • Whether one parent is restricting contact between the child and the other parent. If there has been a history of domestic abuse, the court doesn't consider the fact that a parent relocated out of fear as a factor against that parent when determining custody and visitation.
  • If there is a history of domestic violence and whether ongoing contact would result in physical or emotional harm to the child or parent if joint custody was awarded.
  • The parenting capabilities of each parent and whether they actively care for the child.
  • If the child would suffer because of the restriction of on-going contact with each parent.
  • The ability of the parents to communicate with each other about the needs of their child and whether they will encourage the ongoing relationship between the child and the other parent.
  • The wishes of the parents in regard to joint custody.
  • The wishes of the child, with regards to the age and developmental maturity of the child.
  • Whether the parents live within close proximity to each other.
  • Whether joint custody or unsupervised visitation would endanger the child or the other parent.

If physical custody is awarded to only one parent, that parent is responsible for supporting the child's relationship with the other parent. In split-custody situations where each parent will have physical custody of one or more children, the court may require a visitation plan to encourage ongoing contact between the children and the other parent. Physical custody doesn't affect the other parent in regard to joint legal custody, including the right of the parent to participate in decisions concerning the child's medical care, schooling, religion, and extracurricular activities.

It's important to note that relocation of a parent may be grounds for a custody modification. If a parent is moving the child more than 150 miles away and the court determines that it would result in a substantial change in circumstances, the court may modify the custody arrangements to maintain the existing relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent. The modifications may include extending visitation during school breaks and summer vacation and scheduled phone contact.

Child Support in Iowa:
Child support is determined using the Child Support Guidelines set out by the supreme court of Iowa taking into consideration each parent's income, the number of dependent children, other children being supported by a parent, and the custody arrangements. Child support orders will include provisions for medical support for the children and either parent may be required to carry medical coverage for the children. High premium costs for medical coverage may be considered as reason to vary from the support guidelines.

Child support payments are to be paid to the child support collection service instead of directly to the other parent. In cases where there is an income withholding order, payments shall also be directed to the collection services center.

Child support continues until a child graduates from high school (or the equivalent), but not past the age of 19. Child support may also continue for a child who will be unable to become self-support and would be likely to become a public charge. Child support may be modified at some point due to a significant change in circumstances such as the remarriage of either parent, a change in income, the addition of more dependents, receiving an inheritance or pension, etc.

Iowa Code/ Statutes - TITLE XV Subtitle 1 - Domestic Relations