Cedar Rapids Divorce Lawyer
When two people enter into a marriage, they generally expect their union to last for the rest of their lives. However, life situations can change in a number of ways, and it often becomes more beneficial for a couple to disband the marriage through divorce rather than live in an unhappy home. As with any family law matter, divorce is a complicated process that can lead to a number of challenges that must be addressed.
At Arenson Law Group, PC, our lawyers in Cedar Rapids understand exactly what is on the line for you as you consider or work through a divorce. Fortunately, with the guidance of an attorney well-versed in divorce law, you can better protect yourself, your family, and your future.
Our Divorce Practice Areas
When dealing with family law issues, there are many complex legalities that must be addressed. As such, it is often essential to have the help of a qualified lawyer when handling the following issues:
- Child Support
- Child Custody
- Modifications to Child Custody Agreements
- Premarital Agreements
- Contempt in Child Custody Cases
- Show Cause Cases
- Juvenile Issues
- Grandparent Visitation
Without the help of an attorney, you might not be able to reach the resolution you want or be able to fully protect your rights. While these are the most commonly associated legal problems that stem from divorce, our lawyers are well versed in a number of other issues that may form throughout the legal process.
Talk to a Divorce Lawyer in Cedar Rapids
If you need help working through a divorce or resolving any other family law needs, our legal team at Arenson Law Group, PC, is here for you. From helping you through a difficult separation to helping you resolve child support issues, we have the knowledge and skills that it takes. Call us at (319) 363-8199 today to learn more about what our dedicated team is ready to do for you.
Do I need to have a lawyer in order to adopt?
It isn’t necessary for individuals pursuing adoption to have an attorney in order to be able to adopt. However, in most situations, it is highly advantageous and advisable to have the representation of a legal professional with experience working in family law in order to ensure that everything is done appropriately and your rights as an adoptive parent are fully respected.
How much does my child support need to increase/decrease before the court will modify the order?
Modification of a child support agreement will only occur if there is a “substantial change in circumstances.” The general rule is that there should be at least a 10% difference. That difference can is based on a 10% difference between the amount previously paid and the current guidelines. The court will consider changes such as employment, inheritance, changes in medical expenses, changes in the number of dependents, changes of residence, remarriage, or support provided by other people. If a parent acquires a health benefit plan, then that would also be a substantial change that would warrant modification of the support agreement.
Divorce legally ends a marriage. Under Iowa law, the term divorce means the same thing as “dissolution of marriage.” A legal separation, on the other hand, acts as if it is a divorce, but the couple is still legally married. In a legal separation, there is a court filing, a division of assets, and the couple will generally not live together, but the couple remains married.
How do I know if divorce is right for me?
Many people consider divorce as a possibility but are unsure if this step is right for them and their relationship. But there are signs that divorce might be right for you, including a loss of intimacy, trust issues, irreconcilable differences, or perpetual disagreements or differences between you and your spouse. All of these situations might suggest that divorce is a good idea, for moving on with your life and finding what’s important to you once more.
Should I file for a contested or uncontested divorce?
Whether a person files for a contested or uncontested divorce in Cedar Rapids depends on his or her level of agreement with his or her spouse. If spouses agree on all of the terms of the divorce, including those involving child support, alimony, property and asset separation, etc., then an uncontested divorce is likely your best option because it is quicker and often less expensive. However, if you and your spouse cannot agree on terms for a divorce, then a contested divorce may be necessary in order to settle these terms. You can easily discuss your options with an attorney from Arenson Law Group, PC, to make sure that you choose the best one for your situation.
Can alimony payments ever go down?
Yes. As alimony payments are made based on a number of factors at the time of the divorce, such as a person’s income level, their ability to obtain a job, health, and more, the payments may decrease, or even stop, over time when these factors change. In particular, should a person receiving alimony remarry, the alimony payments will end.
Why did my child support payments increase?
Child support payments, though established initially in divorce settlements, can change over time. If yours have increased, then it may be due to a number of factors. Some factors that can contribute to an increase in child support payments include increased needs of the child or children, decreased income of your ex-spouse, your own increased income, and other factors. An experienced attorney can help you evaluate your situation, finding out whether these changes are legitimate and not a violation of your rights.
Why should I submit to a paternity test?
A paternity test can be useful for several reasons. It can, most importantly, determine the parental responsibility of a child whose paternity is in question. Knowing the results of the paternity test can help you determine whether or not you are then financially and personally responsible for the child. This certainty may provide relief and will allow you to then definitively decide on your next course of action.
