Under Iowa law, married couples can legally separate by filing a Petition for Separate Maintenance without getting an actual divorce. The couple agrees to all of the same terms they would agree to in a divorce and a Separation Agreement is prepared. The court accepts the Agreement when a Separate Maintenance Decree is filed. The Decree lets the court decide all of the same issues that are decided in an actual divorce case. You would think that the Separate Maintenance Decree should be the final word on all of your legal issues if you actually go through a divorce. But is it?
Iowa courts recently have said that if a divorce actually happens after you have a Separate Maintenance Decree, the terms contained in your Separation Agreement may, or may not, be upheld. If the court feels there is any ambiguity in the Agreement, an issue was not addressed in the Agreement, or clarification of part of the Agreement is necessary to finalize the divorce, what the parties think they agreed to at the time they entered into the Agreement may not be the interpretation, or final decision, of the court in the divorce proceeding. It is imperative that you speak to an attorney before entering into such an agreement. Should you require additional information on this topic, please feel free to contact Simpson Legal Group, LLC at (712) 256-9899.