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4800 Mills Civic Pkwy
Suite 218
West Des Moines, IA 50265

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Client Endorsement
"Jeff helped me get an amicable divorce by being very clear and concise up front with what my rights, choices and process I needed to make regarding my divorce. Jeff was patient, understanding and always available to answer questions and explain the divorce process to me. I absolutely made the right decision for my divorce when I hired Jeff Mathias. If you want an understanding, compassionate attorney who really wants the best for you (and even your spouse), don't hesitate to contact Jeff."

-Steve Schott, Des Moines, Iowa, Divorce Client

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Top 6 Iowa Divorce Questions

1. How much does Iowa divorce cost?

Uncontested, No Kids- $900 Fixed Attorney Fee, plus $235 Court Costs

Uncontested With Kids- $1,500 Fixed Attorney Fee, plus $235 Court Costs, Children in the Middle $40

Contested Divorce, No Kids- $3,000 Fixed Attorney Fee covers through the first mediation, $235 Court Costs

Contested Divorce, With Kids and No Preliminary Orders- $5,000 Fixed Attorney Fee covers through the first mediation, $235 Court Costs, Children in the Middle $40

Contested Divorce, With Kids and Preliminary Orders- $7,500 Fixed Attorney Fee covers through the first mediation, $235 Court Costs, Children in the Middle $40

Best to come in once you have all your fees available.

2. Can you represent both of us?

Because we have a duty of loyalty to our client and cannot serve two masters well, Iowa law specifically prohibits us from representing both husband and wife in divorce.  Usually the spouse in an uncontested divorce does not hire their own attorney although it is fine to do so if they wish.  As long as they are in agreement, they normally just sign off on the settlement agreement.  Iowa Law: In no event shall a lawyer represent both parties in dissolution or marriage proceedings.  Iowa R. of Prof’l Resp. 32:1.7(c)(2016).

3. Can we waive child support?

Iowa courts are very serious about protecting children of divorce.  The last thing they want is for kids to suffer for lack of financial support.  So Judges do not agree to waive support even when the parties request it.  But there are plenty of easy ways to deal with it that Jeff can help with.

4. What is the most common custody arrangement?

In my practice, the most common arrangement by far is Joint Physical Care with more or less equal parenting time by agreement for both parents, meaning there is a degree of flexibility week to week depending on work schedules, kids activities, etc.  The parent with higher income pays modest child support to the other parent.  This is the best way to preserve great bonds between both parents and the kids.  It also reduces animosity some kids have toward the parent with primary custody over having inadequate time with the non-custodial parent.

5. How long does Iowa divorce take?

There is a 90 day waiting period from the day we file your acceptance of service.  So uncontested cases take a bit over three months.  Contested cases can take two years or more.

6. How do I get started?

Fill out the contact form above, email or call Jeff anytime for personal answers from Jeff and not a legal assistant.  Jeff will send you a case evaluation form that takes about 15 minutes to complete.  When we meet you can sign the petition so Jeff can file right away. Then your spouse accepts service.  We file a Financial Affidavit and Settlement Agreement.  If there are kids Jeff will work up a Child Support Worksheet and you will take the Children in the Middle course.  Taking action reduces stress!

Legal Separation Agreements in Iowa

I often get calls from clients seeking a legal separation.  In Iowa, a legal separation is handled the same way as a full divorce except that the property is not distributed.  If the parties later decide to divorce, you would start anew with a divorce case.  Also, during the legal separation, since the parties are still married, they are still responsible for the others debts under 597.14 of the Iowa Code. and Iowa Code 252A.3: Support of Family

However, some Iowan’s will still pursue a legal separation because they cannot remain together and cannot divorce due to their religion or for moral reasons.  So the benefits of filing a legal separation are quite limited and the costs are about the same as a full divorce, after which many people would end up just paying the same full amount again once they are ready to divorce.

Divorce in Iowa – Joint Physical Care Takes the Fight Out

Historically, Iowa courts awarded joint legal custody with primary physical care to one party, typically the mother and visitation to the father.  In recent years, fathers rights have become a bigger issue and many women work as much as men who are now more involved in caring for our children.  Hence, Iowa courts now often award joint physical care if the parties are cooperating well and both have been very involved in child rearing.

