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Heather Jones

When considering getting a divorce in Iowa there are five steps to take that you need to know about. A lot of people wonder what paperwork they will need to get a divorce in Iowa or how fast can they get a divorce in Iowa. You will need an original notice, a petition and proper service to start the divorce process in Iowa and if the divorce is uncontested there is a 90 day waiting period for the divorce to be ordered by the court. Once granted by the court, your divorce will be a matter of public record, although certain sensitive information will be sealed. Often people want to know if they will need a lawyer for a divorce in Iowa and the answer is, if it is anything more than a very simple divorce you should consult with an experienced Iowa family law attorney.  

Read our article on Iowa Divorce FAQs to learn more about what happens during an Iowa divorce case.  

1 - Residency Requirement and Waiting Period

If the respondent (not the petitioner) is a current resident of Iowa then the residency requirement is met. The petitioner will need to have been a resident of Iowa for one year prior to filing for divorce.  

Once you have filed the petition for divorce, there is a 90 day waiting period for an uncontested divorce. If the divorce is contested, it will take longer.  

You will need to consider whether your spouse is going to fight the divorce or the equitable division of assets and debts. Additionally if there are minor children of the marriage, you will be required to complete a mandatory education course and to attempt to agree to a parenting plan with your spouse. You should also think about whether you need financial support for yourself during and after the divorce. You will also need to think about child support, custody and visitation. In some cases, you may want to consider legal separation.

What is the first step in getting an Iowa divorce?

The first step is to file a petition for divorce and then properly serve it on your spouse along with an original notice. Read our article Should I File For Divorce First? to learn more about what happens if you file first versus if you are served divorce papers.

Is there a fast way to get a divorce in Iowa?

If your divorce is 100% uncontested you can have it granted in 90 days but not before. The 90 day waiting period is mandatory in Iowa. Note that you should never count on the divorce being fast. Sometimes it looks like your spouse won’t contest it until an issue related to minor children or money appears. Always be prepared for the possibility that the divorce can quickly go from uncontested to contested. Iowa is a No-Fault state, meaning that if there is evidence of an irreparable marriage, such as an extramarital affair, the marriage will be dissolved. Learn more about how an extramarital affair can affect your divorce here.

How long does it take to get divorced in Iowa?

If service is proper and the divorce is uncontested you can have a divorce granted 90 days after your spouse receives and signs the paperwork. If the divorce is contested then it could go on for significantly longer. Read our article How Hard Is It To Get Divorced In Iowa? to learn more.

2 - File Paperwork To Begin Your Iowa Divorce

What are the grounds for divorce in Iowa?

Iowa is a “no-fault” state, you simply have to tell the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken. There is nothing for you to prove in order to get a divorce in Iowa.  

Where do I get Iowa divorce papers?

You can get divorce forms from the Iowa Court online. However, if you have children or marital assets you should consult with an experienced Iowa family attorney.  

Can you file your own divorce papers in Iowa?

Yes you can file your own divorce papers in Iowa but if you have any minor children or marital assets and debts, you should consult with an attorney. Divorce can be difficult to navigate and you might end up having it take longer that it needs to if you file paperwork incorrectly or are unable to meet the legal requirements necessary for divorce.  

What forms do I need for divorce in Iowa?  

Notice, petition and proper service. You will also be required to pay a filing fee or ask the court for a waiver of the filing fee. If you have minor children or require financial support while the divorce is being litigated, you may need to ask for a temporary order from the court pending the final decree of divorce. You will also need to complete and file a confidential information form that you do not share or serve on your spouse.  

When do I need a lawyer for my Iowa divorce?

If it is contested, if you have minor children or if you and your spouse own significant assets and/or have significant debt acquired during the marriage you should consult with an experienced Iowa family law attorney. If you are trying to represent yourself in court, read our article to learn more about Pro Se Divorces.

What if I don't know where my spouse is?

If you cannot locate your spouse for personal service then you may serve by publication (run a notice in an approved newspaper) but you genuinely need to try and locate them first and have them served personally. You usually have to try at least a few times to complete personal service before the court will allow service by publication. You can hire a process server or use your local sheriff’s department to accomplish personal service.  

3 - Try to work out a settlement agreement

During the 90 day waiting period you will need to file a financial affidavit. The court will not issue a decree of divorce without both parties filing one if there are minor children of the marriage.

Ideally, the parties will create a list of marital assets and debts and agree on how they should be split between the divorcing parties. Iowa is an equitable division state and anything acquired by both spouses, even prior to or after the marriage will be distributed unless it came to the spouse through gift or inheritance. During an Iowa divorce, you also need to consider your spouse’s right to pensions following the divorce.

What if me and my spouse disagree on bills before the divorce is final?

If the issue is shared debt, then you can attempt to work it out via mediation, which several courts automatically order anyway or you have to litigate that matter. You and your spouse will be required to cover the cost of the mediation. If you need money to pay for expenses prior to the divorce being final, you must ask the court for a temporary order instructing how the bills should be paid.  

4 - Do I have to go to court to get a divorce in Iowa?

Yes you do have to make at least one court appearance to get a divorce in Iowa. The court may allow you to call in or appear via video online, depending on the court.  

Do the parties have to appear if it is uncontested?

Yes, even if the divorce is simple and uncontested you do have to appear at a hearing for the judge to ask you a few questions and to examine that all required paperwork is in order.  

If it is contested or the parenting plan needs to be approved by the court you will have to make a court appearance at a hearing and perhaps a trial. Your attorney can let you know what the expectation is for appearing in a court of law. If you are calling witnesses during your case, learn more about what you need from a witness during an Iowa divorce or custody case.

5 - Final Decree (order) of Divorce

Once all required paperwork has been submitted and any parenting plan and martial settlement agreement has been negotiated, the Court will enter a decree of divorce. The decree of divorce is also an order of the court, so if the Court instructs the parties to pay any type of support or to adhere to a child custody and visitation schedule, you must do as the Court orders you in that document.  

Many people ask, “will my Iowa divorce become public record?” The answer is yes, since it is a court proceeding your Iowa divorce will become a matter of public record but sensitive information regarding the identity of minors and financial information will be sealed.

Once the court has entered a decree of divorce the clerk will send you or your attorney a copy. The petitioner must fill out one final form, a report of dissolution of marriage form, and return it to the court.  

If you are considering divorce in Iowa and need someone to guide you through a complicated process, please feel free to reach out to us at O’Flaherty Law. Divorce is a stressful process with many unknowns and there is no need to go through this process alone. Our highly experienced and aggressive Iowa family law attorneys can make sure that you get the best possible result. Learn what happens during an initial consultation with our attorneys and get in touch with us today by giving us a call at 630-324-6666 or filling out our confidential contact form today.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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