Does an Extramarital Affair Affect a Divorce in Iowa?

By Cindy Chung

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An extramarital affair can profoundly affect a marriage, causing a husband or wife to consider divorce after learning of a spouse’s infidelity. Before filing for divorce, Iowa residents may wish to become familiar with the laws in that state pertaining to divorce, property division, alimony and children. Either spouse may benefit from consulting with an attorney who handles divorce cases in Iowa.

Grounds for Divorce

Iowa, like every other state, establishes its own laws on divorce. Some states recognize “fault” and “no-fault” divorce. Fault divorce allows a spouse to file on certain grounds that vary from state-to-state and often include adultery. Iowa is not a state where fault divorce is an option. A spouse only needs to declare the marriage has suffered an irreparable breakdown. Although an extramarital affair may demonstrate proof of a breakdown in the marriage, the spouse petitioning for divorce can do so without explicitly mentioning the affair.

Divorce and Property

Iowa law cites a number of factors that may affect property division at the end of a marriage. The court will consider each party's financial contributions, age and post-divorce earning potential. Involvement in an extramarital affair is not on this list of factors considered in property division. Even though marital misconduct is not explicitly mentioned, Iowa law does allow a judge to consider other facts relevant to a fair division of property.


Iowa divorce laws do not require a judge to consider either spouse's infidelity when deciding whether to award alimony to a spouse. State law lists a number of factors a court should review to resolve a dispute over spousal support. The court is not required to consider an extramarital affair when awarding alimony, but the law does give a judge the power to consider all factors relevant to the divorce.

Child Custody and Support

Iowa law requires the courts to make custody decisions based entirely on the child's best interests. An illicit affair may reflect unfavorably on one of the parents, but the court will look at a number of factors before making a custody award. One factor is whether the parents can cooperate sufficiently to share custody; hurt or angry partners divorcing over infidelity could affect the court's decision. Child support, on the other hand, is determined by a formula set by state law and depends on parental income and the child's needs. Generally, the court cannot require a higher amount of child support simply because a parent engaged in an extramarital affair.