Conciliation in Iowa Divorce Cases

Conciliation is part of the Iowa divorce process in some cases.  The purpose of conciliation is to attempt to save the marriage by getting the spouses to work out their differences.  Iowa code section 598.16 addresses conciliation.

         1.  A majority of the judges in any judicial district, with the
      cooperation of any county board of supervisors in the district, may
      establish a domestic relations division of the district court of the
      county where the board is located.  The division shall offer
      counseling and related services to persons before the court.
         2.  Except as provided in subsection 7, upon the application of
      the petitioner in the petition or by the respondent in the responsive
      pleading thereto or, within twenty days of appointment, of an
      attorney appointed under section 598.12, the court shall require the
      parties to participate in conciliation efforts for a period of sixty
      days from the issuance of an order setting forth the conciliation
      procedure and the conciliator.
         3.  At any time upon its own motion or upon the application of a
      party the court may require the parties to participate in
      conciliation efforts for sixty days or less following the issuance of
      such an order.
         4.  Every order for conciliation shall require the conciliator to
      file a written report by a date certain which shall state the
      conciliation procedures undertaken and such other matters as may have
      been required by the court.  The report shall be a part of the record
      unless otherwise ordered by the court.  Such conciliation procedure
      may include, but is not limited to, referrals to the domestic
      relations division of the court, if established, public or private
      marriage counselors, family service agencies, community health
      centers, physicians and clergy.
         5.  The costs of conciliation procedures shall be paid in full or
      in part by the parties and taxed as court costs; however, if the
      court determines that the parties will be unable to pay the costs
      without prejudicing their financial ability to provide themselves and
      any minor children with economic necessities, the costs may be paid
      in full or in part by the county.
         6.  Persons providing counseling and other services pursuant to
      this section are not court employees, but are subject to court
         7.  Upon application, the court shall grant a waiver from the
      requirements of this section if a party demonstrates that a history
      of domestic abuse, as defined in section 236.2, exists.  In
      determining whether a history of domestic abuse exists, the court's
      consideration shall include, but is not limited to, commencement of
      an action pursuant to section 236.3, the issuance of a protective
      order against a party or the issuance of a court order or consent
      agreement pursuant to section 236.5, the issuance of an emergency
      order pursuant to section 236.6, the holding of a party in contempt
      pursuant to section 664A.7, the response of a peace officer to the
      scene of alleged domestic abuse or the arrest of a party following
      response to a report of alleged domestic abuse, or a conviction for
      domestic abuse assault pursuant to section 708.2A.

The exact procedure employed for conciliation will vary in each of Iowa’s judicial districts, but it generally consists of the parties speaking with a conciliator (who is like a mediator or therapist) about what is going wrong with the marriage and whether there is anything that can be done to fix the marriage.

See also  Emergency Injunctions in Custody and Divorce Cases

In cases where there has been domestic violence, the court can waive conciliation procedures (even if one spouse wanted conciliation), so as to avoid making a victim of domestic violence have to spend time in conciliation with their abuser.

The cost of conciliation is generally shared by the parties, with the cost being determined by the court. The Iowa district court will consider factors such as the income of each party, what marital assets are available, the burden the cost would impose on each party, etc. In extreme cases where the parties cannot afford conciliation but it is found by the court to be a necessary thing, the county can be made to pay the expense of conciliation.

As can be seen from the above portion of the Iowa code, conciliation is something that can be requested by either the spouse who files for divorce (the Petitioner) of the spouse who received the divorce papers once they were filed (the Respondent). Thus, it is possible for a spouse who does not really want to be divorce to file for divorce and ask the court to order conciliation.

Sometimes, a party will attempt to use the conciliation process in Iowa to harass or annoy their spouse, such as in a case where one spouse wants and divorce and the other does not.  In such cases, the spouse who is concerned about that misuse of conciliation should discuss the matter with their attorney.