No matter the circumstances, filing for divorce forever changes the lives of both parties, bringing about both emotional and logistical issues. It can be difficult to navigate through the legal system when filing for divorce, especially by yourself. An Iowa divorce attorney can help you understand how to file for divorce in Iowa and fight for a favorable outcome.

Requirements for Divorce

Before filing for divorce, you must meet a few preliminary requirements. First, in Iowa, you do not have to be a resident of the state as long as your spouse lives there and you can serve them through personal service. Both of these requirements must be met if you are not an Iowa resident.

Across the United States, there must be legal “grounds” for divorce. This means there must be a legally accepted reason for the divorce to occur. In Iowa, the legally accepted reason is the breakdown of the marriage relationship, with no belief or evidence that it can be restored. When paperwork is filed to begin the divorce, the document must state that the marriage relationship has broken down.

A Contested or Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties agree on all aspects of the divorce, as well as the desired outcomes. The process is typically quicker because neither side has to argue their point in court or mediation. These issues typically include division of assets, finances, child custody, alimony, and child support.

If any issues arise that you cannot agree on, you will move on to a contested divorce. Usually, these issues can be resolved with the help of lawyers and/or a mediator. A court may even order mediation in a divorce proceeding if they believe it will be beneficial.

Steps to File for Divorce in Iowa

Once you meet the requirements for a divorce, you will want to prepare the initial papers. These papers can be found online, and some counties require the forms to be filed online. There are also separate forms for marriages with children and for those without children. Speak with an attorney to see if your county requires electronic filing and if you are filling out the correct forms for your situation.

After preparing the initial divorce papers, you must then file them along with the current associated fees. The petition must be filed in the county that either you or your spouse lives in. After it is filed, the court will give you a copy to serve your spouse.

Iowa law requires that your spouse is served the divorce papers either through in-person delivery or through mail within 90 days of filing. The spouse being served must sign the papers. If your spouse does not do so, you can have a third party (one that is uninvolved in your relationship) serve the papers to retrieve the signature.

Divorce Next Steps

The spouse being served has 20 days to respond to the petition with any issues they would like addressed by the court. If they do not respond, the court will rule in favor of the petitioner.

In Iowa, the law also requires that both parties in a divorce submit a Financial Affidavit to provide information about income and assets.

Iowa law also requires both spouses to complete parenting courses if they have children together. The purpose of these courses is to keep the children’s interests at the forefront, offer ways to talk to children about divorce, and make spouses aware of how the divorce affects their child(ren). The court could potentially waive this requirement under certain circumstances.

There is a 90-day waiting period before a divorce is finalized, and uncontested divorces are usually finalized after this waiting period. Contested divorces may take longer, especially if there are more issues to work through.


Q: What Is the Difference Between a Divorce and a Legal Separation?

A: The major difference between divorce and legal separation is that in a divorce, the parties are no longer married, while in a legal separation, they are still legally married, although living separately. In a divorce, either party is free to remarry. In a legal separation, they are not legally able to remarry. A legally separated couple may have access to other benefits, such as tax and healthcare spousal benefits, that are not available to divorced couples.

Q: How Long Does a Divorce Take in Iowa?

A: In Iowa, the amount of time it takes to get a divorce varies depending on the circumstances at hand and the number of issues that need to be worked out. In simpler, uncontested divorces, it can take as little as a few months, as Iowa has a 90-day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. In more complex cases, a divorce can take many months or years to be completed.

Q: What Is a Conflict of Interest in a Divorce?

A: A conflict of interest in a divorce occurs when a lawyer has competing interests that may impede their ability to sufficiently and impartially represent their client. An example of this would be if the attorney has a previous personal or professional relationship with one of the spouses. If a conflict of interest arises, it may be wise for the spouse to seek new counsel.

Q: How Long Do You Have to Be Separated Before Divorce in Iowa?

A: You do not have to be separated before divorce in Iowa, as there is no separation requirement. However, the state’s waiting 90-day period means that there is no way to immediately divorce. Uncontested divorces can be finalized when the 90 days come to an end. Contested divorces will take longer, as spouses will need to come to an agreement through mediation, or the court will need to issue a divorce agreement.

Contact an Iowa Divorce Lawyer

A lawyer can help make your divorce as smooth and amicable as possible. An experienced family law attorney from Stange Law Firm can help you file the correct paperwork, meet deadlines, and advocate for your interests in your divorce. Contact Stange Law Firm today for more information.