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Family Law

Family Law

Lawyers with the Parrish Law Firm handle family law matters, including divorce, paternity, custody, visitation, child support, termination of parental rights, child in need of assistance, modification of an existing court order, and contempt actions.  All cases are different so if you have specific questions about your case, please contact us to schedule an appointment.  We have outlined some general terms and concepts to help familiarize yourself with this are of law:

Divorce, formally known as dissolution of marriage in Iowa, is the manner in which you can terminate a marriage.  The process begins with filing of a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  The Petition can be filed in the county where either spouse resides.  The spouse filing the Petition is called the Petitioner and the other spouse is called the Respondent.  The process ends upon filing of a Decree of Dissolution of Marriage.

Matters to be resolved in a divorce include the following, distribution of assets and debts, spousal support, tax matters, insurance, custody, visitation, child support, attorney’s fees, etc.

Legal Grounds for Divorce – Iowa is a no-fault state.  This means that neither party must show fault of the other in order to terminate a marriage.  The only ground that one must establish is 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 § 598.5 (2015).

Residency Requirement – If the Respondent is not a resident of the State of Iowa and is not personally served with the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the Petitioner must be a residence of the State of Iowa for the last year and their residence must be in good faith and not for the purpose of obtaining a dissolution of marriage.

Waiting Period – There is a 90 day waiting period before a divorce can be finalized, unless it is waived by the Court.  The 90 day waiting period begins from one of the following dates, whichever is longer:

  • Date the original notice is served on the Respondent;
  • The last date of publication of notice;
  • Date the waiver or acceptance of original notice is filed; or
  • After conciliation is completed.

Property Distribution – Iowa Code section 598.21 provides that “all property, except inherited property or gifts received or expected by one party” shall be divided equitably between the parties.  There are a number of factors considered when determining how to equitably divide property.  Property divisions are not subject to modification.

Mediation – Many counties in Iowa are now requiring parties in divorce and paternity actions to mediate their cases prior to obtaining a trial date.  Mediation is an opportunity for the parties to sit down with a neutral third-party mediator to try and resolve their case between themselves.  One of the benefits of mediation is the ability of the parties to craft their own resolutions.  Mediation can also save the time and expense of having a trial.  There are some instances where mediation will not be required.  For example, mediation can be waived if there is a history of domestic abuse.

Spousal Support – Also known as alimony, are support payments that a court can order either party to pay.  The court considers a number of factors when determining whether and how long to award spousal support.

Child Custody – There are two types of custody in Iowa, legal custody and physical custody.

Legal Custody – There are two types of legal custody, joint legal custody and sole legal custody.  Joint legal custody involves both parties having the rights and responsibilities towards a child, including making decision on the child’s behalf related to medical, schooling, religion, extra-curricular activities, etc.  It is standard in Iowa for parents to have joint legal custody of their children, except in exception cases.

Physical Custody – Physical custody deals with the day to day parenting of the children.

  • Primary physical Care: One parent provides a majority of the day to day parenting. They are considered the custodial parent.  The other parent is considered the non-custodial parent.
  • Joint Physical Care: Both parents equally (or as close to equally) share in the day to day parenting.

Child Support – Typically the non-custodial parent is ordered to pay child support.  However, if there is a significant enough disparity in the parties’ incomes, it is possible for a custodial parent to be ordered to pay child support.  It is also typical for child support to be ordered under a joint physical care arrangement, which the parent that makes more money typically paying.  There are a number of factors to be considered when determining a child support amount including the income of each parent, any additional children of either parent, health insurance expenses, child care expenses, the physical custody award, number of overnight visits with the non-custodial parent, etc.

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