Child Support is calculated for both parties.  The party with the higher child support pays the difference of the two figures. Iowa courts are very serious about making sure children are well provided for.  If both parties have about the same income then the support may be minimal.  In fact, if it is under $100/mo. the court may waive the payment of any child support in joint custody cases.  Otherwise, Iowa divorce courts do want to see child support in place.  However, the parties can work out their own arrangements.  For example, the person receiving the support might pay for all day care expenses with the funds rather than half.

Joint physical care has taken a lot of the fight out of divorce in Iowa; why fight over custody if you can share?

Factors Iowa Courts consider in awarding Joint Physical Care

1. Stability and Continuity

Iowa courts prefer to limit joint physical care to couples that have had a history or very active participation by both parents in child rearing.  So if one party has left most or all of child rearing to the other during the marriage, joint physical care may not be appropriate.  The focus is more on continuing what the kids have become used to.  This is a recognition that fathers in particular are much more involved in parenting than in the past.  The traditional “one evening a week, every other weekend and 6 weeks in the summer” just does not cut it for either kids or parents in Iowa anymore.

Jeff may ask you to sign an affidavit that we will file with the court explaining how active each parent has been in raising the children.  This tends to help our Judges decide on joint physical care.

2.  Communication & Respect

Our Judges are a lot more comfortable awarding joint custody where there has been good communication and respect shown between the parties, especially around the children.  If there is no trust between the parents, joint physical care is less likely to be approved.  So if you are approaching divorce and would like to pursue joint custody, but sure to communicate often with your spouse and avoid saying anything negative about them to the kids.

3.  Degree of Conflict

Since joint physical care requires a lot of give and take between the parties, marriages that have been conflict ridden, followed by divorces involving various charges and counter charges do not support an order of shared physical care.   Joint physical care pretty much requires an uncontested divorce, contested cases involve too much conflict in most cases for joint custody to follow.

4.  Agreement as to Child Rearing Practices

If the parties are in general agreement about how the kids should be raised including issues like discipline, bed times etc,, joint physical care makes more sense.  If the parties can not come to agreement on these issues, it can be better for the kids to have one parent with primary custody.

If you are awarded joint physical care, rejoice!  This is a much better arrangement than we used to have.  We must not take it for granted.  It requires nurturing since either party could always go back and ask for a change to primary care if there are too many problems.

How does joint physical care affect CHILD SUPPORT?

When a judge here in Des Moines or elsewhere in Iowa orders joint physical care, Iowa child support is calculated for both parents.  Whichever parent would be obligated to pay the higher amount does pay support to the other minus the amount they would receive if their spouse was paying; so it is the difference between the two amounts.  In cases where both parties earn approximately the same amount and share custody equally, there may be no child support.

Our Divorce is uncontested, can one attorney represent us both?

In no event shall a lawyer represent both parties in dissolution or marriage proceedings.  Iowa R. of Prof’l Resp. 32:1.7(c)(2016).  We attorneys have a duty of loyalty to our client.  Our clients share confidences that can become an issue if a case becomes contested.  It is improper for an Iowa attorney to meet with or attempt to represent both parties in a divorce.  In most cases, my clients spouse will simply sign off on the acceptance of service and settlement agreement without their own attorney although they of course can retain their own attorney if they wish.

“My divorce was uncontested and our kids moved freely between our two households.  Beth and I talk often about the kids and respect each others wishes.  In fact, Beth and I are good friends now!” -Des Moines Divorce Attorney Jeff Mathias

Jeff’s Iowa Child Support law page.  Jeff Mathias Law Office, 4800 Mills Civic Parkway, Suite 218, West Des Moines, Iowa 50265, 515-261-7526 or Toll Free, 1-800-997-1395. Divorce in Iowa website.  See Divorce in Iowa with no children and no lawyer.  Jeff also handles Iowa Criminal Defense.

Des Moines Iowa Divorce

Divorce does not equal Failure
Divorce is normal, common, natural and okay. People change. Adapting to change is how we survive and more importantly, how we thrive. Many people enjoy great relations with their former spouse after-divorce. The divorce often removes most of the stressors like money quarrels and leaves a friendship that can be very comforting over the years. You may find that your former spouse is the one person who knows you better than you know yourself and can be an amazing resource in future years.

