Iowa Law Overview
is formally known as "dissolution of marriage," a term that is legally
synonymous with "divorce." The statutes pertaining to dissolution of marriage
are found in Chapter 598 of the Iowa
Code. Iowa recognizes "no fault divorce," which
allows a marriage to be dissolved when there is evidence of a breakdown of the
relationship with no likelihood it can be preserved. A spouse is not required to blame the other
spouse for any particular misdeed or wrong.
A judge may require parties to participate in conciliation efforts for a
period of sixty days. Iowa law requires a ninety-day waiting
period, from the date a petition is served, before the court may enter a final
decree. Under certain circumstances the
court may waive the waiting period.
Must an attorney represent
professional legal representation is not mandatory, it is often warranted
because of the complex nature of the law and court procedures. Litigants who represent themselves may miss
important issues or fail to anticipate the consequences of their lawsuits, such
as the tax implications of a divorce.
For these reasons, we strongly suggest that people who are contemplating
divorce consult with an attorney.
How to Begin a Divorce
person seeking a divorce must file a written Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the clerk of court office
and pay a filing fee. Forms and Instructions for Petitioner.
copy of the petition together with an original notice must be served on the
opposing party. The opposing party then
has a reasonable time to file an answer.
If the issue is contested, the case may eventually be set for hearing or
trial before a judge. Each judicial
district may have special procedures as part of the divorce process, including
should I do if I'm served with divorce papers?
we suggest that you consult with an attorney.
Persons against whom a civil lawsuit has been filed have the opportunity
to file a response, known as an answer. Please note that there is a fixed period of
time in which a person must file their answer: generally the deadline is twenty-calendar
days from the date of service (the date the defendant receives a copy of the
petition), but this could vary according to individual circumstances of the
case. Forms and Instructions for Respondent.
am getting divorced and I want to change my name to my maiden name.
can be easily done while the dissolution action is pending. Include your request for name change in your
petition and the court can include the change in the final decree.
your dissolution is final and your name was not changed in the final decree,
you must use the procedure in Iowa
598.37. See the information located
elsewhere on this site for changing your name.
do I determine if my divorce is final?
a party to a lawsuit, you or your attorney should have received a copy of the
final decree. If you do not have a copy,
you will need to go to the clerk of court office in the county where the dissolution
How do I change certain
provisions in my divorce decree?
Iowa law allows
a court to subsequently modify provisions of a dissolution decree when there is
a substantial change in circumstances such as:
Changes in employment or earning capacity.
Receipt by one party of an inheritance,
pension or gift.
Changes in medical expenses of one party.
Changes in the number of needs of dependents.
Changes in residence.
Changes in the needs of children governed by
Contempt of existing orders.
begin an action you must file a written Application
to Modify Decree of Dissolution of Marriage at the clerk of court office
and pay a filing fee. The procedure is
similar to filing for a divorce: the opposing party is served a copy of the
petition and allowed a period of time to answer. If the opposing party contests the case, it
may eventually be set for hearing in front of a judge. If you and the opposing party agree ahead of
time to the terms of the modification you may file a written agreement, called
a "stipulation," with the petition.
dissolution proceedings, modifications are often complicated, and therefore, we
advise people to seek advice and assistance from competent legal counsel.
have a divorce decree from another state that I want to enforce in Iowa.
must provide full faith and credit to court orders of other states. However, enforcing a dissolution order,
particularly an order for child support, custody, or visitation, from another
state may be quite complicated. Seek
assistance from an attorney. If the
matter involves the question of enforcing a child support order, the Child
Support Recovery Unit may assist you.
laws concerning legal separation can be found at Iowa Code section
laws concerning annulment of marriage see Iowa Code section