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Legal separation in Iowa refers to the legal status where a married couple decides to live separately while still being legally married. Unlike divorce, separation does not terminate the marital bond. Similar to divorce, the parties formalize arrangements related to property division, child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support (or in the case of a separation, “separate maintenance”).

Key aspects of separation in Iowa that are similar to a divorce include: 
Residency Requirements

One of the spouses is required to be a resident of the State of Iowa for at least one year prior to filing the petition and initiating the separation through the court. 

Grounds for Separation

While Iowa is a no-fault state, the parties must demonstrate that there has been a breakdown of the marriage to the extent that there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be repaired. 

Waiting Period

There is a 90-day waiting period that the parties must wait before the court will sign an order for separation. 

Forms & Process

The same legal process of a divorce is followed in a separation case. 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). 

Agreement of the Parties

Parties can work together to create a separation agreement to address key issues during their period of separation such as property division, child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal maintenance. This legally binding document can be tailored to the specific needs of the couple and serves as a roadmap for navigating the separation. This agreement, once filed with the court, becomes legally binding and enforceable. 

Court Determination

In the event the parties are unable to reach an agreement on a contested issue (or issues), the court can make the decision(s).

Some of the aspects of separation in Iowa that are not similar to a divorce include: 

Parties who have obtained a legal separation have the ability to buy and/or sell property as individuals. 


If one party carries medical insurance for the family or for their spouse, the spouse can stay on the health insurance plan and remain covered. 


If it would be financially advantageous for both parties, the parties may file their taxes jointly. 

If there are no emotional or financial benefits to maintaining the marital status, pursuing a divorce may be the more suitable course of action. While separation agreements can provide clarity and structure during a period of marital separation, it’s often helpful for individuals considering separation to seek legal advice from a qualified family law attorney. An attorney can help navigate the legal implications of separation and ensure that the client’s rights and interests and any children involved are protected.

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