Marriage is described by the Marriage Code as a civil contract. Only those capable of entering a contract can enter into it.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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
Change of Circumstances
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.
The amount of child support you owe can change as circumstances such as
the number of minor children being supported and your income level