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Tips on Starting a Family Law Case

Whether you are married or single, have children or not, there are 2 important stages that a DIY person (self-represented party proceeding without an attorney) should remember when starting a new family law case in Iowa civil courts:

1. Stage One – Getting a Case Started:

You must use Iowa’s self-represented forms

o If you’re filing a new case (no case number assigned) – you are the Petitioner and the other party is the Respondent

There are 3 forms that are mandatory to filing a new case:

o Original Notice

o Petition

o Protected Information Form

You will need to register for an online account (free)

Online filing tips (descriptor codes to use)

o Case Sub Type – if you’re seeking a divorce, use the appropriate Dissolution types

o Case Sub Type for Unmarried Parents – you are safe in using either

Domestic Relations – Custody or Domestic Relations – 252F/600B Paternity

o Document Type (list of documents that will be uploaded)

Petition and Protected Information Form are exactly as named, however

Original Notice is called Civil Original Notice You must use this specifically named type

Once your case has been initiated, the Original Notice will have your assigned case number.

For married persons, the case number will begin with CDCD.

For unmarried persons, the case number will begin with DRCV.

Always use this number when making inquiries or filing future documents.

2. Stage Two – Serving the Other Party the Documents:

This stage is also mandatory without which a case will get dismissed, requiring the party to start over. Upon completion of Stage 1, the other party must receive the Civil Original Notice and the Petition.

In legal terms this is stage is called Service of Process.

Service of Process can be completed in the following ways:

Using a Process Server – a process server is a qualified person who is employed by a firm to serve documents. The process server is typically wearing plain clothes when serving the other party. There is a cost related to this service. Generally, the cost is $50-$75, however the cost could easily increase for a number of reasons: (1) location – in-town v. out-of-town, (2) attempts – how many attempts needed to complete service, and (3) rush service – need it ASAP !

Sheriff – basically this is the same process and cost as a process server, only the men and women are in uniform.

Acceptance of Service – the other party can voluntarily accept the documents and will need to sign an Acceptance of Service.

A process server and sheriff will send you a Return of Service form. This form must be electronically filed with the Court promptly upon receipt.

When uploading the Return of Service or Acceptance of Service, always ensure the case number is noted at the top of the document. You can write it on the document, if necessary.

The Document Type code for the Return of Service is Return of Original Notice

The Document Type code for Acceptance of Service is the same.

For additional information, please browse DIY Law Mart by Morris Malloy Law PLLC website at, or contact us through the use of the contact form on our website, or by calling 712.224.4255.

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