Divorce can be Pleasant
If the couple cares about each other and both are willing to compromise, divorce can be low stress and can actually strengthen relations between the parties, children, friends and family as you endure through a difficult stretch with understanding and compassion. You can actually teach your kids during your divorce how to handle adversity with grace. The Children in the Middle class is a good way to start if you have kids.

No Fault Divorce is the Rule here in Iowa
Historically, you had to prove fault in order to terminate a marriage, happily this is no longer true in most states. Here in Iowa, you do not need to show any wrongdoing by anyone in order to terminate your marriage. Since we are all perfect in Iowa, this is best anyway. See In Re Williams, 199 N.W. 2d 339, and No Fault Divorce.

About Half of Marriages End in Divorce
Each year about half of Iowa marriages end in divorce, so don't feel like the Lone Ranger. You haven't lived until you have gone through the Big D. Chances are you have already spoken to friends who have had a smooth divorce and others who went through hell. We find that clients who want a smooth divorce tend to have one and people who want a big fight get it. The cost for your Iowa dissolution depends mainly on whether it is uncontested (smooth) or contested (sometimes hell).

Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce means the parties are in agreement on major issues like child custody, visitation, child support and possession of the home and other property. Since child support is set by a state mandated formula, that is fixed if we agree on income. In some uncontested divorces, only one attorney is hired and the other party appears "pro se", meaning they do not have an attorney. This is most practical when assets are few and matters are settled already. Uncontested divorce is AFFORDABLE.

Contested Divorce
If the parties are in disagreement over significant issues like child custody or visitation, possession of the home or distribution of assets, then you have a contested divorce. Iowa now requires mediation for contested matters and that has helped reduce the cost in some cases but as a general rule, Contested divorce is EXPENSIVE since you spend a lot more on attorney fees and related costs. See Iowa Supreme Court Des Moines on divorce mediation requirement. So if possible, it is best to come to some agreed terms early even if you both feel you are giving too much away. See Iowa Divorce Mediation.

Common Law Marriage
Iowa does recognize common law marriage but construes it narrowly, meaning many couples who live together even over a long period of time will not be considered married by common law. In order to have a common law marriage in Iowa, three elements must all be present:

  1. A present intent and agreement to be married
  2. Continuous Cohabitation
  3. Public Declaration
So often Iowan's who have lived together even for many years and have children will not be considered married because they never intended to by married. These good people do not require a divorce. When they come to family court it is usually to deal with child custody which of course is a bigger job than a divorce anyway.

Divorce Process
First we will collect information from you to make sure we are confident we can help you meet your goals. We don't want to accept your case unless we feel like we can help. Normally we can on uncontested cases. Sometimes we can on contested cases. Sometimes, nobody is happy at the end of a contested divorce, so be prepared.

Jeff Mathias

Jeff Mathias, Attorney - graduated from Southern Methodist University School of Law in Dallas and has practiced law in Iowa since 1998. Prior to law school, Jeff was a police officer in Arlington, Texas. Jeff also handles Iowa Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. Jeff enjoys helping Iowan's with uncontested and collaborative divorce for less expense and less stress for both spouses and children. Email Jeff even after hours for a fast response.

4800 Mills Civic Pkwy, Suite 218, West Des Moines, IA 50265

Data Collection - Jeff will collect information from you via email before you even come in to the office. There is no charge to you for this. You can email Jeff now to get started.

Office Meeting - Meet with Jeff or Jon in the office at 4800 Mills Civic Pkwy, Ste. 218 in West Des Moines IA 50265.

Divorce Petition - Your court case starts with a petition we file in state court. In an uncontested divorce, most or all issues may have already been resolved by the time we file the petition. We love these cases. We file Iowa divorce cases online. You can pull up copies of Iowa court filings online too.

Service - The respondent has 20 days to answer the petition once they are served. They or their attorney can accept service in writing if they prefer.

Conciliation - Either party can request an opportunity to attempt alternative dispute resolution, in which case the Judge will allow the parties 60 days to try.

