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Divorce is a complex and emotional process, and in Iowa, it requires careful consideration and planning. If you’re considering divorce or have already decided to file, it’s important to understand the steps involved. In this article, I’ll outline the key steps to getting divorced in Iowa, including filing for divorce, serving your spouse with notice, and negotiating a settlement or going to trial.

The first step in getting divorced in Iowa is to file a petition with the court. The petition should include information about you, your spouse, your marriage, and any children you have. You’ll also need to pay a filing fee, which varies depending on the county you’re in. After you file, you’ll need to serve your spouse with notice of the divorce. This can be done either by mail or in person, and your spouse will have a certain amount of time to respond to the petition.

Once your spouse has been served, you’ll need to work out any issues related to property division, alimony, and child custody if you have children. If you and your spouse can agree on these issues, you’ll submit a written agreement to the court for approval. If you can’t agree, you’ll go to trial and a judge will make decisions for you. It’s important to work with an experienced divorce attorney throughout the process to ensure your rights are protected and you get the best outcome possible.

Filing for Divorce in Iowa

If you’ve decided to file for divorce in Iowa, you’ll need to navigate the legal process to ensure a smooth and successful outcome. Here are the steps you’ll need to take to file for divorce in Iowa:

  1. Meet residency requirements: To file for divorce in Iowa, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least one year. If you or your spouse has been a resident of Iowa for less than one year, you’ll have to wait until you meet the residency requirements.
  2. Choose a filing basis: Iowa recognizes both fault-based and no-fault grounds for divorce. If you choose a fault-based ground, such as adultery or abandonment, you must prove that your spouse engaged in that behavior. A no-fault divorce is when you and your spouse both agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
  3. Fill out the proper forms: To get started with a divorce, you’ll need to fill out a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. You’ll need to include information about your marriage, personal financial information, and any custody arrangements for your children.
  4. File the paperwork: Once you’ve completed the necessary forms, you’ll need to file them with the court in your county. You’ll also need to pay a filing fee, which varies by county.
  5. Serve your spouse: After you file the paperwork, you’ll need to have your spouse served with a copy of the divorce papers. This can be done by the county sheriff or a private process server.
  6. Wait for a response: Your spouse has 20 days to respond to the divorce papers. If they contest the divorce, the case will likely go to trial. If they don’t respond, you can ask for a default judgment.
  7. Attend a hearing: If your divorce goes to trial, you’ll need to attend a hearing where a judge will make a decision about the divorce settlement and any child custody or support arrangements.

Divorce can be a challenging and emotional experience, but knowing the steps involved can make it easier to navigate the process. By following these steps and working with a knowledgeable attorney, you can achieve a successful outcome and move forward with your life.

Requirements for Divorce in Iowa

If you’re looking to get a divorce in Iowa, it is important to understand the legal requirements for obtaining one. Here are the key requirements that you need to meet to file for divorce in Iowa:

  • Residency: One of the parties involved in the divorce must have been a resident of Iowa for at least one year before the divorce is filed. If both parties are Iowa residents, then there is no time requirement.
  • Grounds for Divorce: In Iowa, you can file for divorce on either fault or no-fault grounds. The no-fault option is to assert that the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning that there is no likelihood that the marriage can be saved. The fault grounds include adultery, desertion for one year or more, physical or mental cruelty, or willful abandonment for at least one year.
  • Separation Period: In Iowa, there is no requirement for a separation period before filing for divorce. However, if you are filing for a no-fault divorce, you will need to be separated for a period of 90 days before the divorce can be finalized.
  • Mediation: Iowa requires that all couples undergo mediation before going to trial, but mediation is not required if there has been a history of domestic abuse.
  • Child Custody: If there are children involved in the divorce, both parents must submit a written parenting plan that outlines how time with the child will be divided, how decisions will be made, and how disputes will be resolved.

It’s important to note that these are the general requirements for divorces in Iowa, but the specifics of each case can vary. It’s recommended that you consult with a qualified attorney to ensure that you follow all the necessary steps and meet the requirements for your particular situation.

Grounds For Divorce In Iowa

In Iowa, getting a divorce involves several steps, including the grounds for divorce. Grounds for divorce are reasons recognized by law that justify ending a marriage. In this section, I’ll outline the grounds for divorce in Iowa.

Iowa is a no-fault divorce state, which means that a spouse does not need to prove that the other spouse did something wrong in order to get a divorce. Instead, the only requirement for a divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning the marriage cannot be saved.

However, Iowa law recognizes several other grounds for divorce, including:

  1. Adultery: If a spouse engages in voluntary sexual intercourse with someone who is not their spouse, the aggrieved spouse can file for divorce.
  2. Desertion: If one spouse abandons the other without their consent and without a good reason for a year or longer, the abandoned spouse can file for divorce.
  3. Domestic abuse: If a spouse has physically or mentally abused the other spouse or their child, the abused spouse can file for divorce. The law recognizes both domestic violence and domestic assault as grounds for a divorce.

