How to File for Divorce in Iowa

How to file divorce in Iowa

A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Iowa

When you file for divorce in Iowa, one of the best things you can do is to arm yourself with the information you’ll need to see you through the process from start to finish.

Divorce can be intimidating and disruptive on many levels, and the best way to minimize the impacts on your life is to do your homework so that you can best protect yourself as you try to move to the next chapter.

Here are several things for you to consider when filing for divorce in Iowa:

Gather important financial information

important information

There are many complicated issues in divorce that you will need to be prepared for. Getting organized early on and having the documents you need at your fingertips will make the entire process a little bit less daunting.

It will also save you time and money, while helping to expedite the divorce process.

For a better understanding of what documents you’ll need, we’ve put together this Divorce Information Checklist. It’s a great resource as you begin the tedious task of pulling together your financial documentation.

What are your options for divorce?

What are my options

Once you (or your spouse) has made the decision to get a divorce, you need to decide how to get divorced. You have several options in Iowa, driven in part by your relationship with your spouse and how well you can work together to reach a resolution.

Here are the most common types of divorce:

  • Litigation
  • Mediation
  • Collaborative divorce
  • Do-it-yourself

So, which option is right for you? To answer that, you really need to weigh the pros and cons and think about your goals for the process.

We put together a great guide on The Types of Divorce that dives deep into each of these options (and more). Be sure to check it out if you’re trying to decide which path is best for you.

Fill Out the Necessary Iowa Divorce Forms

Necessary Forms to Prepare

You will need to complete several forms and submit them to the court in the county where either spouse resides. Every divorce is different, but in general you will probably need to prepare the following documents:

  • Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
  • Coversheet for a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage
  • Confidential Information Form
  • Original Notice for Personal Service
  • Acceptance of Service of Original Notice
  • Directions for Service of Original Notice
  • Motion and Affidavit to Serve by Publication (if you cannot serve)
  • Original Notice by Publication
If you can’t afford to pay the fees associated with filing you can request a waiver by completing and submitting an Application and Affidavit to Defer Payment of Costs.

File Your Divorce Forms with the Court

How Do You File Your Forms for a Divorce

After you have completed your forms, you will need to file the paperwork at the county court where you or your spouse lives. Make sure you have lived in the county for at least 10 days before filing as this is an important residency requirement.

When you file, you will also need to pay a filing fee of $185. There will also be an additional fee if you decide to use a sheriff or process server to complete proof of service. An additional fee of $40 will also be required for each hearing you have in court.

When you file your forms, you will be given instructions that pertain to your specific circumstances.

Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers

After you file for divorce, you must serve your spouse with a copy of the paperwork so that they are officially notified of your actions.

The process of doing this is known as proof of service.

You or someone over 18 can give your spouse the paperwork through “acceptance of service” if they provide signed acceptance that they have received the legal papers. Service may also be completed through “personal service” by a sheriff or a process server (a fee will be required) who will document that papers have been served after doing so. A proof of service will then be submitted to the court.

If you can’t complete service in these ways, you can also provide proof of service through notice by publication. If you have tried to serve your spouse but have not been successful, the court will review your case and then decide if they will allow you to publish a notice in a local paper once a week for three weeks to complete this requirement.

Until proof of service has been completed by any of these means, a divorce complaint cannot move forward.

Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Iowa

How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Iowa?

cost to file for a divorce

The filing fee to start a divorce case is $185. The final decree fee is an additional $50 payable when your divorce is completed. You will also need to pay a court reporting fee of $40 for hearing you have in court. Depending on your circumstances, there may also be some additional miscellaneous fees as well.

Can divorce fees be waived in Iowa?

Yes. If you can’t afford to pay the fees, you can file an Application and Affidavit to Defer Payment of Costs. The court will consider your request based on documentation you provide. If approved, your fees will be waived.

Can I file for a divorce online in Iowa?

divorce online

You sure can. In fact, filing for divorce online in Iowa can be a great way to save time and money.

