How to File Divorce in Iowa

File Divorce in Iowa

If you are getting divorced in Iowa, this article can give you some basic information on how the process works.  Keep in mind that Iowa has one of the country’s longest residency periods, generally requiring a person seeking divorce to have been a resident of Iowa for at least a year before filing for divorce.  

Iowa loves mediation

The Iowa legislature has given judges discretion to order mediation if the judge thinks it is worthwhile or if either spouse requests it.  Some courts have really run with the concept.

For example, in many Iowa counties, the court will not schedule a trial unless the parties have first attempted mediation.

Mediation is a process where a trained, neutral person tries to work out an agreement between the spouses.  The mediator will usually speak to each spouse individually to get an understanding of what each spouse really wants.   Then the mediator will try to get the spouses to agree. These sessions sometimes go smoothly, and other times they can get very intense.  There is no successful outcome unless the spouses agree, though. If they deadlock, the mediator is not going to choose a winner the way a judge could.  

Grounds for divorce

Iowa only has no-fault grounds for divorce.  

That means that even if you are upset that your husband had an affair, you cannot get a divorce on the basis of adultery.  Instead, a person seeking divorce must simply state that there “has been a breakdown of the marriage 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.”  In other words, the marriage is dead and each spouse wants to move on.

Grounds for divorce

Attempts to reconcile

Iowa has a few quirks in its law that tries to give couples a chance to reconcile before they finalize a divorce.  

If one spouse objects to the divorce, it can be delayed for up to 60 days to allow the couple to go through some counseling.  

The law also imposes a 90-day waiting period before a final divorce decree can be granted.  The court can waive that requirement in special circumstances, but for the most part, a divorce in Iowa will take at least 90 days.  

Procedures for court action

The Iowa courts have provided some simple forms to help spouses get divorced at minimal expense.  Petitioning for divorce requires you to provide detailed information on all your children and their living arrangements.  The petitioner has to tell the court if he or she is seeking a court decision on things like custody, child support, or property division.

Once the petition is filed, the other spouse will have an opportunity to respond.  The couple can work towards an agreement that the court will simply review and approve.  If they cannot agree, however, the case will move forward. The couple will enter a period called discovery, where each side can get information from the other.  Then the case will ultimately be decided in a trial-like setting.

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