Divorce/Dissolution of Marriage

Divorce: A painful process with legal implications

Divorce is an emotionally challenging ordeal, often marked by anger, depression, anxiety, and uncertainty. An intimate relationship is ending, but so is a legal partnership defined and regulated by state laws. In states like Iowa, the divorce process is governed by a “no-fault” standard, where the primary legal requirement is demonstrating that the marriage is irreparably broken.

Even without children, divorce can be complicated. Money and property must be divided equitably. Assets acquired during the marriage are usually considered joint property, and sometimes even pre-marital assets may be shared. Even debt must be divided, often regardless of who incurred it.

You are not required to obtain a lawyer to get divorced, but having one makes the process much easier. An attorney provides crucial guidance on navigating the many legal rules and protecting your rights. Divorce encompasses both financial issues (like asset and debt division) and family matters (involving children, custody, and support), and the outcomes can vary greatly, from mutually agreed-upon settlements to contentious trials and hearings.

  • Iowa is considered a “no-fault” state, so it does not matter who “caused” the divorce.
  • The court will grant a divorce if you or your spouse allege that the marriage is broken beyond repair.
  • If your spouse lives elsewhere, you must be a resident of Iowa for one year before you can file for divorce, but if your spouse lives in Iowa, you may be able to file immediately.

FAQs for divorce in Iowa

There is no tangible advantage to being the first to file for divorce, or to being the first to serve divorce papers. There is a court fee to file, but that fee will be added court costs which may be assessed to one party or divided between the parties at the end of the proceedings.

Not necessarily. Though it is possible for the divorce to be finalized with neither party appearing in court, both parties will need to complete all court requirements for this to happen. Depending on the complexity of the proceedings, or if there is an issue that cannot be resolved, a court appearance may be required.

In Iowa, there is a minimum and mandatory 90-day waiting period after one party has been served with the divorce. A judge can waive this waiting period in certain circumstances. This doesn’t mean the case will be wrapped up within 90 days, though, depending on the complexity of the situation.

Traditional Divorce

A traditional divorce process in Iowa dissolves the legal marriage. If you and your spouse share any children who are minors, Iowa child custody laws will apply to your case. Financial assets, including property, retirement accounts, and debts will be litigated, as well.

Legal Separation

Legal separation refers specifically to a court-approved separation which defines legally enforceable rights and obligations, but does not permanently end the marriage. Legal separation is a formal designation that must be approved by a court.


While more rare than a divorce or a legal separation, annulments of marriage are available if certain conditions are met. This includes grounds like incest, bigamy, impotence, age restrictions, and others. In an annulment, the marriage was never valid to begin with.

Domestic Abuse

You should call an attorney or a helpline immediately if you or someone involved in the divorce is the victim or potential victim of domestic abuse. Legue Law can be reached at (563) 293-3113, and the Domestic Abuse Hotline can be reached at 1-800-942-0333.

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