Iowa is a purely no-fault divorce state, meaning a divorce may be granted if the couple agrees 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.”

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Residency Requirements

In order to file for a divorce in the state of Iowa both spouses must reside in the state, or the Petitioning spouse (the spouse who files the petition and therefore begins the divorce) must have resided in the state for at least a year. 

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If the residency requirements are met, then one spouse may file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the Clerk of Courts Office within the District Court of their county of residence.

Once the petition is filed it is the responsibility of the Petitioner to serve a copy to his or her spouse (now called the Respondent). If the divorce is uncontested, service can occur by simply mailing or hand delivering the forms to the Responding spouse; however, if the divorce is contested, a third party must deliver the forms to the Respondent.

The Respondent once served may then choose to oppose or agree with the petition as laid out by the Petitioner. If there are any issues that the Respondent contests he or she must file an Answer, as well as the Acceptance of Service, within their county's time limit. Contesting an issue will usually lead to either settlement or trial. In some cases, the county in which a couple resides may require supplemental forms or couples’ mediation. 

If the parties have reached an agreement and they do not desire to proceed with a lengthy trial, they can use RocketLawyer’s easy interview process to complete a Divorce Settlement Agreement. The Divorce Settlement Agreement allows one to divide property, assets, debts and liabilities as well as settle matters of child support, custody and visitation.

If the divorce is contested, there is a preparation for trial. During the time leading up to the trial the county court may require a couple with or without children to seek counseling. In some counties this counseling is mandatory.  Once the couple has complied with counseling they (and their lawyers) may sit down and attempt to settle the divorce outside of court. If the divorce cannot be settled the case will go to trial. In trial the judge will choose the most equitable solution that takes account the well being of all parties involved, especially children. Remember that equitable does not mean equal, it means that the judge decides what is the most fair. Once the decisions have been made the judge issues a final decree, which may repealed if a spouse feels the judge’s decision was not equitable. Be aware, repeals can be expensive.

Whether or not your divorce goes to trial, you might want the help of a lawyer. You can always use RocketLawyer to Find a Lawyer who's right for you.

A Note about Default Divorce


If the Respondent does not reply to service, sign the divorce forms, or generally participate in the divorce procedures, then the Petitioning spouse receives whatever he or she asked for in their original petition and paperwork, and the case is officially defaulted and the marriage terminated. 

Iowa State Judicial Branch offers helpful information and forms to help residents receive a divorce. There are instructions for both Respondent and Petitioner, and supplemental forms to apply for and contest child support.

Get started Visit our Divorce Center Get divorce documents and ask a lawyer your questions.

Get started Visit our Divorce Center Get divorce documents and ask a lawyer your questions.