Blogs from July, 2023

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The Complications of a Military Divorce in Iowa


Ending a marriage is never easy, but when one of the spouses is currently active-duty military or in the reserves, the situation becomes even more complex. These added dynamics can make a divorce even more difficult and confusing.

This post article provides some helpful insight into understanding military divorce, focusing on the laws in Iowa. This information can help prepare you for what’s to come.

The Basics of a Military Divorce in Iowa

Generally, Iowa treats a military divorce the same as it does any civilian divorce. The laws remain consistent, regardless of anyone’s military status.

However, there are some unique challenges that military couples face in a divorce.

For example, sending divorce papers to a service member offers unique challenges. Active military members are often located in different states or even countries, and they may not have a permanent address.

Furthermore, there are certain laws that apply to service members during divorce proceedings. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides important protections for service members. This law can delay or stay court proceedings while someone is on active duty.

The Residency Requirements for a Military Divorce in Iowa

In this regard, the state’s laws are fairly straightforward.

At least one spouse must have resided in Iowa for at least one year before filing for divorce. There are some exceptions, however. A military spouse stationed in Iowa, for instance, can live in the state for 180 days before filing.

Dividing Property in a Military Divorce

Generally, the state will follow the same procedures as it would in any other divorce. Iowa uses the “equitable division” model. Courts attempt to split assets based on fairness, and they aren’t concerned with a 50/50 split.

For instance, the spouse who used the property the most or contributed the most to it can usually keep the asset. This is true even if they invested no money in the property.

One of the biggest hurdles in a military divorce is the equitable distribution of military retirement benefits. The rules and regulations surrounding this money can be complex and confusing to navigate, especially when it comes to determining the proper division of financial assets. This is because military retirement benefits are considered marital property and are subject to division in a divorce settlement. However, some specific laws and guidelines govern the division of these benefits.

Lawyers will often argue that the military spouse should receive a greater portion of the retirement, as the job kept the other spouse away from the family. If the marriage lasted over 10 years, the Department of Defense will often include the spouse on the benefits and keep them there, even if there is a divorce.

To ensure fair property distribution for everyone, you need the assistance of a skilled attorney. The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw, PLC is there to help make sure both parties get what they need and deserve.

Determining Spousal Support in an Iowa Divorce

In Iowa, alimony is based on a variety of factors, including:

  • Each spouse’s needs
  • The length of the marriage
  • The lifestyle of the spouses during the marriage
  • The contribution each spouse made to the marriage
  • The earning potential of each spouse, including their age, education, work history, mental and physical health, and so on

In a military divorce, a court should also consider factors such as military benefits, deployment schedules, and relocation.

Child Custody & Visitation Rights in a Military Divorce

Child custody is based on the child’s best interests. This is true with any divorce. However, military service can make custody agreements more complicated.

Establishing custody arrangements is a complex matter, regardless of the parents' occupations. However, these arrangements become more intricate when one of the parents is a service member. The nature of their job can result in frequent, unexpected absences. This makes it hard to create a consistent parenting plan.

Military assignments can also call for a parent to move further away, making the parenting plan even more challenging. It can become difficult to effectively communicate with a former spouse regarding important decisions, and a regular visitation schedule will require a significant amount of flexibility.

In any divorce, a parenting plan outlines physical possession and visitation rights. Visitation can extend to electronic visits such as phone calls or video chats. Additionally, these plans often grant decision-making authority, also called “legal custody.” Legal custody allows parents to share responsibilities concerning medical and educational matters, or in certain cases, confers sole power to one parent.

Whenever possible, parents should work on custody plans together. If that is not an option, you will need a skilled attorney who can help you overcome the logistics of child custody in a military divorce.

Our firm is here to stand by your side and assist in creating a reasonable divorce agreement for military families. For a free consultation, schedule time with us online or call us directly at (515) 200-7571.