Divorce Laws in Iowa

Judge's scales and books with divorce laws

To file for divorce in Iowa, it is necessary to get acquitted with at least basic rules and requirements for divorce within the state. For you to better understand the process you will have to go through, we have provided answers to the most common questions spouses may have when preparing for the termination of their marital relationship.

Is Iowa a No-Fault Divorce State?

Iowa is among the no-fault divorce states, meaning that spouses do not have to prove each other’s fault in the breakdown of their marriage to get a divorce. However, it will not always mean that you will have an uncontested divorce in Iowa. If you and your spouse cannot avoid disputes regarding the divorce terms, your case will be contested, meaning you will need to spend much time and money to finalize it successfully.

An agreed-upon divorce process in Iowa is simpler and often less expensive. To start an uncontested case, a couple needs to decide on issues of child custody, support, property division, etc., out of court.

The Grounds for Divorce in Iowa

A man holds a cube with a picture of a scale and a man, which represent grounds for divorce.
In Iowa, establishing legal grounds for divorce is essential.

You can file for divorce in Iowa on no-fault grounds; fault-based reasons for marriage dissolution are not currently used within the state.

No-Fault Grounds

No-fault grounds for divorce in Iowa can be irreconcilable differences or incompatibility between spouses. In order to file for divorce, it is enough to state the breakdown of your marriage without any possibility of maintaining marital relations as the reason for your divorce.

Fault-Based Grounds

Iowa does not recognize grounds for divorce based on fault, such as adultery, abandonment, extreme cruelty, etc. Spouses don’t have to blame each other for any wrongdoing to dissolve the marriage.

Residency Requirements for Filing for Divorce in Iowa

The Iowa flag that is placed on the courthouse where divorce cases are held.
Meeting residency requirements is a crucial necessity in Iowa for filing a divorce.

According to section 598.5 of the Iowa Code, for getting a divorce in Iowa, a petitioner must have lived within the state for at least 1 year before filing the petition with the court.

However, there is an exception: if a defendant is a state resident and will be served personally, there are no residency requirements, and a petitioner can potentially start the divorce process right away. Spouses can file papers in the county where the respondent or petitioner lives.

How to File for Divorce in Iowa?

Filing for divorce in Iowa begins with preparing forms necessary for your case and submitting them to the court.

Here are the steps spouses must follow to get a divorce:

  1. Preparing a set of documents. The list of forms you may need will depend on whether you have children and other circumstances of the divorce. It usually includes mandatory papers such as a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, Original Notice, Financial Affidavit, and case-specific forms such as Proposed or Agreed Parenting Plan, etc.
  2. Filing forms with the court. You can file your documents on paper or online, depending on which method is used within your district. In counties where electronic filing for divorce has not yet been implemented, you can submit papers at the court clerk’s office.
  3. Serving the other party. You can serve the defendant in person or by mail, but only if they sign an Acceptance of Service. Otherwise, you will have to hire a sheriff, a private server, or ask someone not related to the case and over 18 years old to serve your spouse. After the respondent is served, you need to file proof of service with the court. It can be an Affidavit of Service or Acceptance of Service, depending on the way the documents were delivered to your spouse. The online serving procedure is available for spouses who are both registered through the eFile system.
  4. Receiving a response from the defendant. After the defendant gets the papers, they must provide an answer or a counterclaim. A counter-petition is filed if the respondent does not agree with the requests or information stated in the divorce complaint.
  5. Completing the waiting period. In Iowa, any divorce cannot be granted until the 90-day waiting period is over. During this time, spouses can prepare the necessary documents they have not yet submitted to the court, attend family counseling, etc.
  6. Finalizing the divorce process. The last stage of marriage dissolution is holding a court hearing, resolving any remaining disputes, and issuing a divorce decree by the court. If the case is uncontested and the judge has no objections to the information specified in the marital settlement agreement, they will grant a divorce.

If there are disagreements regarding the terms of divorce between spouses, the judge may schedule several more hearings until all issues of child custody, visitation, support, division of assets, etc., are resolved.

Please note that some of the steps may change depending on the different aspects of your divorce.

What Is the First Step in Iowa Divorce?

A man is at the start of the divorce process and intends to take the first step
The first step in an Iowa divorce involves filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the appropriate court.

