Iowa simplified its divorce procedure by passing legislation allowing no-fault divorces. It is no longer necessary to prove a spouse’s wrongdoing. To petition for divorce, called a dissolution of marriage in Iowa, you only need to state that the marriage has broken down. Other requirements vary a little depending on whether or not you have children together.
Print out a petition for dissolution of marriage from Iowa’s Judicial Branch website (www.iowacourtsonline.org) if you and your spouse do not have children together. If you do have children, go to the District 5 courthouse located at 5th and Mulberry Street in Des Moines, and request a form for a petition for dissolution of marriage with children.
Fill in the petition with all required information. This includes names, addresses and dates of birth for you, your spouse and your children, if you have any. Tell the court where and when you got married. Check the boxes that say your marriage is broken, counseling won’t save it, you’re petitioning for divorce in good faith and you haven’t filed for divorce in any other county or state. Also check the appropriate boxes regarding what you are asking for: child support, if applicable, a division of marital debts and property, or alimony.
Take the petition back to the courthouse in Des Moines. Tell the clerk that you would like to file it, and ask for four other forms: a coversheet, a confidential information form, an original notice and a report of dissolution. On the coversheet, check off the box for the type of dissolution you are asking for, with or without children. Fill in your Social Security Number on the confidential information form, along with all the identifying information you included in your petition. Do this with the notice and the report form as well, but leave lines 14, 15 and 16 blank on the report form; the clerk will fill in these spaces. Return everything to the clerk for filing.
Serve your spouse with a copy of your petition and the notice within 90 days of filing them. The other documents are for the court's use only. When you file your paperwork, the clerk will time-stamp all your documents and return copies to you. You can either deliver the documents to your spouse in person or by mail, or you can ask the Polk County sheriff or a private process server to do it for you. This constitutes service.
Iowa has a 90-day waiting period for divorce after your spouse receives your papers, though a judge can waive this if he feels that some emergency exists where you need to be divorced right away. If you use the 90 days to negotiate a settlement with your spouse regarding property, children and support, you can be divorced as soon as the waiting period expires.
Polk County will also require you to attend a “Children in the Middle” parenting course before you can be divorced if you have children. Depending on whether or not child support is an issue, Polk County may also require that you submit a financial affidavit and a child support guidelines worksheet. Both are available from the court clerk.
Even though Iowa is a no-fault state, your spouse can answer your petition for dissolution and deny that the marriage is broken. If this happens, the court will usually order a 60-day counseling period called a conciliation. The 90-day waiting period for the divorce doesn’t start running until the conciliation period is completed.
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