Legal Separation in Iowa

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Legal separation in Iowa is also known as marital separation or judgment of separation. After a legal separation is granted, the debts incurred or assets accumulated are no longer considered as a joint property. The status of the couple changes to "legally separated" from "legally married" and they cannot remarry unless they get a divorce.

It is granted in the form of a court order and a specific legal process is necessary for the couple to be legally separated. In Iowa, even if the couple is staying separate and apart for ages, it cannot be considered as legal separation as there hasn't been a legal action such as filing the petition, submitting the appeal and signing the legal separation agreement.

Definition of Legal Separation according to the Statute of Iowa:

According to the statute of Iowa, legal separation is defined as "a breakdown of the marital 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". This explains that Iowa is a no-fault divorce state and accepts the "irretrievable breakdown of marriage" as a sole reason to grant divorce or legal separation.

Residency Requirement for Legal Separation in Iowa:

The residency requirement for legal separation in the state of Iowa is at least one year. This means that either of the spouses should be a resident of Iowa for at least one year before the date of filing. The process is same as divorce and it also costs the same. It is better to opt for divorce due to the cost factor as in the end one is still married to the same person.

Separation Agreement in Iowa:

A separation agreement has to be submitted to the court, which addresses the issues such as child care, custody and visitation rights and schedule, division of property and assets along with the debts and responsibilities.

The issues addressed in this agreement are legally enforceable and binding by law to both the parties.

The separation agreement in Iowa addresses following issues:

  • Child Custody and Visitation - The issue regarding the child custody and visitation arises when there are minor children involved in a marriage. The court encourages the couple to reach a mutual agreement regarding the childcare issues as it has its repercussions on the mindset of these children. The custodial spouse has to spare the visitation rights to the non-custodial spouse so that the children can spend the quality time with the parents.
  • Property Division - The couple can come up with the property division as Iowa is an equitable distribution state and all the property is divided equitable regardless of who bought it in the first place. If the couple is in conflict regarding the division of property, the court gives the directions regarding the same which are legally binding to both the parties. Property division addresses everything right from real estate to family home. Usually, the court encourages the couple to reach a mutual settlement regarding these issues.
  • Finances - The finances including the salaries of the couple, savings in the bank accounts, investments, retirement and pension plans along with the insurance coverages are covered in the finance section of the separation agreement in Iowa. The court asks the couple to operate separate bank accounts until it gives the directions regarding the fate of the joint accounts and investments.
  • Household - Household expenses such as bill payments, mortgage or rent (if any) and other day-to-day expenses which are handled jointly by the couple also need to be addressed. These issues are important as they take a major chunk out of the salary or the overall income of the couple.
  • Spousal Support - Dependent spouse is entitled to receive alimony or spousal support in order to live the standard of life he / she lived before they were separated. The amount can either be decided by the couple or the directions can be given by the court after assessing the earning capacity, inheritances (if any) or monetary rewards received by the spouses. Individual property is also scrutinized in order to determine the support payments for spouse as well as children.
Many couples in Iowa opt for legal separation instead of divorce due to the financial, social as well as religious reasons. Some religions frown upon or outright oppose divorce. The couple with such religious affiliations can do with legal separation. Also, there is a social stigma attached with divorce which many couples do not want to face. Such couples also go through legal separation instead of divorce. Besides these there are most important financial reasons such as tax exemptions, social security benefits, military benefits, insurance coverages and insurance benefits to rely upon.

Thus, legal separation in Iowa is a golden mean between an unwanted marriage and unattainable divorce.

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