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Iowa Divorce Laws
Residency and Filing Requirements:In order to file for a dissolution of marriage in Iowa, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed. The requirements are as follows:
There is a 1 year residency requirement for all spouses filing in the state, unless the plaintiff in the case is not a resident, then he or she does not have a residency requirement in order to file for a dissolution of marriage.
The parties shall file for a dissolution of marriage in the county where either party resides. No decree dissolving a marriage shall be granted in any proceeding before ninety days shall have elapsed from the day the original notice is served. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.2, 598.6 and 598.19)
Grounds for Filing:The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must declare the appropriate Iowa grounds upon which the dissolution of marriage is being sought. The appropriate lawful ground will be that which the parties agree upon and can substantiate, or that which the filing spouse desires to prove to the court. The dissolution of marriage grounds are as follows:
The court will grant a dissolution of marriage based upon the following grounds:
Allege that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the legitimate objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.5 and 598.17)
Filing Spouse Title:Petitioner. The Petitioner is the spouse who initiates the filing procedure with the family law or domestic relations court.
Non-Filing Spouse Title:Respondent. The Respondent is the spouse who does not file the initial dissolution of marriage papers, but rather receives them by service.
Court Name:In the District Court for the County of __________, Iowa. This is the Iowa court where the dissolution of marriage will be filed. The court will assign a case number and have jurisdictional rights to facilitate and grant the orders concerning, but not limited to: property and debt division, support, custody, and visitation. The name of the court is clearly represented at the top of all documents that are filed.
Primary Documents:Petition for Dissolution of Marriage and Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. These are the essential documents needed to start and finalize a dissolution of marriage according to Iowa law. There are anywhere from ten to twenty other documents that may be required throughout the filing process. A few other documents that are typically filed during the process are: Verification (for Petition), Marital Settlement Agreement, Financial Affidavit, and Notice of Final Hearing.
Court Clerk's Title:District Clerk's Office. The clerk or the clerk's assistants will be the people managing your paperwork with the court. The clerk's office will keep the parties and the lawyers informed throughout the process in regards to additional paperwork that is needed, further requirements, and hearing dates and times.
Property Distribution:Since Iowa is an "equitable distribution" state, the marital property shall be divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable does not mean equal, but rather what is fair. The court will encourage the parties to reach a settlement on property and debt issues otherwise the court will declare the property award.
The court shall divide all property, except inherited property or gifts received by one party, equitably between the parties after considering all of the following: a. The length of the marriage. b. The property brought to the marriage by each party. c. The contribution of each party to the marriage, giving appropriate economic value to each party's contribution in homemaking and child care services. d. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties. e. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other. f. The earning capacity of each party g. The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live in the family home for a reasonable period to the party having custody of the children, or if the parties have joint legal custody, to the party having physical care of the children. h. The amount and duration of an order granting support payments to either party and whether the property division should be in lieu of such payments. i. Other economic circumstances of each party, including pension benefits, vested or unvested, and future interests. j. The tax consequences to each party. k. Any written agreement made by the parties concerning property distribution. l. The provisions of an antenuptial agreement. m. Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.21)
Restoration or Name Change:When petitioning the court for a dissolution of marriage, the husband or the wife may request to have his or her name restored to a former or maiden name. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.37)
Spousal Support:Not all cases involve support from one spouse to the other. The obligation of one spouse to support the other financially for a temporary or permanent basis is decided on a case-by-case basis as agreed to by the parties or at the court's discretion.
The court may grant an order requiring support payments to either party for a limited or indefinite length of time after considering all of the following: a. The length of the marriage. b. The age and physical and emotional health of the parties. c. The distribution of property made pursuant to subsection 1. d. The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced. e. The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, responsibilities for children under either an award of custody or physical care, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment. f. The feasibility of the party seeking maintenance becoming self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and the length of time necessary to achieve this goal. g. The tax consequences to each party. h. Any mutual agreement made by the parties concerning financial or service contributions by one party with the expectation of future reciprocation or compensation by the other party. i. The provisions of an antenuptial agreement. j. Other factors the court may determine to be relevant in an individual case. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.21, 598.22 and 598.32)
Counseling or Mediation Requirements:At any time upon its own motion or upon the application of a party the court may require the parties to participate in conciliation efforts for sixty days or less following the issuance of such an order. Such conciliation procedure may include, but is not limited to, referrals to the Domestic Relations Division of the Court, if established, public or private Marriage Counselors, Family Service Agencies, Community Health Centers, Physicians and Clergy. (Iowa Code - Sections 598.16 and 598.19)
Child Custody:When minor children are involved in a dissolution of marriage, the Iowa courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.
In considering what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the minor child, the court shall consider the following factors: a. Whether each parent would be a suitable custodian for the child. b. Whether the psychological and emotional needs and development of the child will suffer due to lack of active contact with and attention from both parents. c. Whether the parents can communicate with each other regarding the child's needs. d. Whether both parents have actively cared for the child before and since the separation. e. Whether each parent can support the other parent's relationship with the child. f. Whether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child's wishes or whether the child has strong opposition, taking into consideration the child's age and maturity. g. Whether one or both the parents agree or are opposed to joint custody. h. The geographic proximity of the parents. i. Whether the safety of the child, other children, or the other parent will be jeopardized by the awarding of joint custody or by unsupervised or unrestricted visitation. j. Whether a history of domestic abuse exists. (Iowa Code - Section 598.41)
Child Support:Iowa child support guidelines uses the Percentage of Income Formula which calculates the support obligation as a percentage of the income of the non-custodial parent who is obligated to support the child. This method simply applies a percentage to the income of the parent according to the number of children requiring support.
The parties cannot agree on a monthly support amount, the court will apply the support guidelines. This amount determined by the use of the guidelines may be adjusted for fairness or the special needs of a child.
The court may subsequently modify existing orders when there is a substantial change in circumstances. In determining whether there is a substantial change in circumstances, the court shall consider the following: a. Changes in the employment, earning capacity, income or resources of a party. b. Receipt by a party of an inheritance, pension or other gift. c. Changes in the medical expenses of a party. d. Changes in the number or needs of dependents of a party. e. Changes in the physical, mental, or emotional health of a party. f. Changes in the residence of a party. g. Remarriage of a party. h. Possible support of a party by another person. i. Changes in the physical, emotional or educational needs of a child whose support is governed by the order. j. Contempt by a party of existing orders of court. k. Other factors the court determines to be relevant in an individual case. (Iowa Code - Section 598.21)
Copyright Notice: The above synopsis of Iowa divorce laws is original material which is owned and copyrighted by Divorce Source, Inc. This material has been adapted from applicable state laws and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited. Violation of this notice will result in immediate legal action.
Child custody and child support are considered to be two separate areas of Iowa divorce law. The Iowa courts take child support enforcement very seriously. A parent who fails to pay the legally required child support may have his/her wages withheld or driver's license denied. In addition, the courts can apply federal income refunds or money from bank accounts in the parent's name towards the payment of the child support order.
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