Temporary Orders - If needed, temporary court orders may be requested on issues like possession of the home, child custody and support. Often the parties agree to these issues and don't require temporary orders. A case requiring Temporary Orders is a contested case.

Child Custody - Often the most hotly contested matter is child custody. Iowa courts typically approve of joint legal custody. The parties can agree to primary physical custody or dispute it. If the parties cannot agree, we will attempt to resolve custody through mediation and if we cannot, the Judge would decide at trial based on the best interest of the child with an emphasis on continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents.

We do not encourage you to take custody matters to trial in most cases. There are exceptions of course, say if the health and safety of the children would be at risk. The cost and stress of taking your case to trial are both high.

Visitation - We specify visitation in the decree although oftentimes people come to their own informal agreements as needs change and then just fall back on the decree if needed. Iowa code: Visitation in Divorce.

Child Support - Based on a formula mandated by the state. Iowa code: Child Support. We will prepare financial documents for the court upon which the child support amount is based, see Jeff's Custody and Support page.

Spousal Support (Alimony) - Alimony is less common that it was before women became so engaged in the workforce, but may be considered for example where it was a long marriage, one party has a high income and the other party is not very employable or perhaps is disabled. If the court does not order lifetime alimony they could order rehabilitative alimony that gives the recipient time to adjust. Spousal support ceases if the recipient remarries.

Equitable Distribution - Next, the parties if they have not done so already, attempt to come to agreement on a fair distribution of marital assets including any real estate and debts. Equitable distribution is not intended to be equal. Instead the courts considers factors like the length of the marriage, age of parties and earning capacity. If one spouse has sacrificed their career to help the other spouse earn a high income, they may receive more assets in the distribution to compensate them for their efforts and help them maintain a better standard of living after divorce. See Iowa Code, Equitable Distribution in Dissolution. Iowa courts hear dissolution cases at equity and not at law, In re Duggan, 659 N.W. 2nd 656. Courts apply precedent more strictly in cases heard at law. Cases heard at equity give the courts more discretion to come to a fair and reasonable result.

Financial Filings - The parties are required to provide financial documents with the court to show what assets and debts require distribution. We will start collecting this information from you from our first contact so that when it is time to file your case in Iowa district court we have our ducks in a row. If you need copies IRS Tax Transcripts.

Child Support Worksheets - If there will be child support, we will file child support worksheets with the Court to show how we came to the payment amount, hopefully agreed to by the parties. If not, there may be two sets of worksheets provided with difference resolved in mediation or trial. Iowa Child Support Guidelines.

Children in the Middle - Each party completes the Children in the Middle course and gets a certificate that we provide to the Court. This is a class that helps you ease the process for your kids. You can attend it together or apart. It's best to take this class as soon as possible so you can learn how to smooth things as much as you can for the kids. The course addresses how kids tend to react at different ages. You can learn to actually strengthen the bond between you and your kids.

90 Day Waiting Period - Iowa law provides for a 90 day waiting period from the time your petition is filed. This is a good requirement. Some people decide during that time that want to try again. Some end up going through with divorce later anyway, but it is best not to rush something this important.

If you are both agreed on the terms of your divorce including child custody, support if any, who gets real estate and other property, who will be responsible for debt etc. then we can present an agreed (stipulated) divorce decree to the Judge after 90 days.

Mediation - If the parties are not in agreement, we will schedule your case for mediation. In mediation we meet jointly with an attorney who is trained in resolving disputes. Some cases do resolve here, in part because good mediators make it clear that going to trial is not pleasant and often ends up in everyone being unhappy. Iowa Legal Aid on Mediation. Generally mediation works when both parties are open to it. The chance to save big $ on attorney fees is a great incentive too, since trials cost. Mediation is not required in uncontested divorces since the issues have been agreed upon.

Trial - Hopefully your case was resolved by stipulation (uncontested) or in mediation. Sometimes you resolve part of your issues by stipulation and some in mediation and then just have trial on whatever remains, like just child custody and support. Custody trials are especially expensive and will cost several times the cost of an uncontested divorce. While dissolution proceedings in Iowa are public and held in open court, the judge has the discretion to close the hearing. See Iowa Code Section 598.8/Family Law Hearings. If there is a hearing, it is conducted pursuant to the Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure.