It’s important to note that just because Iowa recognizes fault-based grounds for divorce, it does not necessarily mean that proving fault will make a difference in a divorce case. Even if a spouse is proven to have committed adultery, for example, it does not necessarily mean that the other spouse will be awarded more property or child custody in the divorce settlement.

In summary, Iowa is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that the only requirement for a divorce is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. However, Iowa law recognizes several other grounds for divorce, including adultery, desertion, and domestic abuse. If you’re considering filing for divorce in Iowa, speaking with a knowledgeable attorney can help you understand your rights and options.

Residency Requirements for Divorce in Iowa

In order to file a petition for divorce in Iowa, you or your spouse must meet certain residency requirements. At least one party must have lived in Iowa for at least one year before filing for divorce. If both parties live in Iowa, then there is no minimum time requirement for how long they must have lived in the state before filing.

However, it is important to note that the residency requirement for divorce in Iowa is not the same as the requirement for legal separation in the state. In order to seek a legal separation in Iowa, the petitioner must have lived in the state for at least one year immediately before filing the petition. If the petitioner has not lived in Iowa for at least one year, they may still be able to file for a legal separation in Iowa if their spouse has lived in the state for at least one year.

It is also worth mentioning that in certain cases, the residency requirement may be waived by the court. An example of this is when the petitioner is in the military serving a duty or assignment in Iowa. Additionally, if the respondent has been personally served in Iowa with notice of the divorce action and fails to respond, the court may waive the residency requirement.

In summary, if one or both spouses meet the residency requirements outlined above, they may file for divorce in Iowa. It is important to note that residency requirements are not the same for legal separation in Iowa and may be waived in certain cases.

Property Division In Iowa

In Iowa, property division in divorce is based on the principle of equitable division, meaning that property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally.

If the divorcing couple can agree on how to divide their assets, the court will usually accept their agreement. If not, the court will divide the property by taking into account several factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of property, each spouse’s income and earning potential, and each spouse’s age and health.

Iowa law allows for the equitable division of both marital property (property acquired during the marriage) and separate property (property owned before the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance during the marriage).

However, division of property is not limited to tangible assets such as real estate, vehicles, and furniture. It also includes intangible assets such as pensions, retirement plans, and intellectual property.

The court may also consider any debts incurred by the couple while they were married, including mortgages, credit card debt, and car loans, when dividing property.

It is important to note that property division can be a complex and emotional process for divorcing couples. It is highly recommended that individuals going through a divorce consult with an experienced attorney to ensure their rights are protected and to reach a fair settlement.

Here is a summary table of key points related to property division in an Iowa divorce:

  • Principle of equitable division governs property division in Iowa divorce
  • Factors considered include length of marriage, contributions to property acquisition, income and earning potential, age and health
  • Types of property divided include marital property and separate property, both tangible and intangible
  • Debts incurred during the marriage are considered in property division
  • Legal representation is highly recommended to ensure fair settlement and protection of rights.

Child Custody and Support in Iowa Divorces

Child custody and support are often the most contentious issues in divorce proceedings. In Iowa, courts prioritize the best interest of the child when determining custody and child support.

Child Custody

In Iowa, there are two types of child custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child resides, and legal custody refers to the right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing.

When determining custody, the court considers various factors like the child’s wishes, parental relationship, mental and physical health of both parents, and the willingness of each parent to facilitate the child’s relationship with the other parent.

Iowa courts generally prefer joint legal custody, where both parents share decision-making rights. Joint physical custody can also be awarded, but the court will consider the distance between the parents’ residences, the child’s school location, and other factors before making a decision.

Child Support

Iowa child support guidelines use a formula based on the income of both parents, the number of children, and the amount of time the child spends with each parent. Under Iowa law, both parents are responsible for supporting their children financially, and child support payments are mandatory.

Parents can agree on a child support amount and present it to the court for approval, or the court can determine the appropriate amount. Child support may be reviewed every three years if requested, and modifications can be made if there has been a significant change in the parent’s circumstances, such as a change in income or a child turning 18.

Parents are also required to provide health insurance coverage for their children. The cost of medical and dental expenses not covered by insurance is generally split between the parents.

Process of Divorce Mediation in Iowa

Divorce is never an easy process, but mediation can often be a helpful option for couples looking to avoid the complexities and potential conflicts associated with litigation. In Iowa, mediation is a popular choice for divorce proceedings, and understanding the process can help couples make the best decision for their situation.

Step 1: Find a Mediator

The first step in the mediation process is to find a qualified mediator. It’s important to choose a mediator who is certified by the Iowa Supreme Court and has experience mediating divorce cases. Couples can use online directories or ask for recommendations from lawyers or friends who have gone through the mediation process.

Step 2: Schedule an Initial Mediation Session

Once a mediator is chosen, the couple will schedule an initial mediation session. During this session, the mediator will explain the mediation process, answer any questions the couple may have, and identify the issues that need to be resolved. The mediator will also set guidelines for communication and encourage the couple to be respectful and open-minded.

Step 3: Identify Issues and Begin Negotiations

After the first session, the couple and mediator will begin negotiating the terms of their divorce. This can include issues such as property division, child custody and visitation, child support, and alimony. The mediator will guide the conversation and help the couple come to an agreement that works for both parties.

