Iowa Divorce FAQ

Divorce – State FAQ – Iowa

Residency requirements, venue and procedures

Q: How long must I have lived in Iowa prior to filing for divorce in an Iowa court?

A: Iowa law requires either that the Respondent be a resident of the State of Iowa, or, that the Plaintiff be a resident in good faith of the State of Iowa for a minimum of one year immediately prior to the filing of the petition for divorce.

Q: What are the terms used to identify the parties in a divorce proceeding?

A: The party filing the action is called the Petitioner, while the other party to the divorce is referred to as the Respondent.

Q: What is “venue,” and what is the proper venue for a divorce case?

A: “Venue” refers to which type of court and in what locality the case is filed. In Iowa, proper venue for the divorce action is the District Court. The petition for divorce may be filed in the county where either party resides

Q: What is the title of the document initiating the action for divorce? The order granting the divorce?

A: The title of the document initiating the divorce proceeding is the Petition, while the title of the order granting the divorce is referred to as the Decree.

Q: Are there any waiting periods associated with a divorce action?

A: There is a ninety day waiting period from the filing of the petition before the court will grant a judgment of dissolution of marriage.

Grounds for divorce

Q: What is meant by “grounds for divorce”?

A: A “ground” for divorce is a “reason” for divorce. A set of judicially recognized reasons for divorce exist in Iowa. You must use one or more of these reasons to justify your divorce.

Q: What are the recognized grounds for divorce in Iowa?

A: There is one ground for divorce in Iowa. The law permits divorces based upon the breakdown of the marital 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.

Spousal support/alimony

Q: What does the term “spousal support” (or, “alimony”) mean?

A: “Spousal support” (sometimes called “alimony”) is money paid by one spouse to the other due to the payee spouse’s loss of the benefit of the payor spouse’s income due to the divorce.

Q: Is spousal support available while the divorce is pending in court, or only after the divorce has become final?

A: The court may order that one spouse support the other during the pendancy of the divorce action and/or after the divorce has become final. Support awarded pending the final decree of divorce is not to extend beyond the period of time necessary for the prosecution of the divorce action.

Q: What factors will the court consider when determining how much alimony to award to a party?

A: The courts may award alimony to either spouse for a limited or indefinite time, after considering the following factors:

1. The length of the marriage.
2. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
3. The distribution of property.
4. The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and the time the action is commenced.
5. The earning capacity of the party seeking support.
6. The feasibility of the party seeking support becoming self-supporting.
7. The tax consequences to each party.
8. Any mutual agreement between the parties.
9. And any other relevant factors.

Distribution of property

Q: On what basis does the court decide how marital property is divided?

A: Iowa is a so-called “equitable distribution” state. This means that the division of property and debts between the divorcing parties should be fair and equitable, but not necessarily equal. While the trial court’s discretion will not be disturbed on appeal without a showing of clear abuse, the court will consider the factors enumerated on the Iowa Divorce Main Page.

Q: Is the “separate property” of one spouse subject to being divided up?

A: The question here is whether property “belonging to” one of the parties should be included in the marital estate for purposes of an equitable division. Generally, separate property acquired before the marriage or by gift or inheritance during the marriage may be excluded from the marital estate if neither the property nor its income has been used for the common benefit of the parties during their marriage.

Q: What if the parties occasionally use an item of separate property (for example, silver table utensils inherited by the wife) for the benefit of both parties?

A: The property may be subject to division. Where the parties regularly use property acquired by one party before marriage for the common benefit of the parties, it is more likely to be available for consideration in dividing property. The frequency of use may be considered by the court in making the decision.

Child custody and visitation

Q: What is child custody and visitation?

A: “Child custody” refers to which parent will have legal custody of the child(ren), i.e. with whom the child(ren) will live. “Visitation” is the topic of the non custodial parent’s ability to visit/spend time with the child(ren).

Q: If the parents cannot agree on child custody and visitation issues, on what basis will the court decide?

A: Iowa courts will decide the issue of custody based upon the best interests of the child, including liberal visitation rights where appropriate, to insure the child the opportunity for the maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents, and which will encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child. A of factors the court will consider in determining the best interests of the child can be viewed on the Iowa Divorce Main Page.

Child support

Q: What is “child support”?

A: Child support is money paid by the non custodial parent to the custodial parent in order to meet the needs of the child(ren).

Q: To what should the parties look for guidance regarding amount of child support to be paid? What standard will the court use if the parties cannot agree?

A: The Iowa legislature has established child support guidelines which establish the presumptive correct amount of child support. A variation from the guidelines shall not be considered without a record or written finding, based on stated reasons, that the guidelines would be unjust or inappropriate.

Q: What is mediation and is it required?

A: Mediation is a non binding form of resolving disputes whereby a neutral third party will help the parties to resolve their issues. In Iowa, a court can order the parties to attend mediation sessions in hopes of resolving their problems before using the court to resolve disputes.

Inside Iowa Divorce FAQ