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Marriage and Divorce
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Marriage is described by the Marriage Code as a civil contract. Only those capable of entering a contract can enter into it.

Age Requirements
There are age requirements for marriage. If you are eighteen or older and you enter into a marriage with another individual over the age of eighteen, then your marriage is valid. If you enter into a marriage and claim to be eighteen, but you are not actually eighteen, your marriage is valid unless annulled by you before your eighteenth birthday. If you and your potential spouse are sixteen or seventeen, a marriage license may be issued to you if both your parents consent. If your parents are divorced, your custodial parent may consent. If one of your parents is deceased, your other parent may consent. If both of your parents are deceased, your legal guardian may consent. If neither your parents nor your guardian is available, a judge has the authority to consent to the marriage. If your parents withhold their consent to a marriage, the judge may overrule them and allow the marriage if the judge determines that the withholding of the consent is unreasonable.

Prohibitions
Individuals who are related to one another, such as parents, children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and first cousins may not marry. Also, a person who is currently married may not legally marry another person.

Names and Legitimacy
Upon marriage, you or your spouse may take the name of the other. Alternatively, you or your spouse may take another surname agreeable to both of you. Marriage legitimizes the children born to you and your spouse even if the children were born prior to the marriage.

Making it Official
Marriages may be solemnized by a judge or a person ordained or designated as a leader of a religious faith.

Common Law Marriage
A common law marriage is a marriage that is deemed to exist despite the fact that a formal wedding never took place. You may have entered into a common law marriage when there is proof of intent to be married by both you and your common law spouse, you have continuously cohabitated (lived together) with your common law spouse, and you and your common law spouse have publicly declared that you are married. If you wish to prove that such a marriage exists, you have the burden of proving it. Such common law marriage must be dissolved by divorce.

Obligations and Liabilities
Once married, you are liable for the support of your spouse and any children of the marriage. This duty may be enforced even when you and your spouse are living apart. Neither you nor your spouse is liable for the debts or liabilities the other incurred before marriage. However, you may very well be liable for debts incurred by your spouse during the marriage. Even if a dissolution decree holds you not liable for a debt, a creditor may still sue you because the creditor is not bound by the terms of a dissolution decree. You are not liable for the civil injuries committed by the spouse except in those situations where the partner would be jointly liable for the injury even if the marriage did not exist.

Divorce
Iowa has "no-fault” divorce (called dissolution). If you want to end your marriage, you must file a petition in court that alleges that there has been a breakdown in the marriage relationship such that the legitimate objects of marriage have been destroyed and there is no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved. The petition must also state that the person filing the petition has lived in Iowa for at least a year and must state the name of the county and the length of residence.

After the Petition is Filed
If either party asks for conciliation, the judge will require the parties to participate in conciliation for 60 days. There is a 90-day waiting period before a dissolution decree can be granted. In limited circumstances, a court can waive the 90-day period. The judge can order the parties to attend mediation sessions to resolve disputed issues. If there are children, you and your spouse will be required to complete a Children in the Middle program.

Temporary Orders
The judge can enter temporary orders that are in effect while the dissolution is pending. The orders can provide for child support, child custody, and attorney’s fees.

The Dissolution Decree
The final dissolution decree entered by the court contains a statement that the marriage is dissolved. The decree also provides for child custody, child support, spousal support, and contains a property settlement. The former spouses forfeit all rights that are not specifically preserved in the decree. The parties become single and are free to remarry.

Spousal Support
Spousal support is also called alimony. Spousal support replaces support that would have been provided if the marriage had continued. Iowa recognizes three kinds of spousal support:
1. Traditional support that is paid for as long as a spouse cannot be self-supporting;
2. Rehabilitative support that supports a dependent spouse while he or she obtains education or training; and
3. Reimbursement support that recognizes financial sacrifices made by one spouse to enhance the earning capacity of the other spouse.

A court can award any or all types of support at the same time.

Child Custody and Child Support
When a marriage is dissolved, the parties are generally granted joint legal custody of their children. This means that parents have equal rights and responsibilities with respect to such issues as the child’s legal status, education, activities, religious instruction, and medical care.

Physical Care
Joint physical care occurs when both parents provide a home for the children and the parents share physical care of the children. If one parent is awarded sole physical care of the children, the court will likely order primary physical care to one parent and liberal visitation rights to the other parent. Physical care refers to which parent will provide the primary home for the children and provide for the day to day needs of minor children.

Amount of Child Support
Both parents are responsible for providing support to the children in a divorce. If you are the custodial parent, you are presumed to meet your support requirement by providing the children’s primary home. If you are the non-custodial parent, Iowa has child support guidelines that take into account factors such as the number of children and the income level of the parent paying support. In rare and special circumstances, the court can use an amount other than the guideline amount. The court can also order one parent to maintain health insurance for the children.

Change of Circumstances
The amount of child support you owe can change as circumstances such as the number of minor children being supported and your income level change.

The Iowa State Bar Association • 625 East Court Avenue • Des Moines, IA 50309
Ph. (515) 243-3179 • Fax (515) 243-2511
Email: isba@iowabar.org