Step 4: Reach a Settlement Agreement

Once all issues have been discussed and negotiated, the couple will work with the mediator to formalize their settlement agreement. This agreement will be submitted to the court for approval, and if approved, will become a legally binding agreement. It’s important for both parties to understand all aspects of the agreement before signing.

Step 5: File for Divorce

After the settlement agreement is signed, one of the parties will need to file for divorce in court. The settlement agreement will be included in the divorce papers and will be used to guide the divorce proceedings. If there are any issues that cannot be resolved through mediation, the court will make a decision based on Iowa law.

Mediation can be a helpful option for couples looking to avoid the complexities and potential conflicts associated with litigation. By understanding the mediation process in Iowa, couples can make informed decisions about their divorce proceedings.

Hiring a Divorce Lawyer in Iowa

If you and your spouse have decided to file for divorce in Iowa, you might consider hiring a divorce lawyer to represent you and guide you through the process. A divorce lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and obligations, negotiate a settlement agreement, and represent you in court if necessary. However, choosing the right lawyer is important. Here are a few steps to help you hire a divorce lawyer in Iowa:

  1. Research and compare lawyers: Do your research, and compare several lawyers’ websites, reviews, and qualifications. Consider factors such as experience, specialization, location, fees, and personality.
  2. Schedule consultations: Contact your selected lawyers and schedule initial consultations to discuss your case and ask questions. Consultations can be in-person, over the phone, or online.
  3. Prepare questions: Prepare a list of questions to ask the lawyers during the consultations. Questions may include their experience, approach to divorce cases, fees, and availability.
  4. Discuss fees: Discuss the lawyers’ fees and payment options during the consultations. Some lawyers charge a fixed fee, while others charge an hourly rate or retainer fee. Make sure you understand what services are included in the fees and what services may require additional fees.
  5. Review and sign a retainer agreement: If you decide to hire a lawyer, review and sign a retainer agreement before they start working on your case. The retainer agreement should outline the scope of services, fees, and payment arrangements.

It’s essential to find a qualified and experienced divorce lawyer who understands Iowa’s laws and court procedures to represent you effectively. Taking the time to research and choose the right lawyer can go a long way in reducing stress, saving time and money, and achieving a favorable outcome in your divorce case.

Alternative Divorce Options In Iowa

Divorce can be a difficult and emotional process to go through, but fortunately, Iowa offers alternative options to traditional litigation in order to make the process smoother. Here are some of the alternative divorce options you can consider in Iowa.


Mediation is a process where a neutral third-party mediator helps the parties involved reach an agreement. The mediator facilitates communication between the parties and can help them understand each other’s positions and interests. Mediation can be a cost-effective alternative to litigation and can often result in a more amicable outcome.

Collaborative divorce

Collaborative divorce is a process where the parties involved each hire their own attorney who works together to reach an agreement. This process often involves other professionals, such as financial planners and mental health experts, to help the parties make informed decisions.


Arbitration is a process where a neutral third-party arbitrator makes decisions on the issues in dispute. This process can be less formal and less expensive than traditional litigation, and the parties involved can choose the arbitrator they want to work with.

Court mediation

Many courts in Iowa offer mediation services to those going through a divorce. This process is similar to traditional mediation, but is often available at little to no cost to the parties involved. However, it’s important to note that the mediator is not necessarily a judge and any agreements made through court mediation must still be approved by a judge.

These alternative divorce options in Iowa can help you avoid the stress and expense of traditional litigation while still reaching a fair and amicable resolution. It’s important to consult with an experienced divorce attorney to determine which option is best for your unique situation.

Finalizing Divorce in Iowa

Once an Iowa court has granted a divorce, the parties will receive a copy of the decree of dissolution of marriage. The decree is the final judgment and sets forth the terms of the divorce, which may include property division, child custody, child support, alimony, and any other relevant issues.

If the parties have reached a settlement, one of the spouses’ attorneys will usually prepare the decree and submit it to the court for approval. However, if the judge decides that the proposed decree is not fair or equitable, the parties may have to attend a hearing to present evidence and arguments.

Once the decree has been approved and signed by the judge, it becomes effective, and the parties are bound by its terms. In most cases, the court will require each party to perform certain obligations, such as transferring property titles, paying support or alimony, or complying with custody or visitation arrangements.

If either of the parties fails to comply with the terms of the decree, the other party can ask the court to enforce the order. Additionally, if there is a significant change in the parties’ circumstances, such as a change in income or a relocation, either party may ask the court to modify the terms of the decree.

It is important for the parties to fully understand and comply with the terms of the decree to avoid legal complications or enforcement actions. If either party wants to challenge or modify the decree, it is best to consult with an experienced attorney who can help navigate the legal process and protect their rights.

Closing Thoughts

After going through the above steps, you should now have a better understanding of the divorce process in Iowa. While divorces can be emotional and stressful, it’s important to remember that taking the time to properly prepare can help make the process smoother.

Remember, every divorce case is unique and may involve additional steps or considerations. It’s always recommended to consult with a qualified attorney to guide you through the process and ensure that your rights are protected.

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