Iowa is a no-fault divorce state. This means that when you or your spouse file a petition for dissolution of marriage, you do not need to state that either of you did anything wrong to prompt the request. Instead, you indicate that the marriage is broken beyond repair. Iowa Code § 598.5 specifically provides that the petition for a dissolution of marriage shall "allege that there has been a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the legitimate objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no reasonable likelihood that the marriage can be preserved."
Any alleged wrongdoing or marital misconduct engaged in by either you or your spouse may not be considered a factor in divorce-related issues. During the divorce proceedings, the court may hold a hearing to determine matters you and your spouse are unable to resolve on your own. These hearings are not the forum to discuss fault, and the judge will not be concerned with such.
Does It Matter Who Files for Divorce First?
Technically, it does not matter whether you or your spouse is the first to submit a divorce petition. The initial filing does not affect the outcome in matters such as spousal support, property division, or child custody.
However, the person who initially submits the dissolution of marriage petition (the petitioner) is the one who must present satisfactory evidence that the marriage is irreparable. Evidence can be anything from testimony from others to text messages demonstrating incompatibility issues.
If you are unable to present satisfactory evidence and you were the petitioner, the court may seek such evidence from your spouse (the respondent) to prove that the marriage is destroyed beyond repair (Iowa Code § 598.17(2)).
Does Fault Have Any Effect on Divorce-Related Issues?
One question often asked during divorce proceedings is whether misconduct, such as adultery, will impact the judge's decision concerning matters like property division, spousal support, and child custody. For the most part, it does not.
Below we'll elaborate on some of the factors affecting final decisions:
In Iowa, property is divided equitably. That doesn't mean there will be an 50/50 split between you and your spouse. Rather, the court will do what it believes is fair for both parties.
Factors considered in property division matters include, but are not limited to:
- Marriage length
- Property each spouse owned before the marriage
- Contribution of each spouse to the marriage
- Earnings capacity of each spouse
- Amount and duration of support awarded to either spouse
Marital misconduct will not influence a judge's decision concerning spousal support (or alimony). That is because support is awarded to provide one spouse the financial assistance they need to cover necessities.
The court will look at other factors besides fault to determine spousal support, such as:
- Marriage length
- Age of spouses
- Emotional health of spouses
- Educational level of spouses
- Earnings capacity of spouses
- Tax consequences
Courts want to ensure that children have maximum physical and emotional contact with their parents. When determining how to award child custody and physical care, the judge will decide based on what's in the child's best interests.
Factors considered in these matters include, but are not limited to:
- Suitability of each parent
- Psychological and emotional needs of the child
- Ability of parents to communicate with each other concerning their child's needs
- Ability of parents to support the child's relationship with the other parent
Marital misconduct might play a role in determining child custody awards only if the wrongdoing has or will negatively affect the child. For instance, if your spouse has a history of domestic violence, the court will not grant them custody.
For help with the divorce process in West Des Moines, contact The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw at (515) 200-7571. We'll help you understand your rights, obligations, and avenues to pursue to protect your best interests.