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Iowa Family Law: An Overview

In matters of marriage, child rearing, adoption or divorce, you and your partner will need to deal with Iowa’s family laws. These laws provide legal guidelines and restrictions for everything from creating a prenuptial agreement to deciding how to divide up property in a divorce.

If you have a family law case in Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids or elsewhere in Iowa, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo’s Iowa Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family.

If you need help navigating the complex laws governing your case, an Iowa family law attorney can help and treat your case with the sensitivity it deserves.

Iowa Foster Care

A child under 18 years of age who was legally separated from their parent for a temporary period enters into protective custody under Iowa’s state government. During that period, the child may be placed with a foster family until the court decides to reunite the foster child with their birth parent. Foster care is different from adoption in that one or both of a foster child’s birth parents still retain their legal rights as that child’s parents.

Children who enter into foster care weren’t separated from their parents by any fault of their own. The goal of foster care is to provide a foster child with a home and family that will help them develop a healthy childhood away from negative influences.

Foster parents must be 21 years of age or older and must be capable of providing a safe, stable and welcoming home for foster children. Foster parents can be single, married, heterosexual, homosexual, homeowners, renters and of any race, ethnicity and religion. There are specific requirements for the residence where the foster child will stay and foster parents are expected to work with the child’s birth parents and their Department of Human Services worker.

Iowa Marriage Licenses

Before your wedding day arrives, you and your partner will need to attain an Iowa marriage license. The license verifies that your marriage is permitted under Iowa’s marriage laws. The state marriage laws are primarily concerned with both parties’ ability to freely consent to the marriage and prohibit certain marriages, including:

  • Marriages in which either party is under 18 years of age unless the minor attains both written parental consent and court approval. Any party who is younger than 16 years of age is prohibited from marriage.
  • Marriages between family members of any close relation up to and including first cousins.
  • Bigamous marriages in which either party has another still-living married partner outside of the current marriage.

Both parties are required to appear before an Iowa county registrar to apply for the marriage license. Once the license is issued, you must wait three days before commencing with the marriage ceremony. The license has no expiration date.

Iowa No-Fault Divorce

To get a divorce in Iowa, only one party needs to prove to a court with evidence that there was a breakdown in the marriage with no likelihood of reconciliation. This allows for a “no-fault” divorce in which no party to the marriage shoulders the blame for its end. Marital fault isn’t considered by courts in property distribution and spousal support decisions. It may be considered in child custody decisions if the marital fault negatively affects the child’s best interests, though.

The final divorce decree may not be delivered until 90 days have passed since the petition was first filed. However, the court may waive the waiting period on the grounds of emergency or necessity such as in domestic abuse cases.

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