When filing for divorce, your first step is to prepare a set of forms necessary for the case. You can hire a lawyer to assist you with the paperwork, but their services can be expensive.

You can also prepare all documents completely on your own, but in such a case, you should determine which paperwork you need and find the forms, learn the rules for filling them out, and spend much time writing down the requested information in each paper.

Alternatively, you may consider using an online service for completing divorce papers required for your marriage dissolution quickly, cost-efficiently, and stress-freely.

Where to File Your Divorce Case?

You can file for divorce online if e-filing services are available in your county or by paper with the clerk’s office.

If electronic filing is implemented in the district where you will submit documents, you will need to register through the eFile system and upload the forms through your personal account.

You can ask the court to file on paper even if your county has switched to electronic filing. For this, you need to give a good reason; for example, you do not have a computer or access to the Internet at home. If the court approves your request or e-filing is not necessary, you can submit forms at the clerk’s office in the county where you or the respondent lives.

The Filing Fees for Divorce in Iowa

The judge's gavel and the money you will need to pay to file for divorce
The filing fee for a divorce in Iowa varies by county but generally ranges from approximately $185 to $210, with potential additional fees for specific motions or services.

Regardless of how you file for marriage dissolution, the current filing fees for divorce in Iowa are around $270. This amount is required to be paid by all divorcing spouses. Exceptions can be made only for those couples who cannot afford filing fees due to low income. In that case, they can file a Form 209, called Application and Affidavit to Defer Payment of Costs, to ask the judge to exempt them from paying the fees.

How Much Does a Divorce Cost in Iowa?

The average cost of divorce in Iowa ranges from $3,000 to $15,000. The expenses for an uncontested divorce without a lawyer begin at a minimum of $265 for court fees and can go up to $1,000, including additional costs for document copies, notary services, etc.

If your divorce is agreed upon and you decide to hire an attorney, be prepared to pay $3,000-$5,000 more. The cost of contested cases can reach over $15,000-$17,000 depending on how many unresolved disputes spouses have.

How Long Does a Divorce Take in Iowa?

A woman used an hourglass to time how long her divorce process would take.
The difficulty of asset division in an Iowa divorce depends on the complexity of the marital estate, the degree of agreement between spouses.

Divorces in Iowa take, on average, 3-4 months if the case is uncontested and 5-12 months or even more if spouses cannot agree on the divorce terms. Any divorce within the state cannot be finalized until the Iowa divorce waiting period of 90 days has passed.

The countdown of the waiting period starts on the latest of the dates listed below:

  • the sheriff or process server served the defendant with the necessary documents;
  • the plaintiff filed an Acceptance of Service with the court;
  • spouses have attended family or other court-ordered counseling;
  • the plaintiff informed the defendant about the lawsuit by publishing a notice in the newspaper for the third time.

Although the waiting period determines the minimum divorce timeline, it is not always the decisive factor. The divorce duration will also depend on the workload of the court, the number of required court hearings, the schedule of lawyers, etc.

Is Iowa a 50/50 Divorce State?

In Iowa, marital assets and property are divided according to the principle of equitable distribution but not 50/50. It means that the judge will fairly share all your property acquired during the marriage and even before it if the other party contributed to it. The only exceptions are any gifts or inheritances one of you receives before or during a marriage.

If your case is uncontested, you can independently determine how to divide the property you have. If you resolve all disputes regarding sharing your ownership and sign the marital settlement agreement, the judge will check it and sign the divorce decree on your terms if the court has no objections.

How to Split up Assets During a Divorce in Iowa?

A man tears a banknote to divide it during a divorce process.
The difficulty of asset division in an Iowa divorce depends on the complexity of the marital estate and the level of financial transparency.

All joint marital assets will be divided by the court for reasons of fairness to each party and their children, if any. Most often, only the joint assets of the couple are subject to division, but if the court decides that it is unfair, the judge can also divide the separate property of each spouse.

Marital assets include real estate, businesses, cars, bank accounts, jewelry, antiques, and more. If the bank account was owned by one of the spouses before the marriage but became joint, it will be shared according to the equity distribution principle.

To start dividing assets, it is necessary to evaluate them first. For this task, couples often hire professional appraisers, especially if the amount of assets is significant.

