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Family Law Attorney in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Overview of Iowa Divorce Law

DIVORCE (“Dissolution of Marriage”) and CHILD CUSTODY are the most common types of issues handled by family law attorneys.

To assist you as you face a divorce we have provided a discussion of frequently asked questions about divorce – covering issues such as property and debt division, alimony (spousal support), how a divorce case is processed, and more.

Listen to Judge Larry Eisenhauer discuss “Dissolution of Marriage” (Divorce) in this informative YouTube video.

In Iowa, What Are the Legal Grounds for Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)?

The only grounds are defined as the 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.

No fault is needed to obtain a dissolution of marriage.

Iowa requires that a person filing for a divorce in Iowa must have been a resident for one year, unless the other spouse is a resident of Iowa.

In Iowa, What other requirements must be met before a judge will enter a final decree?

Before a judge will enter a final divorce order the following is required:

  1. The respondent spouse personally served legal papers or filed a signed acceptance of service.

  2. 90 days have passed since the legal papers were served. (A judge can waive this waiting period for good cause shown.)

  3. The parties have to share a basic set of financial documents and file a financial affidavit.

  4. Either a final court order follows a trial or the Parties enter an agreement which covers all marital issues.

  5. Mediation is required before a temporary hearing or a trial is set. A class about mediation is also required.

  6. If minor children will be affected by the divorce parents are required to take classes concerning the effect of divorce and parent conflict on children. Older children are also required to attend a course concerning divorce.

In Iowa, can Spouses get a Legal Separation? (Called "Separate Maintenance and Support")

Yes, the requirements, process, and final decree can address all or part of the legal issues addressed in divorces. The difference is the spouses stay married. This may be done for religious reasons, when living together is not possible but the spousal relationship will continue, when a spouse needs to continue on the other's health plans, a spouse needs institutional care, and various other reasons.

What can be Done if a Spouse Wants Marriage Counseling?

Iowa law allows a spouse to request the Court to order "conciliation" for a 60 day time period. In most cases people request a marriage counselor to be the conciliator. However, it can be a friend, leader of a religious group, a respected person, tribal leader, or other person.

Will Property Be Distributed?

The distribution of property is a critical part of a dissolution proceeding. Iowa is an equitable distribution state. The court will divide all the spouse’s property whether it was acquired before or after the marriage. The exception to this is any gifts and inheritance received prior to or during the marriage. A portion of the property may be set aside in a fund for the support maintenance and education of any minor children.

Marital fault is not a factor.

The following factors are considered in the division of property.

  • The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition of the marital property including the contribution of each spouse as a homemaker or in childcare.

  • The value of any property brought to the marriage.

  • The contribution by one party to the education training or increased earning capacity of the other.

  • The length of the marriage.

  • The age and physical and emotional health of the spouses.

  • The vocational skills of the spouses.

  • The time and expense necessary to acquire skills and training to become self-sufficient.

  • The federal income tax consequences of the court’s division of the property.

  • The time and expense necessary for a spouse to acquire sufficient education to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment.

  • Any premarital or marital settlement agreements.

  • The present and potential earning capability of each spouse including educational background training, employment skills, work experience, and length of absence from the job market.

  • Whether the property award is instead of or in addition to alimony and the amount and duration of any such alimony award.

  • The total economic circumstances of the spouses including any pension benefits.

  • The desirability of awarding the family home to the spouse with custody of any children.

  • Any custodial provisions for the children, and

  • The amount and duration of any maintenance payments.

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When is Alimony or Spousal Support Awarded?

