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How are Divorce Records Generated in Iowa?

Iowa divorce records are documents that provide evidence and proof about the dissolution or termination of a marriage. Divorce in Iowa means the termination of a marriage between two parties. In 2018, the state recorded 7.1 divorces per 1000 women who are age 15 and above.

According to Iowa Code - Sections 598.5 and 598.17, Iowa allows for only a no-fault divorce filing. Pursuant to this, Iowa will only grant married couples divorce if one the parties can prove any of the following:

  • Complete and absolute breakdown of the marriage such that it can no longer be repaired
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Separation spanning a considerable length of time

The hallmark factor in a no-fault divorce is that no party is blamed for the divorce. Hence, no party is required to provide a burden of proof to the fact that the other party caused the marriage to breakdown.

Depending on how the couples resolve to handle further issues pertaining to the divorce, a no-fault divorce can be classified under:

  • Uncontested divorce
  • Contested divorce

Uncontested divorce happens when the deciding parties involved in the divorce agree on the terms of the divorce as well as on all issues related to the divorce. This option is arguably cheaper and results in less time spent in court.

Some common issues that might need to be settled on by both spouses include; debt allocation, child custody, visiting time, child support, and alimony (spousal support). If all of these can be agreed upon and decided by both parties, then the court can finalize the divorce in about two to three months.

Depending on other factors, such as availability of judges or court caseload, this time frame may be extended. If, on the other hand, resolutions are not reached at, then a trial will be scheduled by the court for a contested divorce.

A contested divorce takes place when there are disagreements on ancillary issues, couples do not agree on the need to get a divorce, or when both parties cannot seem to resolve the terms of the divorce.

When this happens, the court will declare a trial date for such persons in order to finalize the divorce. This divorce can take anything from several months to a year to finally get resolved.

For every divorce, whether contested or uncontested, the Iowa Code § 598.19 mandates a 90-day waiting period from the day when the divorce petition is served. This waiting period is expected to give the couples time to go over their intending action and if possible work out their differences.

However, the court may at its discretion decide to waive off the waiting period if the petitioner can provide a sufficient reason to do so.

Iowa divorce records are maintained at the county and state levels. The records can be obtained in the district court in the county where such divorce took place, as well as from the State Vital Records Office.

Are Divorce Records Public in Iowa

Iowa divorce records are public records, which means that residents have the license to view and obtain copies of Iowa divorce records. This is also in accordance with the Iowa Open Records Law which allows residents the right to examine and obtain copies of records deemed as public records.

The District Court in the county where the divorce was finalized serves as a repository to all divorce records (both contested and uncontested) in the state. Such records can easily be accessed online by persons seeking to make use of them.

What are the types of Divorce Records available in Iowa?

There are two types of divorce records available in Iowa, which are:

  • Decree of dissolution of marriage
  • Divorce case files

The decree of dissolution of marriage is a document that serves as evidence that a divorce occurred between two persons. It contains the final judgment of a divorce. It includes every basic information of the divorce such as the names of the divorced couple, the place as well as the time when the divorce was finalized. It also includes other ancillary terms captured during the course of the divorce proceeding.

The divorce case contains the details of the entire divorce process. Every information contained in the divorce certificate and dissolution decree is also documented here.

How Do I Get Divorce Records in Iowa?

Iowa’s divorce case file and decree of dissolution of marriage are issued by the Clerk of District Court in the county where such a divorce took place. Such records can be requested for and obtained by contacting the Clerk of Court in person or by phone.

The Iowa Courts website contains a list of Clerks of District Court for the different counties in the state. Look it up to get the contact address of the Clerk of District Court where the divorce under consideration was finalized. The Clerk of Court charges a fee for issuing these records, but it varies from county to county.

Also, the Iowa Court Online Search system allows members of the public to conduct a case search for all cases from the different Trial (District) Courts across the state. Applicants are required to provide the following information, among others, when requesting divorce records in Iowa:

  • The full name of the parties listed in the record
  • The date of the divorce
  • The case number on the record
  • The place of the divorce

While divorce and marriage records may be searched through government sources and organizations, the availability of these documents cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these entities are not government-sponsored therefore record availability may vary further.

Also note that marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information the records contain, and are often sealed. Hence, bearing in mind that these factors determine the availability of any type of marriage or divorce record.

Who Can Obtain Divorce Records in Iowa?

Iowa divorce records are public records and can be accessed by members of the public with sufficient information to search for the record.

Are Iowa Divorce Records available online?

The state has a central repository for searching for all cases from county Trial (District) Courts, including divorce cases. The repository is available on the Iowa Court Online Search website. The website can be accessed by members of the general public.

It has three different search options for searching the trial court: case search, payment search, and advanced search. Case search involves searching by name, case number, or citation number.

Payment search is an option when there is a need to make payments online. It’s typically for paying fines and doesn’t concern divorce case search. On the other hand, the advanced search will require the requester to create an account first on the website.

How Do I seal My Divorce Records in Iowa?

Since divorce records are declared public in Iowa, it is not very common to have it sealed. A sealed divorce record restricts public access to such a record. The court can seal all or certain parts of the divorce record depending on what it deems necessary.

Although the parties in a divorce are responsible for requesting a divorce sealing, it is up to the judge to decide whether or not to grant such motion.

The court will grant such a motion if it considers that the damage to the person asking for privacy from public scrutiny outweighs the presumption that public records should be made accessible to the general public.

After a divorce record has been sealed by the court, such a record can only be accessible to the party to the action or the party’s attorney except upon order from the court for a good and sufficient cause.

Common reasons that could necessitate the court granting a sealing request are:

  • The need to guard children against being identified in divorce records
  • The need to guard proprietary business information
  • The need to keep away sensitive information such as bank account numbers private
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