Are legal custody and physical custody the same?
No. Legal custody is typically shared by both parents in a divorce; it refers to the right a parent has to determine aspects of a child’s upbringing like education, medical care, etc. Physical custody, on the other hand, belongs primarily to only one parent. It refers to the parent with whom the child lives the majority of the time.
How much will my divorce or custody matter cost?
There are never any guarantees how much a divorce will cost. Factors that influence cost include: level of case complexity, cooperation of the other party, temperament of the other party’s attorney, and time involved. No one can say for certain how much a divorce or custody action will cost in total. Sometimes the proceedings can be delayed when one or more parties do not complete court requirements in a timely manner, while other times the complexities of life get in the way.
Any attorney should provide you with a rough estimate of how much they expect your case to cost in total, however, you should be aware that the number is merely a guess based on past experiences with similar cases. At Arenson Law Group, PC, our family law attorneys strive to provide you with a close estimate of total cost at the outset of your case, keeping in mind that that number may change as the case develops. Contact Arenson Law Group, PC, for more details about pricing and to schedule your free initial consultation!
What makes a seemingly simple divorce into a complex divorce?
A simple divorce is a rare animal. Rarely do “simple divorces” end up being so. What seems like a seemingly simply divorce often has complexities that are not immediately evident to someone not well versed in the law. The parties may believe they have all of the details worked out ahead of time, however, there are other factors that the parties usually have not had to consider, such as taxes, higher education, splitting costs of extracurricular activities, etc. When thinking of divorce, it is important to remember that an eventual divorce decree is the document that will control how you interact with both your former spouse and your children until the children reach the age of 18. The stipulation and decree become something like a rule book. As such, it is important that adequate time is spent negotiating and drafting the decree is such a way as modifications will not have to be made at a future date. What is quick and what is right is rarely the same thing when talking about divorce.
An example of a seemingly simple divorce turned complicated:
A client retained to dissolve her marriage. There were no children, and the parties had only been married a short time. There was no property to divide, and all assets, such as cars and bank accounts, were in the parties own names.
My client filed for divorce pro se, which means she did not have an attorney. She filed all the relevant documents with the court, and attempted to have her husband sign an acceptance of service. Accepting service does not mean you agree with what is in the petition; it simply means you acknowledge that you received the documents. My client had emailed all the documents to her spouse, let his mother know, and sent what she could to his last known address. The husband refused to accept service, or provide an address where the sheriff could serve him.
My client hired me to get the husband served, and to finally resolve her divorce. After having the husband served by notice by publication, I was able to successfully complete the divorce for the client. Having the husband served by publication in the newspaper took more time and resources, however, without attorney intervention, the client may have been stuck in a legal limbo, unable to move on.
At Arenson Law Group, PC, we strive to provide our clients with the best resolution to their cases, keeping in mind that what may first appear like a simple divorce may turn into a more complex situation. In either scenario, Arenson Law Group, PC is ready to take on challenges that may arise.
Divorce and custody matters can be difficult to navigate alone without the assistance of an experienced attorney. Contact Arenson Law Group, PC today and find out how our family law attorneys can help successfully resolve your divorce or custody matter.
My spouse or partner and I have everything worked out. Won’t a lawyer try to make it more complicated?
Most lawyers do not set out to overcomplicate their cases. There are times, however, when legal procedures make the case more complicated than at first blush. For instance, when a party begins divorce or custody, the other party must be served. Service is more than simply telling the other party they have filed a divorce petition. Service can be completed in the following ways: by sheriff, by process server, by personally accepting service and filing with the court, or through notice by publication in the newspaper. Sometimes because one party may not know where the other party is now living, or because one party does not want the divorce, they may avoid service or cause service to be delayed. In that case, proceedings may be delayed while the issue is worked through.
In addition to service requirements, all family law cases, including divorce and custody, come with a Family Law Requirements Order. This order outlines all court requirements that must be met before a party can resolve their case to conclusion. Requirements include attending a class for divorcing or separating parents, a mediation session with a mediator, filing an affidavit of current financial status, and other reports for the court. These requirements, along with their deadlines, can sometimes be difficult to understand if you’ve never been through a dissolution or custody proceeding. That is where we can help. Having an experienced attorney on your side to assist in explaining the requirements will help ensure your case proceeds in a timely fashion.
