Iowa Divorce Law

Divorce – State Law Summary – Iowa

Notes:  This summary is not intended to be an all-inclusive summary of the laws of divorce in the State of Iowa, but does contain basic and other procedures.

Iowa 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. 598.5

Residency requirements
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.  598.2

The petition for divorce may be filed in the county where either party resides.  598.2

Name of court and title of the action/parties
An action for divorce in the State of Iowa is filed in the District Court. The title of the action initiating the proceedings is referred to as the Petition, while the title of the action granting the divorce is the Decree. The party who files the action for divorce is referred to as the Petitioner, while the other party is called the Respondent. 598.4

Legal separation
A petition shall be filed in separate maintenance and annulment actions as in actions for dissolution of marriage, and all applicable provisions of this chapter in relation thereto shall apply to separate maintenance and annulment actions  598.28

Waiting period
There is a ninety-day waiting period from the filing of the petition before the court will grant a judgment of dissolution of marriage. 598.19

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.  598.21

Distribution of property
Iowa is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court will divide the marital property between the parties as it deems equitable and just, after setting aside to each spouse any inherited property or gifts received by that party. Factors the court considers in dividing the property between the parties include:
1. The property brought to the marriage by each party.
2. The contribution of each party to the marriage.
3. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
4. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party.
5. The earning capacity of each party.
6. The desirability of awarding the family home to the party having custody of the children.
7. Any other relevant factor.  598.21

Child custody
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. Unless otherwise stated, each parent shall have equal rights to information regarding such things as the child’s medical, educational and law enforcement records.

A partial list of factors the court will consider in determining the best interests of the child include:
1.  Whether each parent would be a suitable custodian for the child.
2.  Whether the psychological and emotional needs and development of the child will suffer due to lack of active contact with and attention from both parents.
3.  Whether the parents can communicate with each other regarding the child’s needs.
4.  Whether both parents have actively cared for the child before and since the separation.
5.  Whether each parent can support the other parent’s relationship with the child.
6.  Whether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child’s wishes.
7.  Whether one or both parents agree or are opposed to joint custody.
8.  The geographic proximity of the parents.
9.  Any other relevant factor.  598.41

Child support
In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the court may order either or both parties to pay a reasonable amount necessary for the support of a child of the marriage. 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. 598.21

Grandparent visitation
The grandparents or great-grandparent of a child may petition the court for visitation rights when any of the following circumstances occur:
1.  The parents of the child are divorced.
2.  A petition for dissolution of marriage has been filed by one of the child’s parents.
3.  A parent of the child has died.
4.  The child has been placed in foster care.
5.  The parents of the child are divorced and the custodial parent is not the child of the grandparent.

Name change
Either party to a marriage may request as a part of the decree of dissolution or decree of annulment a change in the person’s name to either the name appearing on the person’s birth certificate or to the name the person had immediately prior to the marriage. If a party requests a name change other than to the name appearing on the person’s birth certificate or to the name the person had immediately prior to the marriage, the request shall be made under chapter 674. 598.37

Inside Iowa Divorce Law