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Divorce proceedings in Iowa, sometimes referred to as “dissolution of marriage,” refer to the legal process through which a marriage is legally dissolved, and matters related to the division of assets, debts, spousal support, child custody, visitation, and child support are addressed. The goal of these proceedings is to provide a fair and equitable resolution to the issues arising from the end of a marital relationship.

Key components of divorce proceedings in Iowa include:
Filing for Divorce

The process typically begins with one spouse filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the county where at least one of the parties resides. This document outlines the grounds for divorce and the desired outcomes regarding property division, alimony, child custody, and support.

Legal Grounds for Divorce

There must be an assertion that the marriage is irretrievably broken and there remains no likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. 

Forms & Process

The parties are required to exchange financial information, file Affidavits of Financial Status with the court, and in the event the parties have a minor child, they will be required to file Child Support Guideline Worksheets and attend a parenting class (commonly, Children in the Middle).

Property Division

Iowa follows the principle of equitable distribution, which means that marital assets and debts and personal property are divided fairly but not necessarily equally. The court considers factors such as each spouse’s contributions, economic circumstances, and the length of the marriage.

Spousal Support

The court may order one spouse to pay spousal support (alimony) to the other based on factors such as the duration of the marriage, each party’s financial needs, and their ability to support themselves. See Spousal Support (Alimony)

Child Custody

Determining child custody involves deciding legal custody and physical care of the children. Iowa courts prioritize the best interests of the child when making custody decisions. See Guardian ad Litem & Child and Family Reporter sections Child Custody

Visitation (Parenting Time)

Divorce proceedings establish a parenting plan outlining visitation schedules and other arrangements to ensure both parents maintain meaningful relationships with their children.

Child Support

The court may order one parent to pay child support to the other parent to ensure the financial well-being of the children. Child support calculations typically consider factors such as income, parenting time, and the children’s needs. See Child Support


Iowa requires divorcing couples to participate in mediation to resolve disputes amicably. Mediation involves a neutral third party who helps the parties reach agreements on various issues. In the event mediation is unsuccessful, the parties still have the right to take their case to trial. See Mediation

Stipulation & Agreement

A Stipulation and Agreement is a legal document that outlines the mutually agreed-upon terms and conditions for ending a marriage. This document is typically crafted by both parties, often with the assistance of their respective attorneys, and it serves as a comprehensive agreement detailing the various aspects of the divorce – including, but not limited to, division of assets & debts, division of personal property, spousal support (alimony), child custody, visitation, child support, legal fees, and court costs.

Decree of Dissolution

The Decree of Dissolution of Marriage (Decree) is entered by the court after it approves the parties’ Stipulation and Agreement that has already been filed with the court or following a trial. Once the Decree is entered, the divorce is final, and the parties are restored the same rights and privileges of a single (unmarried) person. 


In a divorce proceeding, not everything is modifiable, such as the final division of assets & debts (often referred to as the property settlement) ordered by the court. The most common terms that can be modified (upon appropriate grounds) are child custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support (alimony). See Modifications


The court’s orders regarding property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support are legally binding. Failure to comply may lead to enforcement measures. See Contempt

Understanding the legal intricacies of divorce proceedings in Iowa is crucial for individuals navigating the process. Seeking the guidance of an experienced family law attorney can provide valuable assistance in ensuring that one’s rights and interests are protected throughout the divorce proceedings.

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