How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in Iowa in 2023?

Hourglass indicating the time it will take to obtain a divorce in Iowa

According to the Iowa Judicial Branch, the time to complete a divorce in Iowa can vary based on individual circumstances and court caseloads. In general, an uncontested divorce may take around 90 to 120 days from the filing date to the finalization. However, contested divorces, with disputes over issues like child custody and property division, can take longer, sometimes six months or more.

If you want to understand the divorce process better and find out the possible legal ways to speed it up, read this article till the end.

Iowa Divorce Waiting Period

The man timed on his watch the time it would take for the waiting period in the divorce process
The mandatory waiting period for divorce in Iowa allows parties to have time to consider the implications of the divorce before it is finalized.

No matter whether you apply for a contested or uncontested divorce, you still need to complete a mandatory waiting period, which is 90 days in Iowa. It is frequently called a cooling-off period, as divorcing spouses can reconsider their decision to end a marriage and reconcile.

Besides, spouses may use this time to handle various divorce-related issues and come to an agreement on asset and debt division, child custody and support, and visitation schedules.

Often, spouses should attend parenting classes or are ordered by the court to take part in counseling or mediation during the waiting period. This way, couples can resolve their disputes and potentially reach an amicable agreement.

Sometimes, it is possible to shorten or completely waive the 90-day divorce waiting period in Iowa. For that, either party must prepare an FL-122 Motion, where they explain their reasoning. The other party can oppose this request by submitting a form FL-123 Response to the district court clerk.

The decision to shorten the waiting period is usually left to the judge’s discretion. People can ask the court to reduce the waiting period for different reasons, such as:

  • either party wants to remarry while being deployed in the military
  • one spouse is expecting a child with another person whom they intend to marry
  • either spouse or children are subject to physical or emotional abuse.

If the request is reasonable, a judge may consider and approve it.

The Average Iowa Divorce Process Timeline

If you wonder, “How long is the divorce process in Iowa?” there is no definite answer as each case is unique and can take from 3 months to a year or more. However, it is possible to make rough calculations, considering obligatory timeframes during different divorce stages.

1) Filing the Petition

A petitioner must complete and file divorce papers to start a divorce officially. Preparing documents can take from a few days to several weeks, depending on whether you order paperwork from a reliable online service, hire a lawyer, or do everything yourself. After the papers are ready, filing with the court can be completed in one day.

Before working on the paperwork, ensure that residency requirements for divorce are met, meaning a petitioner has been living in the state for a minimum of 1 year, except for cases when a respondent is a state resident and will be served personally.

If you comply with this requirement, you can fill out divorce forms and submit them to a clerk. At this point, you must pay a filing fee, which is currently $265. If a petitioner experiences financial difficulties and can prove that, they can ask the court to waive the fee.

2) Serving the Spouse

A woman received an envelope with a package of documents for divorce
In Iowa, legal protocol mandates the service of divorce papers to the spouse as an essential step in initiating divorce proceedings.

A petitioner should complete the service in 90 days from filing with the court. It is possible to serve divorce papers to a defendant in different ways:

  • Delivering the papers in person or mailing them if your spouse is cooperative and will sign the Acceptance of Service.
  • Hiring a process server or a sheriff to hand-deliver the divorce papers.
  • Asking a third party over 18 to deliver documents and provide you with Affidavit of Service.
  • If you don’t know the current location of your spouse, or they are intentionally avoiding service, you may ask the court to allow service by publication.

Depending on the method chosen, the service can take from a few days to several weeks. Keep in mind that a mandatory 90-day waiting period starts from the date when the respondent was served. In the case of publication, the waiting period begins after the last day of notice publishing.

3) Response and Agreement

After receiving copies of divorce forms, a defendant has 20 days to prepare an answer, either agreeing with the divorce terms or filing a counterclaim. If they fail to provide a response, the court can issue a judgment by default, approving the requests of the other party specified in the Petition.

4) Disclosure of Financial Information

During a waiting period, both parties have to prepare a comprehensive overview of their financial situation, providing information on their income, expenses, debts, and other financial data. They may need to collect various documents such as bank statements, tax returns, investment records, pay stubs, etc. The disclosure can be completed in several days. If there are any suspicions that spouses have hidden assets, they will have to participate in the discovery process, prolonging this stage.

5) Settlement Agreement

The wife shows her husband where to sign the settlement agreement in a divorce
Crafting a settlement agreement in an Iowa divorce may present challenges contingent upon the extent of disagreement between parties and the need for compromise, necessitating careful consideration and legal guidance.

If spouses manage to reach an agreement on all divorce issues, they may fill out a written settlement agreement detailing their decisions. In it, they should specify the terms of child custody and support, property division, alimony, and all other divorce matters.

Some couples can negotiate a settlement on their own. Others choose mediation to resolve disputes. No matter what option works for you, it is highly advisable to complete a settlement agreement during a waiting period to avoid lengthy court proceedings.

6) Finalizing the Divorce

After spouses or their attorneys have negotiated the terms and found a mutually satisfying solution, they should submit the settlement agreement to the court for approval. The judge can start reviewing the case after the waiting period is over, and timelines will mostly depend on the court workload. If the judge finds the agreement fair, voluntary, and in compliance with Iowa law, it will become part of the final divorce decree.

At the end of the process, the judge will sign the final divorce decree, specifying the terms and conditions of marriage dissolution. Each party will receive a copy of the document.

Length Based on The Types of Divorce

Triple hourglasses indicating the duration of various types of divorces
The duration of divorce proceedings in Iowa can vary significantly based on factors such as the complexity of the case.

Probably, the most important factor that impacts the duration of divorce is its type, meaning whether it is contested or not.

Uncontested Divorce

The uncontested divorce timeframe typically ranges from 3 to 4 months. When spouses have agreed on all important divorce points and work cooperatively, they can expect their marriage to end legally shortly after a waiting period expires. The duration of the process will depend on the availability of judges and the court workload.

Contested Divorce

The average time to finalize a contested divorce is about a year. Resolving disputes, visiting mediation consultations, adjusting to attorneys’ schedules, and attending numerous court hearings are lengthy processes that prolong the overall divorce duration.

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