Filing for Divorce in Iowa

A divorce, called a “dissolution of marriage” in Iowa, is the legal ending of a marriage. The process includes a lot of paperwork and can get complicated when it comes to dividing property fairly.

Can I Get a Divorce Without an Attorney?

You can file your paperwork and try to negotiate terms with your spouse on your own, but this may not be a good idea. The legal issues are complex, and the process often can be emotional. A lawyer can help look out for your best interests and evaluate the situation objectively.

What Happens During a Divorce?

The divorce process starts when you file forms with the court in the county where either you or your spouse lives. The initial filing generally includes:

  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
  • Cover Sheet for a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
  • Confidential Information Form
  • Original Notice for Personal Service

The required information for the petition and cover sheet will differ depending on whether you have children. As your case moves forward, you may need to file other documents, such as a Financial Affidavit.

Serving the Documents

Your spouse must receive a copy of the Petition and Notice for Personal Service within 90 days of your filing. You may deliver them yourself or request the county sheriff or a process server to do so. Your spouse will then have a certain amount of time to answer your petition.

Your Iowa divorce cannot usually be finalized for at least 90 days after your spouse has been served.

Is Iowa a No-Fault Divorce State?

Yes, the state is not interested in assigning blame. You must simply show that the marriage is somehow broken and cannot be fixed.

How Is Property and Debt Divided?

Iowa uses a concept known as equitable distribution to divide property fairly, but not necessarily equally. Factors the court may consider in deciding what is fair include:

  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The current and future earnings capacity of both parties
  • How much each spouse contributed to the marriage
  • Benefits to the children of living in the family home

All marital property is subject to distribution. Non-marital property includes inheritances and gifts given to just one spouse, as well as vested pensions and businesses owned before the marriage. If marital and non-marital property have been combined, the whole will usually be considered marital property.

If you and your spouse can agree on a distribution plan on your own, the court will likely approve it, as long as it considers it fair.

Can I Change My Last Name?

Yes, both men and women who want to return to using a previous name may request a name change in the divorce petition. If approved, the court will include the new name in the final divorce decree.

If you decide after the divorce is final that you want to change your name, you will have to go through the state's regular name change process.

Can I Modify Terms of My Divorce After it Is Finalized?

The court may allow you to modify aspects of your final decree if you or your ex-spouse's circumstances change. Reasons for a change might include:

  • Significant change in income
  • Your children's needs have changed
  • Unexpected medical expenses

You may request a change by filing an Application to Modify Decree of Dissolution of Marriage and serving your ex-spouse with a copy.

Benefits of Legal Advice

Divorce can be messy and complicated. Even if you and your spouse agree on most issues, there may be legal complications you have not considered. A lawyer can help ensure the process goes smoothly and there will be no surprises down the road.

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