In some cases, alimony, maintenance, and spousal support is awarded as part of a dissolution proceeding. Maintenance may be granted to either spouse for a limited or indefinite time based on the following factors:

  • The time necessary to acquire sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment and become self-supporting

  • The duration of the marriage

  • The financial resources of the spouse seeking alimony including marital property apportioned to each spouse and such spouses ability to meet his or her needs independently

  • The tax consequences to each spouse

  • The age of the spouses

  • The physical and emotional conditions of the spouses

  • The work experience and length of absence from the job market of the spouse seeking alimony

  • The vocational skills and employability of the spouse seeking support in alimony

  • The probable duration of the need of the spouse seeking support in alimony

  • Custodial and child support responsibilities

  • The educational level of each spouse at the time of the marriage and at the time the action for support is commenced

  • Any premarital or other agreements

  • The earning capacity of the spouse seeking maintenance including the educational background employment skills and work experience

  • Any other factors that court deems just and equitable

Marital misconduct is not a factor

Maintenance payments may be ordered to be paid through the court.

What Is the Requirement Regarding the Spouse’s Name?

Upon dissolution of marriage, either spouse may request to change his or her name to a former or maiden name.

How is the Physical Care Physical Care of Children Decided in An Iowa Divorce?

Many of the couples in Iowa who seek a divorce will have minor children. Because the well-being of children depends on the quality of their relationship with both parents it is important that parents understand the legal terms, laws, and court orders regarding their children. The courts play an important role in assisting with the future living arrangements for children. Joint or sole physical care will be awarded in the interest of the children and in a manner that will encourage the parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child. Joint physical care may be awarded if either parent requests it and if it is in the best interest of the child and based on the following factors

  • The ability of the parents to cooperate.

  • The ability to support the child’s relationship with the other parent.

  • The physical proximity of the parents to each other.

  • The fitness and suitability of the parents.

  • The reasonable preference of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to express a preference

  • Whether both parents have actively cared for the child before and since the separation.

  • Whether the psychological and emotional needs and development of the child will suffer because of lack of contact with both parents.

  • Whether the safety of the child will be jeopardized by an award of joint custody or unsupervised visitation.

  • Whether one or both parents agree to or are opposed to joint custody, and

  • Any history of domestic abuse

The court may grant joint custody even when both parents do not agree to joint custody.

NOTE: "Child Custody" is a term that includes Legal Custody, Physical Care, Care Plans, Primary Physical Care, Visitation, and Joint Physical Care (also called Shared Physical Care). Unmarried parents can file a legal action asking a court to decide paternity, each parent’s rights to care for the child(ren), and child support. Issues concerning children are included in a divorce. The law applied will be similar for divorcing and unmarried parents. To assist you as you face questions about the custody of your child(ren), we have provided a discussion of frequently asked questions about child custody.

In Iowa, How is Child Support Calculated?

The amount of child support paid is calculated using a formula which is largely dependent upon the gross income of the parties, the cost of health insurances, the number of children supported, whether there is joint physical care or one parent is the primary caretaker. Where a parent is designated as the primary care parent, the number of nights the visiting parent has with the children during the year will affect the size of discounts in child support.

Other Family Law issues handled by this firm:

  • Adoption, Step-Parent Adoption

  • Grandparent Visitation

  • Guardianship

  • Name Change

  • Common-Law Marriage

  • Domestic Abuse or Violence, Protective Orders, No Contact Orders

  • Injunctions

  • Paternity

  • Legal Separation, Separate Maintenance, and Support

  • Mental Health Commitments

  • Modifications of Decrees

  • Prenuptial Agreements, Antenuptial Agreements

  • Annulments

  • Military Family Issues, Child Custody for Person in the Military

  • Father’s Rights,

  • Parental rights,

  • Neglect or abuse of Dependents

  • Power of Attorney, Conservators, Trusts

  • Post Secondary Education Support

  • Child Support Collection, Child Support Modification

  • Contempt of Court

  • Medical Support, Securing Medical Insurance

Note: The discussion of Frequently Asked Questions is not meant to serve as legal advice. It only provides a general description of the law and does not go into details that might affect your case. You should seek the advice of an attorney concerning your specific situation. If you are currently or will soon be going through any of the above situations, working with a family law attorney can help reduce stress and drastically improve the probability of a positive outcome for you and your family. Contact this firm's attorneys to learn more about working with a family law attorney.