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Heather Jones

In Iowa, deciding between divorce and legal separation is a pivotal choice that impacts your life significantly. This article analyzes both options, shedding light on important considerations such as legal implications, personal circumstances, and financial consequences. Divorce ends marriage in Iowa; legal separation allows the couple to live apart while remaining married, both need to go through the court process. Whether you’re leaning towards ending your marriage or seeking space with legal separation, we unravel the nuances to help you in this difficult time.

Key Takeaways

  • Divorce ends marriage in Iowa; legal separation allows the couple to live apart while remaining married, both need to go through the court process.
  • The choice between divorce and legal separation is influenced by beliefs, finances, and child custody - each with unique implications.
  • It's important to understand Iowa's residency requirements, waiting periods, and modification possibilities.

What is Legal Separation in Iowa?

In Iowa you must petition the court for a legal separation. Iowa legal separation does not terminate the marriage, you are still legally married. The court can enter an order of separation that covers issues like spousal maintenance and child custody and visitation but you have to ask the court to convert the separation into a divorce if you want to marry someone else or to simply be legally single.  

What is considered legally separated in Iowa?

Many couples tend to think that if one spouse moves out of the shared residence and gets their own apartment or lives at a different marital property that it constitutes a “separation” but that is not accurate in the eyes of the legal system. That would simply be a physical separation, not a legal separation and it offers no protection or clarity for any party involved. Furthermore this would be considered an “ambiguous” separation, with nothing that either spouse can rely on to show what the separation really means for both parties. When you have a legal separation, there will be agreed upon terms in writing so that everyone understands the situation.

In order to be considered legally separated you need to petition the court to grant you a legal separation and receive an order from the court stating that you are.  

After the Iowa court enters an order granting your legal separation you are considered legally separated. You will need to ask the court to convert the legal separation into a divorce if you decide that you no longer want to be legally married.  

Why get a legal separation instead of divorce in Iowa?

There are many reasons why a couple may elect to become legally separated instead of divorcing. Here are a few of the most common reasons:

  • To maintain a sense of stability for the minor children of the marriage
  • Time and space to explore if divorce is something they really want
  • Religious or spiritual reasons for not wanting a divorce
  • The parties want separate lives but also want the financial benefits of a legal marriage, for example to stay on an insurance policy

Legal Separation vs. Divorce

Legal separation has the same residency requirements that a divorce in Iowa does, you must be a resident of Iowa for at least one year to petition the court for a legal separation. If you are filing for the separation and your spouse is a resident of Iowa, you do not need to personally meet the residency requirement to file for legal separation in Iowa. Legal separation also has the same minimum 90 day waiting period that divorce in Iowa requires. Once the waiting period is over and if all of the required paperwork is in order, the court will enter an order declaring you legally separated.  

In Iowa, a legal separation can be almost identical to a divorce. You do not need to provide the court with any grounds, or reasons, to get legally separated. You and your spouse can live apart, and have an order in place for things like spousal support, child support, child custody and visitation but you are still legally married. Something to think about is that legal separation in Iowa costs about the same as an Iowa divorce but you will not be free to remarry.  

Is dating while separated adultery in Iowa?

Going on dates with other people is not considered adultery. If you enter into a physical relationship or interaction of an adult nature with another person while married to someone else, it is technically adultery. Iowa is a no-fault divorce state so the issue of adultery is not taken into consideration when the court is adjudicating a divorce proceeding. On the other hand, if the relationship negatively affects any time you spend with minor children it could impact any custody battle that might occur. Think very carefully before entering into any type of outside romantic relationship prior to being legally divorced.  

What should you not do while legally separated?

It’s important to always keep in mind that you are still legally married and therefore any choices you make will impact your partner, any children and any legal proceedings down the road. There are a few big “don’ts” when it comes to your actions during a legal separation. Here are a few of the most important:

  • Don’t stop spending time with your children
  • Don’t pay for anything that is not ordered by the court
  • Don’t start seeing someone else right away
  • Don’t make any large purchases or sales (for example a new sports car or a boat)
  • Don’t make the separation public knowledge
  • Do follow the terms of any separation agreement  
  • Do follow the orders of the court

If you can refrain from treating a legal separation like it is an actual divorce, you will end up in a stronger position to handle either getting a divorce or getting back together with your spouse.  

Considering parting ways from your spouse, whatever the reason or reasons is a difficult decision for many. It can be especially hard if there are minor children who will be impacted by the decision or if the marriage has lasted for many years.  

If you are wondering if an Iowa legal separation is the better option for you instead of filing for divorce, you should consult with an experienced Iowa family law attorney who can discuss your personal goals and assist you in developing a plan for both your family and yourself moving forward. Feel free to give us a call at (630) 324-6666 or fill out our confidential contact form. We would be happy to sit down and discuss your goals with 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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