Fee Shifting or Who Pays?
Iowa courts recognize that one party may be in a much better position to pay attorney fees than the other party, so divorce fee shifting is provided. This means for example, that a wife with little or no income can ask the judge to order the husband to pay the wife's divorce attorney fees. Obviously this makes Iowan's cranky.

Name Change
You can change back to your name from before the marriage or to your birth name during your Iowa divorce. See Changing your name in Iowa.

Show Cause
If after an Iowa divorce, a party fails to obey an order, the usual remedy is an Application for Order to Show Cause why the party should not be held in contempt of court. See In Re Christensen, 578 NW2d 675. Sometimes when we serve the other party with the Show Cause, they suddenly become compliant, nice!

Iowa Divorce Resources
Iowa State Bar Association Divorce Info, Legal Aid of Iowa has some terrific materials on Iowa Divorce Law, including when you need an attorney for divorce in Iowa. Family law forms can be found on the Iowa Courts/Divorce website. Here is the Iowa code on Divorce Law.

Divorce & Bankruptcy
Divorce and bankruptcy tend to go together like peas and corn. If there are no conflicts of interest, some couples will actually file bankruptcy together first and then file for divorce. Jeff does handle Iowa Bankruptcy in Des Moines as well. Call Jeff at 515-262-7526. See Jeff's Yahoo Reviews and Google Client Endorsements. See Jeff's page on Iowa Divorce & Bankruptcy.

Divorce and Taxes
The IRS presumes that the custodial parent is entitled to the exemptions for the children. Oftentimes, one parent would benefit much more from the exemption than the other due to higher income, so under IRS rules the parents can agree that the party with the high income will take deductions for children. Child support is not a deductible as an expense and is not taxed as income.

Married persons filing taxes jointly are both liable for taxes owed, so if you are still married and your spouse is running into tax problems, you may want to file your taxes single. Transfer of assets due to divorce is not a taxable event. Thank goodness for small favors!

Divorce and Estate Planning
Divorce is a good time to review, revoke and replace your Will. You can also update your beneficiary designations although if you have children your former spouse may remain a beneficiary for example to life insurance. Just don't get a million dollar policy, we don't want any perverse incentives! See Divorce & Estate Planning.

The History of Divorce Test
Prior to the American Civil War, judicial divorce was uncommon in the United States although couples would often have a "de facto divorce", remaining legally married but separated. Divorce just was not culturally acceptable. The tumult of the Civil War brought cultural change that reduced public pressure against divorce.

The next big spike in divorce rates was during the cultural revolution of the 1960's. During this time, longevity increased too. People with a lot of life left to live are more likely to take action to seek happiness.

More recently, state law requirements to show "fault" in order to get divorced have fallen. As divorce has become culturally normative, we have made it easier to accomplish. Today many couples don't marry to begin with. Because common law marriage is narrowly construed in Iowa, no divorce is required. But child custody issues often bring unmarried couples to family court. See History of Divorce.

Iowa Divorce Lawyer Resources
Iowa divorce forms, most counties are not on - EFiling Iowa dissolution. Divorce and family law attorneys around Iowa: Iowa City Divorce, in . and Sioux City, Iowa Divorce Lawyer. Finally, Council Bluffs Iowa Divorce Law Firm. If you have low income, you may qualify for family law assistance from Iowa Legal Aid.

You can also search for Iowa Attorneys Online through the Judicial branch or through the Iowa State Bar Association. See Cornell Law School/Bankruptcy Law. Of course, we now have same sex divorce in Iowa too.

Family Law Professional Associations
See American Bar Association, Family Law Section. For divorce lawyers nationally, see American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Also see the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys.

Mathias Law Offices

4800 Mills Civic Pkwy, Ste. 218

West Des Moines, IA 50265


Also see Jeff's Iowa Bankruptcy Attorney website and Iowa Bankruptcy Guide.

Five Stages of Grief

Denial - This can't be happening!

Anger - I'm really pissed!

Bargaining - How can I prevent this?

Depression - I'm really sad.

Acceptance - I can handle this and thrive!

See PBS on overcoming grief in divorce.