Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce)

Where are divorce actions filed?

Dissolution of marriage actions are filed in District Court.  They are initiated by filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in the county where one of the parties resides.  Iowa Code Section 598.2

What is the residency requirement?

Except when the respondent is a resident of Iowa and is personally served, the petitioner must have been a resident of Iowa for the past year.  Iowa Code Section 598.5 (k).  Residency in Iowa must be shown to be in good faith, and not just for the purpose of obtaining a divorce.

Can a non-resident be sued for divorce in Iowa?

Before a non-resident can be sued for divorce in Iowa, the petitioner must establish that the non-resident has sufficient contacts with the state to justify (under due process principles) exercise of personal jurisdiction by the Iowa court.

Iowa is a no-fault divorce state.

This means that a divorce will be granted where one party testifies 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.”  Iowa Code Section 598.5(g).

Name change.

As part of the final divorce decree, either party may request a name change to their birth name or their name immediately prior to the marriage. Iowa Code Section 598.37

Marital counseling.

Iowa law provides a mechanism for either party to request marriage counseling as a prerequisite to the issuance of a final divorce decree.  Iowa Code Section 598.16. If conciliation is requested, the court will generally require counseling sessions for a period of sixty days, and will require the counselor involved in the process to file a written report stating the conciliation procedures undertaken and whether they were successful in reconciling the marriage.  There is no requirement that the sessions be joint counseling sessions, unless the Court makes that part of the order for conciliation.  The parties are free to waive conciliation if they mutually agree.

Temporary orders.

When the petition is filed, or when the respondent files an answer, a request for temporary custody or support, or other temporary relief can be made. Iowa Code Section 598.10.  Most counties in Iowa require the parties to meet for mediation prior to a hearing on temporary matters, at which time there is opportunity for the parties, working through a neutral mediation facilitator, to reach agreement on some or all of the issues in the case.  If mediation is unsuccessful in resolving the temporary matters, a hearing on temporary matters can be scheduled.  Often the court will require that testimony at temporary hearings be limited to affidavits filed by the parties. Iowa Code Section 598.11.

Waiting period.

Iowa law provides that the court shall not grant a divorce until 90 days after the respondent is served with the petition.  Iowa Code Section 598.19 The court, for reasons of “emergency or necessity,” may waive this requirement and enter a final decree prior to the completion of the 90 days.


Prior to a final hearing, the court will require that the parties, with their attorneys, meet with a neutral trained mediator, in an effort to settle the case prior to trial.  Iowa Code Section 598.7.  Many cases are settled at this point, avoiding the additional expense and trauma of a divorce trial.  If the case is not settled at mediation, a final hearing will be scheduled, at which time the parties will each present evidence to the court on issues in dispute in the case.  After the trial, the court will issue a final dissolution decree, dividing the property and debts of the parties, determining issues of custody, support, and visitation regarding children of the marriage, and addressing issues of spousal support, litigation expenses, and other issues.