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Differences Between Pro Se Divorce With Children and Without Children in Iowa

In this article we discuss the differences between procuring a pro se divorce in Iowa with children and procuring one without children.  

  • Children in the Middle
  • Mediation
  • Parenting Plan

There are court forms available on the Iowa Courts website for those getting a pro se divorce, a divorce without the assistance of an attorney. The Iowa courts provide separate forms for pro se divorces with children and those without children. Be sure that you are using the correct forms. For more information on what a pro se divorce is and the general process, check out our article What is Pro Se Divorce?

Much of the process of a “pro se” divorce is the same with or without children. A petition and notice will still need to be filed with the county court by the “Petitioner” with the appropriate filing fees. These will need to be served upon the “Respondent”, the party who did not start the divorce proceeding. The Respondent will need to submit an answer or face a default decree. The differences begin once all the initial paperwork has been received by the court, during the minimum 90-day waiting period that the court must wait before issuing a final decree.  

Both parties will still need to submit several of the same information using different forms, such as the Financial Affidavit and Settlement Agreement if applicable. There are also some temporary orders that can be approved during this time. For more information see Applying for Temporary Orders in Divorce and Custody Cases. However, there are some additional requirements for divorces involving children or dependent adult children.

Children in the Middle

When parents who share children get divorced, absent an exemption, Iowa courts require both parents to attend a one-time four-hour course called Children in the Middle. This course seeks to make parents aware of the effects of divorce on children. Information on the cost and location of these courses is available online. Once this is complete, each parent will receive a completion certificate that they will need to file with the court. The parties will not be issued a final divorce decree until both parties have filed these certificates.  

Mediation

While mediation isn’t mandated by law in divorce cases, Iowa district courts are permitted to, and often do, require mediation where it may prove beneficial or is requested by a party. During this process, parties meet with a neutral party to see if they can reach any mutually agreeable resolutions before resorting to a trial. This process can be used for divorces with and without children. For more information, see Recent Changes to Mediation in Iowa | Iowa Mediation Changes 2021 (oflaherty-law.com).  

Parenting Plan

Parenting Plans are also unique to divorces with children. Parties are encouraged to file a Form 229: Agreed Parenting Plan during this time if they can agree on custody and visitation. If the parties cannot agree, each party should instead file Form 230: Proposed Parenting Plan. The judge will review each proposed plan during trial. The judge may hear witnesses for each parent (for more information, see Calling Witnesses in Iowa Divorce and Custody Cases (oflaherty-law.com)), and after hearing all parties, will ultimately issue a final decree that details the final parenting plan.

Divorce can be a complicated process. If you do not understand something or are unsure about what is required of you, please contact an attorney at O’Flaherty Law, P.C. for assistance.  

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