Filing For Divorce in Iowa

Filing For Divorce in Iowa

Getting a Divorce in Iowa? Divorce Law Cheat Sheet for the State of Iowa

1. What are the residency requirements for filing for divorce in Iowa?

You or your spouse must have been a resident of Iowa for at least a year before filing for divorce. You also have to specify in which county you lived, and you have to state in your petition that you didn’t become a resident of Iowa just for the purpose of getting a divorce there.

2. Does Iowa have a waiting period?

Yes, the court will not grant you a divorce until at least 90 days after you filed, unless there is some reason that the court agrees is urgent enough to warrant hearing your case sooner.

3. Does the state have grounds for divorce?

In Iowa, you can file for divorce on the grounds that there has been a breakdown in your marriage and there is no reason to believe that your marriage can be saved.

4. How does Iowa determine the division of property?

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You and your spouse are encouraged to come up with a settlement on your own and present it to the court. If you can’t agree, the court will divide your property for you.

The court will look at what is most equitable, or fair, in dividing your property. In Iowa, the court will divide all of your property except what you or your spouse received as a gift or inheritance. In deciding what is fair, the court will consider:

  • How long you were married.
  • The property you and your spouse each brought to your marriage.
  • You and your spouse’s contributions to your marriage, including caring for your home or children.
  • You and your spouse’s ages and physical and emotional health.
  • What contribution you or your spouse might have made to the education or career of the other.
  • You and your spouse’s earning capacities, including your education, training, work experience and how long you might have been out of the job market.
  • What responsibilities you or your spouse will have toward your children.
  • How long it would take and how much it would cost for you or your spouse to get the education and training necessary for a job that would offer you a standard of living.
  • Similar to what you had while you were married.
  • Whether it would be best to give your home to you or your spouse so that your children can live in that home with you.
  • Any alimony awarded in your case and whether property should be awarded instead.
  • You and your spouse’s economic circumstances, including pension benefits the tax situation that each of you would face after a division of property.
  • Any written agreement between you and your spouse regarding your division of property the terms of a prenuptial agreement, if you have one.
  • Any other factors the court decides are relevant.

5. Does Iowa require mediation before a divorce is granted?

Mediation is not required in Iowa, but the court may order it in your case if necessary.

6. How does the state determine child custody?

Legal custody and physical custody are two different things. Legal custody outlines how involved each parent is in the major decisions of a child’s life — where a child goes to school, what faith he or she is raised in and other biggies.

Physical custody addresses where a child will live and with whom. Visitation is then negotiated based your physical custody arrangement.

The court will award custody based on the best interest of your child. It will seek an arrangement that allows both you and your spouse ongoing and frequent contact with your child and shared responsibilities for your child, as long as that is in the best interest of your child. If there is evidence that you or your spouse has a history of domestic violence, it is assumed that it would not be in your child’s best interest for that parent to have custody.

In determining just what is in your child’s best interest, the court will look at:

  • Whether each of you would be suitable for custody of your child.
  • Whether your child’s psychological and emotional needs and development would suffer without contact with and attention from both you and your spouse.
  • Whether you and your spouse can communicate with each other regarding your child’s needs.
  • Whether both you and your spouse have actively cared for your child before and since your separation.
  • Whether each of you can support the other parent’s relationship with your child.
  • Your child’s wishes, if the court thinks he or she is mature enough to have a preference.
  • Whether you or your spouse agrees with or opposes joint custody.
  • How close you and your spouse live.
  • Whether the safety of your child, other children or the other parent will be jeopardized by joint custody or by unsupervised visitation.
  • Whether there is a history of domestic abuse.

The court may order an investigation of you and your spouse’s home situations and parenting abilities to determine what is in your child’s best interest.

You and your spouse will have to take part in a court-approved parenting course within 45 days of filing for divorce, unless the court finds some good reason why you should be excused. An approved course will include information regarding divorce and its affect on children and family relationships; parenting skills for divorcing parents; children’s needs and coping techniques; and the financial responsibilities of parents after divorce. You each will have to submit a certification of completion to the court before it will grant a decree.

The court also may require counseling for your child.

7. How does the state calculate child support?

Iowa determines child support based on state guidelines. You and your spouse will complete a series of worksheets that take into account your incomes, deductions, taxes and the like to come up with an amount. Visitation and number of children also are part of the calculation. The income of the parent from whom support is sought will be considered the non-custodial parent income for the guidelines, regardless of legal custody.

The court also will look at your specific case to be sure it covers your child’s needs and takes into account any other children for whom you or your spouse are paying support. It will order a health benefit plan for your child if available to either of you at a reasonable cost.

The court also may order payments toward a college education for your child. It will consider your child’s age, his or her abilities and financial resources, whether your child is independent, and you and your spouse’s financial conditions.

The cost of college in this situation is based on what it would cost to go to an in-state public school for bachelor’s degree. The court will determine what, if any, your child should be required to pay; what financial aid, loans or scholarships would be available; and what your child could earn from a job while going to school. The rest of the cost is divided between you and your spouse.

Your child has to meet certain standards to claim this amount for college. Any child who has disowned or refused to acknowledge a parent is ineligible. Your child has to share his or her grades with you and maintain at least a median GPA.

8. How does the state determine and calculate alimony?

Alimony, sometimes called spousal support or maintenance, may or may not be a part of your case. If one of you requests it, the court will take into consideration:

  • How long you were married.
  • You and your spouse’s ages and physical and emotional health.
  • The results of your division of property in your divorce.
  • You and your spouse’s educational levels, both at the time that you were married and at the time that you filed for divorce.
  • The earning capacity of the one seeking alimony, including educational background, training, skills, work experience, any absence from the job market, responsibilities for children after your divorce and the time and expense necessary to get the education or training you need for a job.
  • Whether it’s possible for the one seeking alimony to become self-supporting and reach a standard of living similar to what you had while you were married, and how long that would take.
  • The tax situation you each would face if alimony were awarded.
  • Any agreement between you and your spouse regarding help (financial or otherwise) that one of you provided the other with the idea that he or she would return the favor.
  • The terms of a prenuptial agreement, if you have one.
  • Any other factors the court decides are relevant to your case.

9. Is there a waiting period before remarriage in Iowa?

No, you are free to remarry after the court delivers the final judgment ending your marriage.


You can find Iowa’s state statutes online here.

Iowa provides child support worksheets online here.

Please note: Local and state laws change constantly, therefore this information is for educational purposes only. We do our best to keep state-specific information up-to-date, but please contact us to discuss your unique situation.

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