Online divorce isn’t right for everyone. It only works if you have an uncontested divorce (you and your spouse are able to reach agreements without going to court).

If you have a dispute over child custody or particularly complicated finances, you should consult with a lawyer. There’s simply too much on the line to cut corners.

But if you have an amicable divorce, you might be able to do it yourself. Navigating the legal system and figuring out exactly how to complete the forms can be complicated (and time-consuming).

Fortunately, there are tools that can help.

3 Step Divorce is an affordable online divorce service that makes it easy to complete your divorce papers and gives you step-by-step instructions for filing your forms with the court. All you have to do is answer a series of questions online. It shouldn’t take you more than an hour.

Here’s a few reasons we like 3 Step Divorce:

  • A+ rating with the BBB
  • Over 750,000 customers since 1997
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  • $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
  • Flexible monthly payment options (get started for as little as $84)
  • Extensive library of free tools and resources
  • Unlimited live support by phone and email
  • 100% court approval guarantee or your money back
  • Instant access to your completed forms to make any changes and print (or have them mailed to you at no additional cost)
  • Highest-rated customer reviews in the industry (4.6 stars based on 1,575 reviews)

online divorce iowa

One of the things that really stands out is that 92% of all reviews are 4- or 5-stars.

Read our 3 Step Divorce review here, or check out 3 Step Divorce now to get started >>

When it comes to actually filing your documents with the court, the good news is you can electronically file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage in Iowa. So you won’t need to go to the court in person.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Iowa?

How long does it take

According to 598.19 Iowa Code the shortest timeframe for a divorce in 90 days. The code says in part, “No decree dissolving a marriage shall be granted in any proceeding before ninety days shall have elapsed from the day the original notice is served, or from the last day of publication of notice, or from the date that waiver or acceptance of original notice is filed or until after conciliation is completed, whichever period shall be longer.”

Most divorces take longer due to court backlogs or if there are any unresolved issues facing a couple. Hotly contested divorces could take well over a year to be finalized, depending on how fast each party moves and either agrees to compromise or fight each other.

What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Iowa?

To file for a divorce in Iowa, you must be a resident of the state for a minimum of one year prior to filing initial paperwork. Iowa must be considered your permanent home and not just a place of residence that you moved to for the purpose of getting a divorce.

Can I file for divorce in Iowa without using a lawyer?

divorce without a lawyer

Yes. Many people in Iowa work through a divorce without hiring a lawyer to represent them.

This process works best when both sides can settle all their issues in advance. These forms may be complicated and do not work in all situations.

To assist those people, the Iowa Supreme Court developed forms that will help people who decide to go this route. This generally works best when spouses can reach agreement on all the issues by themselves.

The forms and a guide on how to use the forms are available on the Iowa Courts website.

There are two sets of forms: one for those getting divorced and do not have children together and one for those getting divorced but do have children together.

Can I get a divorce in Iowa if I am pregnant?

divorce while I am pregnant

Yes. If a wife is pregnant during a marriage, by law the child’s father is the husband. However, it may be possible to dis-establish the husband as the father of the child.

To relieve a husband of his legal and financial responsibility to the child, a mother will have to petition the court to establish legal paternity. This means there may be DNA testing, court costs, and attorney’s fees that will all be incurred as part of the process.

How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Iowa?


While some parts of a military divorce are the same as they are for civilian divorces in Iowa, there are also some notable differences.

If you are a resident of the state but you are stationed outside of Iowa as part of your service, you can still file for divorce in state.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty. Moving forward with a divorce can be delayed until after active duty is completed. Or, a service member can choose to waive the delay and sign the paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.

Military benefits, including how retirement plans are handled, are subject to rules set by the Department of Defense as part of the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act. Military members retirement will not be divided or distributed to a spouse unless they have been married 10 years or longer while the member has been active duty military.

Normal Iowa child support guidelines are used to determine the proper amount of child support to be paid, but federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemember’s pay and allowances.

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