Couples who desire to end their marriage without a lot of disputes and emotional trauma can take advantage of free online forms. However, couples with complicated issues, such as significant assets, a family business, or custody disputes should speak with a family lawyer. Whether you decide to handle your own case or seek the help of an attorney, familiarizing yourself with the divorce process in Iowa will help you feel more comfortable about your case. To file for divorce in Iowa, at least one spouse must have lived in the state for a minimum of one year.
Iowa is a pure no-fault divorce state, which means neither spouse has to allege any wrongdoing by the other person. The parties simple state that there has been a breakdown of the marriage that cannot be repaired.
How to File
To begin your case, you must assemble the appropriate forms. People who wish to represent themselves can access free forms from the Iowa Judicial Branch.
The petitioning spouse must complete a written Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the clerk of court office and pay a filing fee. Certain Iowa counties accept electronic filing, which allows divorcing parties to file their paperwork without going to the courthouse. Iowa has two separate petition forms depending on whether the couple has children. Parties with no children must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with No Minor or Dependent Adult Children. Couples who have children or are expecting a child must file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with Children.
Additional Required Forms
In addition to the Petition, the filing spouse must also submit the following forms:
- Coversheet -- with children or without children
- Confidential Information Form (for paper filing only)
- Original Notice for Personal Service -- paper filing or electronic filing
- Protected Information Disclosure
If one spouse is asking for alimony and/or child support, both spouses must file a Financial Affidavit. This document contains information about your net worth, income, and expenses.
After the required forms have been filed, you must "serve" copies of all paperwork on the opposing party. You can hire a private process server to deliver your paperwork. Iowa law also allows you to use the sheriff's office or to deliver them yourself. When you prepare to serve the documents, you must provide your service person with a 'Directions for Service of Original Notice' form. The responding spouse has 20 days to file a response.
In Iowa, there is a 90-day waiting period before the divorce can be finalized. This is measured from the date a petition is served until the date the court enters a final divorce decree. However, the waiting period can be waived under certain circumstances.
- Duration of marriage
- Property each spouse brought to the marriage
- Each party's contributions to the assets during the marriage, including services as a homemaker
- Age, physical health, and emotional health of the parties
- Whether a party worked to support the other person while that person attended school
- Earning ability of each party
- Whether it is appropriate to award the family home to a party raising the children
- Any spousal support awards
- Financial circumstances of each party, including retirement accounts and pension benefits
- Tax consequences of property division
- Any written agreements regarding property division prepared by the spouses
- Any prenuptial agreements
Courts in Iowa award alimony, also known as "spousal maintenance," when it is appropriate to assist a spouse in making the financial transition from married life to being a single person. There are three types of alimony awards in Iowa.
This helps a spouse become self-supporting after the divorce.
This type of support compensates a spouse for financial sacrifices made during the marriage, such as supporting the other person while he or she attending college.
This is permanent alimony designed to support someone who is incapable of financially supporting herself. Courts in Iowa consider the following factors when deciding the amount and duration of alimony:
- Duration of the marriage
- Parties' age and physical and emotional health
- Distribution of assets
- Parties' education levels
- The earning ability of the support-seeking spouse
- Whether it is feasible for the support-seeking spouse to become self-supporting and how long it will take to achieve this goal
- The tax consequences of awarding alimony
- Any agreements by the parties
- The terms of any prenuptial agreements
Child Custody and Support
When there are children involved, the divorce process becomes more complicated. Besides property division, couples must also deal with concerns regarding child custody and child support.
Child custody laws are designed to ensure that the children's best interests are served and that both parents have an opportunity to develop a strong relationship with their children. When deciding how to award custody, Iowa courts consider the following factors:
- Whether each parent is an appropriate custodian
- Whether the child's psychological and emotional needs will suffer from lack of contact with a parent
- The parents' ability to communication with each other to discuss the child's needs
- Whether both parents have participated in caring for the child
- The parents' ability to support the child's relationship with the other person
- The child's wishes
- Whether a parent opposes joint custody
- The distance between the parents' homes
- Whether joint custody will jeopardize the child's safety
- Any history of domestic violence
Iowa divorce law is based on the premise that parents have a legal obligation to provide financial support for their children until they graduate from high school. Depending upon the circumstances, medical support and post-secondary educational support may also be required.
Iowa child support payments are based on the net income of both parents, excluding money obtained from public assistance payments or a stepparent's income. While there are child support calculators that can provide an estimate of how much child support a non-custodial parent might be expected to pay, it is best to consult a qualified attorney for information regarding your specific situation.
The Decision to Divorce
Although divorce is rarely an easy decision, the divorce process can unfold relatively smoothly as long as both spouses are willing to cooperate. If you and your spouse can reach an amicable agreement on all the matters in your case, it is possible to end your marriage peacefully and move forward with your life.