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How to Find a Divorce Record in Iowa

Divorce records in Iowa are official documents generated during and after divorce court proceedings finalized in the state. There are three types of divorce documents in Iowa. These are divorce certificates, divorce decrees, and divorce case records. All three records serve different purposes and are usually required by various governmental and non-governmental institutions as proof of divorces.

Divorce records are considered court records. They may therefore be searched on third-party public record websites. Divorce records can offer personal information on minors, finances, and sensitive criminal information like domestic abuse. Because of this, divorce record, certificate, and decree availability is usually much lower than other types of public records because of the personal nature of divorces. Simply put, divorce records are significantly harder to obtain and search for than other types of public records.

  • What is a Divorce Certificate?

    A divorce certificate is a summary report showing that a divorce has been finalized. It typically contains the least details and is the most frequently requested form of divorce records. A divorce certificate provides basic information such as the names of the divorced parties, date of divorce, and the court where the dissolution was finalized.

    Divorce certificates are available as certified or uncertified/plain copies. Certified copies are printed on security papers that bear the seal of the issuing court custodian. They are available to the two persons the records belong to, their legal representatives, and other persons deemed eligible by the state. On the other hand, uncertified copies are photocopies and have the words “uncertified” or “informational” clearly marked on the papers. They are available for general use.

  • What is a Divorce Decree?

    A divorce decree is a court document that provides a judge’s final judgment in a divorce case as well as the terms of the dissolution. In addition to the information contained in divorce certificates, divorce decrees provide details of the agreed-upon financial settlements, child custody, child support, visitation schedule, property division, debt division, as well as other conditions determined by the court. Usually, divorce decrees are signed by the presiding judges and issued by Iowa District Court clerks at the conclusion of court proceedings. Unlike divorce certificates, they are exclusively available to the divorced parties, their legal representatives, and third parties with relevant court orders.

  • What is a Divorce Record?

    A divorce record refers to the complete set of documents generated during a divorce trial. It contains extensive details about pre-trial and courtroom proceedings, including initial filing details, motions, orders, summons, notices, oral arguments, evidential materials, final judgments, and other documents recorded in physical and electronic formats. Divorce records are managed and stored by the courthouses where the cases were handled. While all three types of divorce documents are referred to as divorce records, divorce certificates and divorce decrees are short-form extracts of these document collections.

Are Divorce Records Available to the Public in Iowa?

Under Iowa Code 598, divorce records are public records that can be freely accessed by any member of the public. However, all or parts of a divorce document may be sealed by a state statute or court rule. By definition, sealed divorce records are records deemed confidential by law. Iowa automatically restricts access to certain information in divorce records. These include child support agreements, financial account numbers, social security numbers, and identifying information of minors and domestic violence victims. Also, both parties in a divorce may opt to seal their divorce record. This can be done by petitioning a state-licensed judge with sufficient reasons.

Commonly cited reasons include the need to prevent the public from viewing embarrassing and revealing information as well as false allegations such as libel and slander bound to cause social or emotional harm to the petitioner. If convinced by provided reasons, the judge then issues a court order mandating the record custodian to seal specific portions of the record. Once sealed or redacted, access to these records is limited to the divorcees, the attorneys representing them, members of law enforcement agencies, and persons with court orders.

How to Obtain Iowa Divorce Court Records

Divorce court records include divorce decrees and divorce case files. These records are generated in the family divisions of the various Iowa District Courts and issued to interested parties by court clerks. The Supreme Court Clerk also maintains the updated versions of district trial cases reviewed by the appellate court.

To obtain these records, provide and submit information to identify the record of interest. These include the names of the divorced parties, file case number, and approximate date the divorce was finalized. If the record of interest is a divorce decree, the court clerk may require a government-issued identity card as proof of identity and eligibility before providing the document.

Both mail and in-person requests are accepted. When submitting a mail request, send a written request along with applicable fees, government-issued ID, and a return envelope to the courthouse.

Iowa court charges 50 cents per page for copies of divorce court records. If ordering these copies by mail, contact the court clerk to ascertain the total processing fees. Note that cash payments are only accepted by physical visits.

Government public record search portals and third-party public record websites both may provide court records search tools, which can help find divorce records, though record availability usually varies widely. Divorce records in particular may simply not be available through either source.

How to Obtain Iowa Divorce Certificate

In Iowa, divorce certificates are available from District Court Clerks Offices. These records can be obtained in person and by mail. When submitting divorce certificate requests, applicants (divorced parties or designated attorneys) must provide enough relevant information to court clerk staff to search for and find the records of interests. Essential information to provide include the names of the divorced parties, case numbers, dates the divorces were finalized, and the names of the presiding judges. Additionally, requesters must provide copies of their government-issued IDs. Acceptable ones include driver’s licenses, passports, utility bills.

To submit a mail request, send a written request providing required information and enclose required documents and fees. Mail these to the Iowa courthouse where the record of interest is kept. Also, provide a daytime phone number that the court clerk can call for additional information. The standard fee charged by the Iowa Courts for each divorce certificate is $20.

Does Iowa Recognize Common-Law Marriages?

Iowa common-law marriages are recognized by the state. However, to enter into a common-law union, couples must meet three factors:

  • Intent and agreement to be married by both parties
  • Continuous cohabitation
  • Holding out to the public that the couples are husband and wife.

The burden of proof in a case to demonstrate that a common-law marriage exists is on the person asserting the claim. The party with the burden of proof must prove all of the elements of a common-law marriage by a preponderance of the evidence.