When making a decision on sharing assets, the judge will consider a variety of factors, including:

  • age and financial and health status of each spouse;
  • how long the marriage lasted;
  • whether spousal support was provided to one of the parties;
  • what was the contribution of each spouse to the education, financial status, and professional skills of the other;
  • how spouses wish to divide their assets, etc.

In addition to assets, couples must also divide debts left after the divorce, including mortgages, car loans, and others.

How to Divide Property After Divorce?

Similar to assets owned by the couple, all marital property in Iowa will be shared equitably. According to divorce laws on marital property, the judge will divide only the joint property of the parties or also separate property if it is proven that one of the spouses increased its value.

Most often, spouses split their real estate so that each person receives proportional ownership, or they sell the family home in order to divide the proceeds from its sale in half. If there are minor children involved, some spouses leave the house as joint property and do not share it until the children reach adulthood.

To determine the terms of property division, the court takes into account:

  • which of spouses took care of children during the marriage and who worked;
  • what is the financial status of each party, and whether spouses can maintain the standard of living that they have during the marriage;
  • who has physical custody of minor children after the divorce and whether the family home needs to be preserved.

How to Manage Child Support and Alimony Under Iowa Divorce Laws?

Infographic of advice for alimony in iowa
Tips to help you reach an agreement with spouse on child support.

During a divorce in Iowa, the court may award spousal support or child support if minor children are involved in order to preserve the financial standard of living of all parties in the process.

After divorce, spouses who have children under 18 must maintain them together. Since children often live with one parent who supports all their basic financial needs, the other parent must pay child support to provide for the children on par with the other party. To calculate it, the judge considers each spouse’s monthly income and determines the amount they should allocate for child support.

Some other factors that affect the proportion of child support in Iowa are:

  • children’s standard of living before their parents’ divorce;
  • educational, medical, physical, and emotional needs of children;
  • financial status of both parents;
  • the amount of monthly expenses for the needs of children;
  • the opportunity for each parent to work and earn money.

Parents can independently determine what amount of money one of them will pay to the other for child support.

Spousal support in Iowa is usually appointed by the court to avoid financial inequality between divorcing spouses, especially when one of them cannot independently provide for themselves and maintain an acceptable standard of living after divorce.

There are four types of alimony in Iowa:

  1. Traditional – long-term support that is usually awarded to a spouse who is elderly, unable to achieve comfortable living conditions, or has taken on the obligation to stay at home to raise children.
  2. Reimbursement – if, during marriage, one of the parties helps the other get an education for a high-paying job, such spousal support can be assigned to reimburse the invested funds in professional development. It is short-term and usually lasts until the spouse compensates all the expenses of the other party for the specified needs.
  3. Rehabilitative – it is provided to spouses who need time to become financially independent. It can continue until the party receives enough education and gets a job to provide for themselves.
  4. Transitional – it is awarded when the divorcing parties can earn enough independently, but one needs temporary support to change the manner of living. Such expenses may be needed for relocation, additional job training, etc.

The amount of spousal support can be affected by:

  • education of each party;
  • spousal standard of living during marriage;
  • terms of property division;
  • duration of marital relations;
  • the state of health and age of both parties, etc.

The exact amount of child or spousal support cannot be determined in advance; it depends on the circumstances of divorce, the income of parties, and other case-specific factors.

How Does Adultery Affect Divorce in Iowa?

According to Iowa divorce laws, adultery is not a ground for divorce and cannot directly affect the outcome of your marriage dissolution. Iowa recognizes no-fault divorce, so neither you nor your spouse need to accuse the other of adultery in order to terminate your marital relations.

Will infidelity affect divorce in your case? It depends on whether you can prove that the adultery led to profligacy and dissipation of your joint assets. If so, the court may order the other party to reimburse you for the money spent on the affair.

The Bottom Line

You can get a divorce in Iowa after you meet the residency requirements, file the necessary paperwork with the court, and go through the rest of the steps required for your case. If your divorce is uncontested, you can proceed without hiring a lawyer.

To do this, you will have to prepare a set of forms on your own or complete them with the help of online document preparation service. Once your papers are ready, you can file for online divorce in Iowa if available in your county or submit the paperwork to the court clerk’s office. Using our online service, you can save your time and money and prepare for the first stage of divorce without any extra effort.