Divorce in Iowa: The Basics

Dissolution of marriage, often called divorce, is an increasingly common occurrence.   A divorce proceeding can be a tumultuous and emotional time for parties involved, but an understanding of the basic concepts and laws that apply in the divorce process can help protect your rights provide some peace of mind through the process. 

Iowa is a “no-fault” divorce state.  This means that neither person in the marriage has to do anything wrong, like committing a crime or adultery, in order to obtain a divorce.  The only thing that needs to be shown to the court is that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the legitimate objects of the marriage have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.  If one party decides that they want a divorce, there is nothing that the other party can do to prevent a divorce from happening. No one is ever stuck in a marriage.  

A divorce proceeding is started by filing a petition for dissolution of marriage by the petitioner (the person filing for divorce).   A person has to meet certain requirements in order to petition for a divorce in Iowa.  A petition for divorce is filed in the state where a person lives, not where the person was married.  The petitioner needs to have resided in the state for one year prior to obtaining the divorce and not solely for the purpose of obtaining a divorce.  At the end of the divorce proceedings, a judge will issue an order, often called a divorce decree, that declares the parties legally separated from each other and sets the rights and obligations of the parties going forward.  There are four main objectives that are accomplished by a divorce decree:
  1. Restoring the status of the parties to single people
  2. Dividing the assets of the parties equitably
  3. Determining if spousal support (often called alimony) is warranted 
  4. Determining custody of the children, if any, and setting a child support amount

A number of other potential issues may also need to be addressed during the process as well.   These include:
  1. Attorney’s fees
  2. Insurance
  3. College for the children
  4. Tax Matters

After the parties file for divorce, there is a 90 day waiting period before a divorce can become final, unless the court waives the waiting period for good cause.  After the decree is entered, the parties are then returned to the status of single people and are required to follow through with the Court’s order.  Consequences can occur from a failure to follow the court’s order, and monetary penalties and jail time can result.    

Iowa law recognizes same-sex marriage.  In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court decided Varnum v. Brien, which legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa.  As a result, Iowa law also allows for same-sex divorce, even if a couple wasn’t married in the state of Iowa. The same rules and requirements apply with equal force to heterosexual and homosexual marriages.  Further information on specific topics relating to divorce are available on GRL Law’s website.  If you are contemplating filing for a divorce, or have had divorce papers served upon you, call the attorneys at GRL Law to discuss your case to find out how to protect your rights and the rights of your loved ones.  

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