An example of when a case may be delayed or made more complicated is when another party does not complete the court requirements. For example, many cases require a hearing called a Temporary Matters Hearing. This hearing sets a temporary visitation schedule for the parents, and also sets temporary child support. This order will remain in effect until it is modified by a divorce or custody stipulation, or an order following a trial. Before the Temporary Matters Hearing will be held, many counties in Iowa require mediation to have taken place. If mediation is not completed prior to the hearing, temporary custody and child support determinations may be delayed, sometimes by a couple of months.
Another example is when one party refuses to disclose their finances to the other party. Until both parties have a clear picture of finances and assets, it is nearly impossible to finalize a divorce. Ways that this can become complicated include filing a motion to force the other party to comply, attending a compliance hearing if finances haven’t been disclosed, or propounding discovery requests on the other party.
Issues such as problems with service, or parties not completing court requirements may make the case take more time. In that case, the attorneys at Arenson Law Group, PC will do what we can to ensure the case proceeds as smoothly and as efficiently as possible. Our experienced family law attorneys are well-versed in how to resolve the issues such as those mentioned above. We will use our expertise and knowledge to avoid unnecessary delays and assist our clients in meeting the requirements in a timely manner.
If you are currently experiencing some of issues mentioned above, or if you want to hire a firm with the experience to solve these issues before they arise, contact Arenson Law Group, PC today and schedule your free initial consultation.
What should I expect at mediation?
Mediation is a neutral meeting between the involved parties and a mediator at the mediator’s office or at a mutually agreed upon location. Mediation is required in the Sixth Judicial District, which includes Linn, Johnson, Jones, Iowa, Benton, and Tama counties. The purpose of mediation is to facilitate a settlement in divorce and custody cases, and to find areas of agreement between the parties.
Any agreement reached during mediation is non-binding, however, agreements can be used by attorneys to draft final documents. At mediation, you can expect to be in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth between the parties. This is referred to as caucus-style mediation. If the parties wish, they may be in the same room.
It is important to remember that the mediator is neutral. They are not either party’s attorney, and thus, do not represent one person’s interests over the other. If parties reach an agreement before the mediation deadline set in the Family Law Court Requirements Order, it may be possible to have mediation waived. Reduced-cost mediation may also be available to parties.
What do we have to do to prepare for a hearing on temporary matters?
In Linn County, all hearings for temporary matters are conducted “on paper.” This means that there is no live testimony, and the parties will not take the stand to present their side to the judge. It is unlikely that the parties will see the judge unless the judge wishes to address the parties in the courtroom. Instead, the parties submit affidavits in support of their positions. Each party is allowed to submit four affidavits: one affidavit from the party, and three supporting affidavits.
In addition, each party has the ability to respond to the other party’s affidavits. The affidavits, along with an affidavit of financial status, and child support guidelines are submitted to the court three days prior to the hearing. Each party’s respective attorney then argues for their client’s position in chambers with the judge. A ruling from the judge will be filed a few weeks after the hearing detailing temporary custody, visitation, child support, and spousal support. The temporary matters hearing order will be in effect until it is changed by the parties and their attorneys, or another order (such as a trial order) from the judge.
How do I know when I need a no contact order? How hard it is to get one?
In Iowa, there are two kinds of no contact orders. There is a criminal no contact order, which is put in place after some kind of assault has occurred, and there are civil no contact orders. Both types of no contact orders carry with them their own requirements and penalties if violated. If someone wants to have a civil no contact order put in place, they must complete an application at the courthouse. It will then be filed with the clerk of court.
After a judge has reviewed the application, they will make a decision as to whether a temporary no contact order will be put in place. If they believe the application has merit, they will order a temporary no contact order be put in place, and will order that a hearing be held approximately 15 days later. The purpose of the hearing is to ensure that the application has merit, and to evaluate whether a hearing is necessary. In order for a civil no contact order to be put in place, the victim must show by a preponderance of the evidence that an assault or offensive act has occurred or is likely to occur. It is not enough that someone was being annoying or you do not want to speak to someone.
Under Iowa Law, a person commits an assault when, without justification, the person does any of the following:
1. Any act which is intended to cause pain or injury to, or which is intended to result in physical contact which will be insulting or offensive to another, coupled with the apparent ability to execute the act
2. Any act which is intended to place another in fear of immediate physical contact which will be painful, injurious, insulting, or offensive, coupled with the apparent ability to execute the act.
If the victim meets their burden of proof, the judge will order the civil no contact order to be put in place for one year. This can be extended if circumstances warrant for a period of up to five years.
