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My spouse wants a divorce, now what?

While a lot of people give quite a bit of thought to how to get married, few plan for that moment when a spouse says they want a divorce. For most people, the declaration itself comes as no great surprise; however, that doesn't make handling it any easier, particularly if you were truly surprised. Here's some information to help make the process easier, or at least understandable.

The Law.

Iowa is a "no fault" state. What this means is a person merely has to state that they believe the legitimate objects of matrimony have been broken and there is no reasonable likelihood the marriage could be preserved. In other words one spouse cannot stop another from seeking a divorce.

The concept of "no fault" also means that the reason you are getting a divorce will generally have no bearing on issues such as spousal support or property settlement. The fact that your spouse engaged in "bad" behavior (e.g., alcoholism, drug use, adultery) does not automatically increase your chances of getting spousal support or a more favorable property settlement.

The Process.

From the time your spouse is served the divorce petition, generally a divorce cannot be granted for 90 days. Parties are usually required to attend at least one mediation prior to any dissolution decree being granted. Certain financial disclosures also must normally be filed with the court, and even more filings are required if you have minor children. As a general rule, divorce cases must proceed to trial within 9 months of filing the petition.

Entry of the Decree.

A Decree will be issued by the court setting forth the respective rights and responsibilities of each party. The content of each decree will vary based on the issues involved in your own case. In most cases parties will agree on the content of the Decree, oftentimes after mediation, and the Judge will approve the settlement so long as it's in accordance with certain principles of law. In those cases where the parties cannot agree a Judge will decide how any disputed issues should be resolved. A decree of dissolution of marriage, generally, restores both parties to the rights and status of single persons. As a general rule the entry of a Decree will nullify any other legal documents previously entered such as a Last Will and Testament or the beneficiary designations in an insurance policy. For this reason a party should redraft any Will previously executed and examine the beneficiary designations after the entry of a dissolution decree.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained herein is for educational or informational purposes only. It is NOT intended to serve as legal advice. The facts and circumstances in any one individual case may result in a different result than what is suggested here. Prior to signing ANY legal document the reader is strongly advised to consult with an attorney of their own choosing.

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