Iowa Marital Settlement (Divorce) Agreement

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Updated July 04, 2022

An Iowa marital settlement agreement is a legally binding contract between a married couple that defines the terms of their divorce. The document sets out the conditions of the marriage’s dissolution, including spousal support, division of property, distribution of finances, investments, liabilities, and child custody. The couple must execute the agreement before or during divorce court proceedings to have the document incorporated into the court’s judgment. It is generally recommended that couples consult with legal professionals when drafting a marital settlement agreement to ensure that the arrangement is thorough and fair.

Table of Contents

Divorce Laws

Statutes – Iowa Code Title 15, Chapter 598 (Dissolution of Marriage and Domestic Relations)


Alimony (§ 598.21A) – In considering the allocation of alimony (legally known as “spousal support”), the court will take into account the length of the marriage, distribution of property, and the provisions of an antenuptial agreement (if one exists). Furthermore, they will consider the age, health, educational level, and earning capacity of each party.

Child Support (§ 598.21AB) – Under state law, each case will be judged on its individual facts in the most “just and appropriate” manner and in accordance with the Iowa Child Support Guidelines.

Division of Property (§ 598.21(5)) – All property will be fairly divided in consideration of multiple factors including the contribution, earning capacity, child custody, and economic circumstances of each party. This type of property division is often referred to as “equitable distribution.”

Grounds for Divorce (§ 598.5(g)) – Iowa is a no-fault divorce state, which means that neither party has to be accused of wrongdoing in order to apply for a divorce. The only requirement is that a breakdown of the marriage relationship must be declared.

Interim Support (§ 598.10) – The court may order one party to pay a sum of money to the clerk to be distributed to the other party as financial support during the divorce process.

Residency (§ 598.5(k) and § 598.9) – To file for divorce, petitioners must be Iowa residents for at least one (1) year (any time spent out of state must be deducted from the total) and offer proof of residency. If the petitioner’s residence is not adequately proved, their case will be dismissed by the court.

How to File for Divorce in Iowa

Divorce Forms

Uncontested Divorce with No Children:

Uncontested Divorce With Children:

Step 1 – Fill out Divorce Forms

To become legally divorced, married couples must have a judge approve the terms of their “dissolution of marriage” (the legal term for divorce). If the county in which the case will be filed accepts electronic filing, the divorce forms must be filed online unless the court gives a formal exemption. Individuals should contact their local district court to verify whether electronic filing is provided. To file divorce forms electronically, spouses will be required to register an account with the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) (see EDMS guide).

The following forms must be completed by the “petitioner” (the spouse who is opening the divorce case) to file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage:

Additional forms required for paper filing only:

Consult the ‘Guide to Representing Yourself in an Iowa Divorce Case’ (without childrenwith children) for more information.

Step 2 – File Petition

If the petitioner is filing their petition by paper through their district court, they will need to send additional copies of each form to their spouse (who is referred to as the “respondent”) with the exception of the Confidential Information Form. Petitioners are required to pay a filing fee to the clerk of court, or file an Application and Affidavit to Defer Payment of Costs (without children / with children) to apply to have fees waived. The basic fee for filing a petition is one-hundred eighty-five dollars ($185); however additional filing fees may be required depending on the county. If the petitioner is filing online, they will receive a Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) when their petition has been approved by the clerk of court. Once their filing has been approved, the petitioner can download and print copies of the petition, Original Notice for Personal Service, and Protected Information Disclosure to serve on the respondent.

Step 3 – Serve Respondent

The petitioner will have ninety (90) days from the date that they file their petition to serve copies of the divorce papers on the respondent. The case will be dismissed if the documents are not served in time. The respondent can be served the documents by mail or in-person by the petitioner, county sheriff, civil process server, or a third party. After being served, the respondent must fill out an Acceptance of Service (with no childrenwith children) to be filed with the clerk of court after execution. If a third party (other than the sheriff or a civil process server) serves the forms, they must fill out an Affidavit of Service (without childrenwith children) that must also be filed with the court. If a sheriff serves the divorce papers, the petitioner must fill out and file the Directions for Service of Original Notice form (without childrenwith children).

Step 4 – Respondent’s Answer

Within twenty (20) days of being served divorce papers, the respondent must complete an Answer to Petition for Dissolution of Marriage (without childrenwith children) and file it with the court clerk. If there is protected information included in the Answer, the respondent must also fill out and file a Protected Information Disclosure (without children / with children). In the event that an Answer is not filed within the time limit, the court may enter a judgment against the respondent.

Step 5 – Marital Settlement Agreement and Agreed Parenting Plan

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on the terms and conditions of their marriage’s dissolution. This arrangement must be formalized in a Settlement Agreement for a Dissolution of Marriage (with childrenwithout children) drafted with or without legal consultation. Both parties are also required to file Financial Affidavits (without childrenwith children) declaring their financial situation. If the couple has children, they must also complete the Agreed Parenting Plan document. The petitioner can also file a Motion in a Dissolution of Marriage (without children / with children) to request a shortened waiting period for receiving a judgment. These forms must be filed with the court clerk prior to the final hearing.

Step 6 – Decree of Dissolution of Marriage

After all divorce forms have been filed and served as required, the petitioner will need to arrange a meeting with the judge through the court clerk. At the meeting, the petitioner should bring their copies of all relevant documents for reference. The judge will review the case and, if everything is in order, issue a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage. The decree will be delivered to the petitioner by mail or in-person by the clerk. If the petition was filed electronically, the petitioner will receive a notification when their decree is available for download. Once the decree has been issued, the divorce and all its terms will be final. If either party included a name change to restore their previous name in their divorce papers, they can update their ID by presenting a copy of their divorce decree to the necessary entities. If the name restoration wasn’t included in the petition, or if the individual wishes to adopt a new name, they will need to file a Petition for Name Change with their District Court.

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