The Court has ordered me to attend some classes. What do I need to attend and why?
When a divorce or custody action is filed, there is a corresponding Family Law Requirements Order. Within that order, the court outlines certain classes that each party must attend before their case can move forward. In Linn County, all parties must complete the following classes: a class for separating or divorcing parents, a session of mediation, children must attend a class organized and put on by the Kids First Law Center (ages 6 to 16), and an online mediation course.
The courses are designed to encourage settlement without the need for trial, and to give both parents and children the tools necessary to deal with the emotional and practical realities of divorcing or separating parents. Failure to complete these requirements will delay your case.
How do I increase my child support?
You can increase your child support if there has been a 10% change in your former spouse’s income. You can increase the support privately through an attorney. If your child support is paid through and enforced by the Child Support Recovery Unit, then support can be increased if there has been a 20% change in your former spouse’s income.
How do I make my ex take the kids for his weekends?
Strictly speaking, you cannot “make” someone be a parent. Visitation with one’s child is a privilege that must be exercised, not forced. For example, if a stipulation of agreement states that the ex has visitation with his children every other weekend, then at a minimum, he is entitled to at least that much visitation. Upon agreement of the parties, visitation can always be modified, keeping in mind the minimum that is already ordered.
If someone chooses not to exercise their visitation rights, you cannot force them to begin doing so. The only way to force someone to do something when it comes to divorce or custody is if that person is ordered by the court, and they are failing to perform. Only then can the court become involved and force someone to comply through a Rule to Show Cause (contempt of court) action.
How do I terminate my ex’s rights?
In order to terminate a person’s rights, there must be a substantial reason. It is not enough that you do not get along with your ex. Termination can happen in a few ways: 1. The Department of Human Services can move to have rights terminated as part of a Child in Need of Assistance Action 2. A person voluntarily terminates their rights (though not just to avoid paying child support) 3. The other parent can show that there are legitimate grounds for termination, such as abandonment.
A parent is deemed to have abandoned their child when they have failed to maintain substantial and continuous or repeated contact with the child through payment of child support, and have failed to have regular visitation and communication with the child.
Termination must be established by clear and convincing evidence based on the grounds for termination found in Iowa Code section 600A.8(3)(b). Once the grounds for termination have been established, the Court must also find that it is in the best interests of the child to proceed with the termination.
What is a judge-led settlement conference?
A judge-led settlement conference is, as one client described, “turbo mediation.” During a judge-led settlement conference, both parties are represented by their attorneys and appear in front of a judge. It is more informal than traditional court hearings. The judge is a neutral party, oftentimes a senior judge in the district, who listens to the positions of each side, and advises the parties how they would rule on a particular issue or position if they were the trial judge.
Because senior judges in Linn County are not allowed to preside over divorce or custody trials, there is no danger that the settlement judge will be the judge ruling on the divorce or custody action. Judge-led settlement conferences are a good way to check the expectations of both of the parties, and sometimes, their attorneys. It puts in perspective how likely a judge is to rule favorably or unfavorably on certain issues. The settlement conference provides clarity to the parties going forward and allows them to make informed decisions as to whether proceeding to trial is in their best legal or monetary interests.
I’m getting divorced. If I move out, does that mean I’ve abandoned my kids? Will it hurt me in the divorce?
Strictly speaking, no, moving out is not likely to hurt a party in a divorce. If it is a volatile situation, oftentimes it is better that the parties separate so that young children are not caught in the middle on a day-to-day basis. Simply moving out of the marital home or the home one shares with their partner does not mean that they’ve abandoned their children. In most cases, it is in the children’s best interests. What is important to remember is that even if you do not live in the home, the home is still marital property. This means that the contents of the home should not be sold behind the other party’s back, and the value of the home should not be compromised in any way, as it is still considered a marital asset.
I’m afraid my ex-spouse will sell my things, destroy marital property, or hide money if I leave the home. Is there any way to prevent this?
Yes. When a petition for dissolution of marriage is filed, the attorney can file along with it what is called an injunction. The injunction enjoins (stops) the party from disposing of, destroying, hiding, secreting, or wasting marital property under threat of contempt of court. If the party disposes of marital property or violates the injunction, the attorney for the other party can file with the court a Rule to Show Cause (contempt) action, and a hearing will be scheduled. The party selling or hiding assets will then have to show cause as to why they have allegedly violated the injunction. If found guilty, they can be held liable for attorney’s fees or other fees as the court deems proper.