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If you have come across this article it is likely that you are considering filing or are ready to file a petition for divorce in Iowa. Naturally there are a lot of questions to be answered, like how do I serve my Iowa petition for divorce? You serve your petition for divorce either personally, by mail or by publication. As you will see later in the article, personal service is the best and is recommended. A lot of people also ask if they are required to file an answer to a divorce petition in Iowa. The answer to that is, you should file an answer or you might end up in a very difficult situation when the martial assets are divided and things like child custody, visitation and spousal support are decided on. Read on for more information about serving and answering a petition for divorce in Iowa.  

Serving the Divorce Petition:

Before we talk about service of the Iowa divorce petition we need to cover the basics of what you will be serving. In Iowa if you want to get a divorce, you need to fill out and file a petition for divorce and an original notice.

What is a divorce petition in Iowa?

An Iowa divorce petition is a document you file with the court asking that the court grant your dissolution of marriage. The petition being filed with the court starts the divorce process. Iowa is a no-fault state so you don’t have to provide a reason for the divorce other than the marriage is irretrievably broken.  

If you have minor children of the marriage, you will need to tell the court in the petition. Furthermore you must ask the court for what you want in regard to the children, where they should live and how often they should spend time, if any, with the other parent.  

A divorce petition in Iowa must also list all assets and debts of the marriage, Iowa is an equitable distribution state meaning the court will want to see any assets and debts from before and during the marriage, with the exception of anything that came to you by inheritance or gift.  

If you have minor children or substantial assets and debts, you would be best served consulting with an experienced Iowa family law attorney about filing for divorce.  

What is a divorce joint petition in Iowa?

A joint petition for divorce in Iowa is when both spouses file for divorce together, usually with at least the initial understanding that most if not all of the divorce will be uncontested. Note that even though the parties can file jointly and seem to have an understanding about how the marriage should end, these matters can quickly turn adversarial, with the parties disagreeing on one or many major points. Filing a joint petition will not “protect” you for having to engage in a court battle for things like child custody, spousal support or who gets the marital home. However, if the divorce continues to be amicable it is the fastest and least expensive way to divorce. Since the petition is joint and both parties sign the joint petition, there is no reason to worry about proper service like a contested divorce.  

How to serve a divorce petition in Iowa?

Once you have a petition filed, you need to serve a copy of the file stamped petition and your original notice on your spouse.  

Personal Service:

Personal service by an uninterested third party is always an ideal way to perform service. First, you will have a sworn statement from the server that they personally handed the petition either to your spouse or to someone allowed to legally accept service on their behalf. Next, you will avoid any unpleasant and potential ugly confrontations with your spouse. Finally, it will be easy for your spouse to spot you, a friend of yours or one of your family members if your spouse is trying to avoid service. The sheriff’s department or a professional process server would be ideal to complete personal service of the petition and notice.  

Service By Mail:

If for some reason personal service on your spouse cannot be accomplished, you can try to serve them by mail. Sending the petition and notice by certified mail or express carrier is not enough. Your spouse must sign and return a form stating that they have received the petition. If your spouse receives the petition but simply does not return the form, you are back to where you began.  

Service by Publication:

If personal service and service by mail do not work, you can always ask the Court for its permission that you serve by publication. This is typically done when the location of the spouse cannot be verified or when the spouse is actively trying to avoid being served. You typically need to at least try to get your spouse personally served or attempt service by mail. You cannot just ask to serve by publication without trying one of the more traditional methods a few times first.  

Once you have the court’s permission to serve by publication, you run a legal notice in a local newspaper serving a decent sized population. Depending on which Iowa county you are in the court may have a preferred newspaper or journal that they want you to use. Use the one the court recommends if they recommend one. Once the legal notice has run for a few weeks, you will need to file the appropriate paperwork attesting to the fact that service by publication was completed.

Answering a Divorce Petition in Iowa:

Response to divorce petition in Iowa:

You must file a response, otherwise known as an Answer or you will relinquish certain rights. If you do not Answer a petition, it will be deemed uncontested and the court will generally let the party who filed the petition win by default based on your lack of an Answer. In the Answer you have your opportunity to give your side of the situation and how you think things should be divided or what you want for any minor children of the marriage as far as custody, visitation and support.  

If a default divorce is granted against you, you can only get the default removed if you can show extraordinary circumstances and not much time has passed since the divorce order was entered. This will undoubtedly be time consuming and costly. It is far better to file an Answer in the time frame given to you on the divorce petition and original notice.  

Do I need an attorney to file an answer to a divorce petition in Iowa?

You are not required to have an attorney file an answer on your behalf in Iowa but if you have substantial assets and debts, minor children or believe that your spouse is going to ask for more than you think they are entitled to, you should hire an attorney to represent you.  

What happens is my spouse doesn't respond to the divorce petition?

If your spouse doesn’t file an answer to your petition for divorce then the court will grant you a default judgment. Typically if the deadline to file an answer has passed and there is still no word from your spouse, you request that the court give you a default. The court will set a hearing date and, if there is still no response from your spouse and they don’t show up for the hearing date, you will get what you asked for in your divorce petition.  

Even an uncontested divorce can be a stressful and uncertain time in your life and having an experienced advocate at your side throughout can make things a lot easier. Consulting with an experienced Iowa family law attorney is always your best option since they are familiar with the court process and can evaluate your personal situation and give you a general idea of what you can expect. Having someone on your side, ready and able to answer your questions and address your concerns will help the entire process go as smoothly as possible. You do not need to go through a divorce alone. If you are ready to file for divorce in Iowa and have other questions or need the assistance of a lawyer, give us a call at (630) 324-6666, we would be happy to help you!  

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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