How to File for Divorce in Iowa in 10 Steps

Woman filling out documents to file for divorce

To get a divorce in Iowa, you need to comply with the state legal requirements and follow several steps, from preparing a set of forms to waiting until a judge issues a divorce decree.

The specifics of the divorce process in Iowa can vary depending on whether your case is contested, that is, whether you and your spouse have any disputes regarding child-related matters, alimony, division of assets and debts, etc.

Below, you will find a basic overview of the step-by-step divorce process so that you can prepare for filing in court on your own if you have an uncontested marriage dissolution.

Step 1: Reach an Agreement with Your Spouse

Spouses reading their divorce agreement
Reaching an agreement with a spouse will make your Iowa divorce much easier.

Your first step for divorce will be to agree with your spouse on the divorce conditions to make it uncontested. An agreed-upon divorce is typically shorter, less stressful, and not as expensive as a contested one. To file for an uncontested divorce in Iowa, you and the other party will need to reach an agreement on:

  • child custody, visitation, and support;
  • spousal support;
  • property division, including all assets, liabilities, and debts.

Iowa is a no-fault divorce state, so acceptable grounds for your marriage dissolution may be the breakdown of marital relations when there is no possibility the spouses can reconcile.

Step 2: Meet Residency Requirements

There are no Iowa divorce residency requirements for initiating the marriage dissolution process if the respondent lives within the state and can be served with divorce papers in person. Otherwise, the plaintiff must have resided in Iowa for at least 12 months before filing. You can submit the divorce forms to the court in the county where you or your spouse live.

Step 3: Complete the Forms

Woman filling out divorce papers
The complexity of completing divorce forms in Iowa can vary based on the parties’ understanding of the required information.

To start the process of divorce, you need to fill in and sign the forms required for your case. The set of mandatory legal papers will vary depending on the circumstances of divorce and may include a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Original Notice for Personal Service, Protected Information Disclosure, etc.

You can determine on your own which documents you need and download Iowa divorce forms online from the Iowa Judicial Branch website. However, preparing divorce papers can be confusing and time-consuming. To save time and effort, consider using our reliable and helpful service to complete Iowa divorce forms online.

Step 4: File a Petition  

As the petitioner, you need to submit prepared documents to the court to officially start the divorce. The other spouse will be the respondent. Before filing for divorce in Iowa, contact the court clerk to check if electronic filing is available within the county; if not, you should submit the documents to the clerk’s office. However, if e-filing is implemented in your county, you must register through the eFile system and upload the papers there.

You can request the judge to allow you to file divorce documents offline if you, for some reason, are unable to submit them online. Whatever method you use, you must pay filing fees or complete an Application and Affidavit to Defer Payment of Costs and submit it to the court.

Step 5: Serve Your Spouse

A man serves divorce papers to his wife
The respondent has to respond to divorce papers within the specified timeframe.

After you file a lawsuit, you must notify the defendant by serving them with the necessary papers. Divorce laws in Iowa require all spouses to serve the other party regardless of whether their case is contested or not. If you filed for divorce online and your party has a registered account, an electronic service procedure will be completed through the eFile system.

Otherwise, you can serve the respondent in person or by regular mail if they will sign an Acceptance of Service. If they are not cooperative, you can ask a sheriff, private server, or other person of at least 18 years old to deliver the necessary paperwork. After the defendant receives the papers, file an Acceptance of Service or Affidavit of Service with the court.

Upon the court’s permission, you can publish a notice in a newspaper if you do not know where the other party currently resides.

Step 6: Complete the Waiting Period

The Iowa divorce waiting period is 90 days from one of the following actions:

  • the defendant was served with divorce documents,
  • the plaintiff files an Acceptance of Service,
  • twenty days have passed after the notice about the lawsuit was published for the third time in the newspaper,
  • spouses have completed family counseling, if required. 

During the waiting period, you can prepare forms that are still not filed or attend court-ordered consultations. In some cases, the judge may waive the mandatory waiting period. It is possible when there is abuse or other unacceptable behavior by one spouse towards the other spouse or children, and it is necessary to protect their rights immediately.

Step 7: Submit an Affidavit and Consent

When getting a divorce in Iowa, each spouse must provide a Financial Affidavit disclosing financial information and an Affidavit of Parental Consent if they have minor children. These forms are necessary for the court to review the agreements between parties on the division of assets and resolution of child-related issues. You can file them online, if possible in your county, or submit them to the court clerk’s office.

Step 8: Submit the Settlement Agreement to the Court

If you and your spouse have agreed on the divorce terms, you need to prepare and submit a divorce settlement agreement form to the court. In it, you and your spouse will specify your decisions on custody, support, and visitation of minor children, spousal support, and property division.

Step 9: Attend Court Hearing 

Judge begins divorce hearing
The difficulty of a court hearing in an Iowa divorce is contingent upon the complexity of issues to be resolved.

If your case is uncontested and the judge has no objections to your marital agreement, they can issue a divorce decree after the 90-day waiting period has expired. It will be based on the decisions you made with your spouse.

If you and your spouse cannot resolve disputed issues or the judge considers your agreements inconsistent with current legislation, the court will schedule a hearing for your case. To prepare for trial, you must make copies of documents filed with the court, including a Financial Affidavit, Parenting Plan if minor children are involved, etc.

Step 10: Finalize the Divorce Decree

After the court hearing, the judge will fill out a final divorce decree and file it with the clerk’s office. If you submit documents through the eFile system, you will receive a notification about it through the e-filing account. If you filed in person with the clerk’s office, you may get a copy of the degree from the clerk.

To finalize the legal process of divorce after the judge grants it, you will need to get the Report of Dissolution of Marriage or Annulment form from the clerk, complete it, and give it back to the clerk’s office.