Guide to the Divorce Process in Iowa
If you are going through an Iowa divorce, you need to understand the legal concepts involved. The divorce process in Iowa can be complicated and confusing, but gaining a basic knowledge of the terminology and procedure can help you navigate your divorce much more easily. There are many misconceptions about divorce laws, and you may not even be sure what steps are involved when a divorce case goes to court. This guide will explain the divorce process in Iowa so that you can seek more specific guidance.
Petition and Response
The legal divorce process in Iowa begins when one spouse files a petition for dissolution of marriage. The spouse filing will be required to pay a filing fee of $100. The petition will be formally served to the other spouse by a private process server or sheriff's deputy for an additional fee. The spouse being served papers will be able to file a response.
Both the petition and response will include the grounds for the divorce and the relief being sought. While other states allow both fault and no-fault grounds, Iowa is an exclusively no-fault state. In Iowa, the grounds (reason) for divorce are always the same: a breakdown of the marriage.
Relief simply means what each spouse is seeking out of the divorce. Parental responsibilities are often at issue here, as are financial divisions. One form of relief is always requested: the dissolution of the marriage.
After the complaint and response have been filed, a date will be set for a brief temporary hearing. This is not your final divorce trial, but instead an informal hearing to establish stability for the couple and their children during the divorce process. The judge will determine temporary custody and visitation rights, as well as who gets to keep the marital home while the divorce is underway.
Settlement and Pre-Trial Conference
Most of the time, the divorce process in Iowa does not make it all the way to trial, because trials are expensive and can be quite difficult emotionally for both parties. Instead, most cases settle out of court after both spouses figure out an agreement that is acceptable.
Well in advance of any actual trial, the judge in your case will likely call a pre-trial conference. This part of the divorce process in Iowa will not be as formal as courtroom proceedings. The judge will ask which issues you still need to work out, and you will be told how the judge might rule on these issues in court. The judge can even make recommendations that are likely to mirror his or her judgment.
Discovery and Trial
If you cannot work out an agreement after this pre-trial conference, your case will begin moving toward trial. This begins with a process of mutual investigation between spouses called discovery. If both spouses are cooperative, this can be relatively quick, but in complex situations it can take longer than any other part of the divorce process in Iowa.
The trial itself may take days or weeks depending on its complexity. When it is over, the judge will issue the court's judgment, which will decide all contested issues.