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Out of State Gay Couples Wed in Iowa Having Trouble Getting Divorced

November 1st, 2013

On April 3, 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court issued a momentous ruling in Varnum v. Brien, 763 N.W.2d 862 (Iowa 2009), which held the state's limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples violated the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. The Court affirmed the right of same-sex couples to marry in Iowa. A report from the Iowa Department of Public Health stated that between April 2009 and March 2010, 2,020 same-sex couples were married in Iowa, accounting for 10.1% of total marriages conducted in the state during that period. Only 815, or 40% of couples, were from Iowa, with the rest being from out of state, predominantly from neighboring states that do not allow same-sex marriage i.e. Illinois, Missouri and Nebraska.

Some of these newly married same-sex couples are now finding out the hard way that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to obtaining a divorce. The states
in which they reside do not allow same-sex marriages; and therefore refuse to divorce the couples as they do not recognize their marriage. Many of the couples that learn this then call attorneys in Iowa for help. Unfortunately, pursuant to Iowa Code section 598.5, a party must be a resident of the state of Iowa for one year prior to the court having personal jurisdiction over them. This leaves many same sex couples unable to divorce in their resident state and unable to obtain a divorce in the state where they were married. This is one thing to consider when eloping to another state that recognizes same-sex marriages. With the current laws, sometimes, legally, it really is "till death do you part."


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