Being involved in an Iowa family law matter can be an extremely difficult time in one’s life. In fact, once you have filed for divorce or custody, you could have a long road ahead of you in order to determine child custody, child support and other legal issues that can arise as a result of divorce. The first step is to gain a basic understanding of the way Iowa handles family law matters like divorce, child custody, child support, and father’s rights. The next step is deciding if you need an Iowa family law attorney or not – but speaking with a professional is at the very least an essential step in the process and we can connect you to an expert for free.
Iowa divorce statutes, specifically found at Section 598.5 Contents of Petition, allows couples to file for no-fault divorce, which means that the couple is not required to provide or prove a reason for their decision to end their marriage. Instead, the court simply requires that the couple demonstrate that the marriage is broken and there does not exist a reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be saved through reconciliation. However, Iowa is unique in that the judge can require both spouses to attend conciliation counseling (essentially couples therapy) either when one of the party requests such counseling or within sixty days after the divorce decrees has been filed if the judge so chooses.
Residency Rules and Mandatory Waiting Time-Frame
Iowa requires that certain residency requirements exist prior to filing for divorce in the state. Specifically, Section 598.5(k) of the Iowa Code, states that, prior to an individual filing for divorce, at least one of the party’s must have been a resident of the State of Iowa for a minimum of 1-year. It does not matter if either the person filing or the other spouse fulfills this residency requirement, but statute makes it mandatory that one person meet this requirement and that it be specifically stated and alleged in the initial filing of the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.
Iowa also requires that, even in cases where both parties agree and the process is an uncontested matter, a waiting period must take place prior to an Iowa divorce judge granting the final divorce decree. This mandatory waiting period, found here at Section 598.19 Waiting Period Before Decree; states that the mandatory waiting period is 90-days from the day when either the Petition was served on the other spouse or service was waived (as in the case of an uncontested Iowa divorce). There are exceptions to this 90-day waiting period that are based on grounds of emergency.
Property Division Rules in Iowa
Iowa is one of the majority of states that follows the rule of an “equitable distribution of property” when making a determination of which spouse gets what property. The specific statute can be read here at Section 598.21(5) “Division of property.” This does not mean that the court will automatically divide the marital property in half and allocate 50% to each spouse. In fact, an “equitable division of property” actually means that an Iowa judge will divide the property according to what he or she believes is fair according to the facts and circumstances of each particular case. The judge will normally take into account issues such as the length of the marriage, the earning capacity/salary of each spouse, the work history of each spouse, the spouses ages, disability, the health of each spouse and potentially any agreements the party’s may have made in writing like a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement.
An example that may be common where property is not evenly distributed between the spouses would be a long marriage, with one of the spouses being a stay at home parent with a much lower earning capacity. The spouse with the low earning capacity that has and may even still continue to be raising the children will sometimes be granted the marital home or a larger amount of the marital hoe’s proceeds when sold.
A similar formula is used when discussing spousal maintenance (formerly known as alimony). The judge evaluates the spouses individual factors, such as age, work history, earning capacity, disability, and many other factors to determine if maintenance is appropriate and, it is appropriate, how much and for how long. Property issues like these can have long lasting effects on both spouses’ lives, which is why it is dangerous to attempt this on your own.
Iowa Child Support
In Iowa, child support disputes can be difficult and time consuming. Iowa follows specific child support guidelines to determine what an appropriate amount of money should be awarded to the custodial parent. Iowa child support laws, specifically found here at Section 598.21B Orders for Child Support and Medical Support, focus on the needs of children, including the necessary daycare and health insurance costs of the child. Under Iowa’s child support laws, the court must consider the monthly net income of both parents before determining child support awards. This is because the courts believe that both parents have a duty to provide for their children financially. Exceptions to child support orders do exist, however, they are reserved for people whose only source of income may be Supplemental Security Income (known as SSI). These rules are difficult to follow and should be reviewed by an experienced professional. Iowa does have a child support estimator (child support calculator) that can give parents a rough idea what they can expect to pay or receive. Check out the Iowa child support calculator here and then get professional advice from an Iowa family law expert.
Iowa Child Custody
Iowa child custody can be granted to either one or both parents. Iowa has both legal and physical custody, and further, joint or sole custody. The differences here can be quite confusing so it is important to evaluate the different possibilities and how each would apply to your own situation. Reading the actual definitions that the Iowa state legislature has outlined in Section 598.1 Definitions of the Iowa Code, is a good starting point to understanding your rights.
If parents are granted joint legal custody, they both have equal rights to make decisions in their child’s life regarding schooling, medical decisions, or religion, to name a few circumstances. Sole legal custody does not mean that one parent has the right to do whatever they want though. Most Iowa family law judges will still require consultation by the parent having sole legal custody but in the end, they are able to make the final decision regardless of the other parents input.
Physical custody is different altogether. Physical custody determines where the child lives or spends the majority of his or her time. Some parents, because of geographic proximity, are able to equally split and share physical custody with a detailed parenting plan. Others need to have one parent be the custodial parent while the other parent has ties of visitation with their child.
Whatever type of custody a parent desires, a judge will focus on what he or she believes in the child’s best interests. This means financial stability, affection, the relationship with the child, the child’s relationship with that parent’s family, friends and step-siblings, and a host of other elements. Child custody cases are emotionally draining and it is often worth it to enlist the help of an Iowa family law attorney or other legal professional.
Iowa Father’s Rights
Iowa father’s rights attorneys have been working tirelessly for years now to help turn the tide and give father’s the same rights as mothers. While there is still a bias in favor of mothers as the primary caregivers, it should be pointed out that a father, if he plays his cards right, can win custody of his child or at least get a fair amount of visitation with his child. Being careful to avoid pitfalls that many fathers make in a custody battle is essential and good advice needs to be followed. Fathers who have had a child in an unmarried relationship have an even tougher time gaining their rights through the paternity process but that is not to say it is not possible to win custody if a father demonstrates to the court that he is the primary caregiver and the better overall parent by having a proven track record of his parenting skills.
Getting Iowa Family Law Help is Essential
We know, it’s scary to talk to someone about the intimate details of your private life. But Iowa family law matters are complex animals and can have long-lasting effects on the rest of your life. You owe it to you and your family to do the right thing and that probably means speaking with a professional who can guide you in the right direction. The good thing is that we can connect you with an expert Iowa family law professional for free. You deserve to learn what your rights are, so get started right away.