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Idaho Divorce Laws


Divorce is not a particularly happy subject, but it’s something that many people will have to deal with at some point. The end of a marriage, though, needn’t mean the end of financial security for anyone. If you review the laws in your state and make sure you follow the required steps, you can come out of the other side of a divorce ready to reach your financial goals. Each state’s laws are different, though, so this guide will cover the major rules and regulations in Idaho. For help navigating a divorce, planning for retirement or building an estate plan, consider working with a financial advisor.

How to File for Divorce in Idaho


The residency requirement in Idaho is among the shortest in the country. One spouse must have lived in the state for just six weeks to qualify to file for an Idaho divorce.

Grounds for Divorce in Idaho

Idaho has both fault-based and no-fault divorce. For no-fault splits, no specific reason must be proved. Instead, one only needs to claim irreconcilable differences. For fault-based divorces, acceptable grounds include adultery, extreme cruelty, willful desertion of at least one year, willful neglect, habitual drunkenness for at least a year, living separately for at least five years, a felony conviction and one spouse being a resident in a mental institution for at least three years.

Process to Divorce

The first step for a divorce in Idaho is to file documents in the county in which you live. The exact documents you need will depend on where you live, so check with your county county clerk to get the exact rundown for your locale. Generally, though, there will be an information sheet, a petition for divorce, a summons, an affidavit of services and a vital statistics form. If you have children from the marriage, there will be more forms.

Once everything has been filed, the other spouse must be served. This can be done by a third party, a sheriff or a process server. The other spouse will then respond to the court.

If both parties agree on major issues in the divorce, including division of assets, grounds for divorce, child custody and alimony or possible obligations to help with college expenses, an uncontested divorce can be obtained. You’ll present an agreement to the court and, if up to snuff, it will be approved by the judge.

If there are disagreements, though, you cannot have an uncontested divorce. Following service of divorce papers, there will be a discovery process where financial disclosures are made, evidence is gathered and witnesses are interviewed. The spouses may work with a mediator to try to come to an agreement, but if one cannot be reached, a trial will be scheduled. The judge will handle your case in this situation.

How to Split Up Assets During a Divorce in Idaho

SmartAsset: Idaho Divorce Laws

Any property obtained during the marriage – including cash and physical assets – are considered marital property. The only exception is if something was obtained as a gift or inheritance.

Anything obtained before the marriage is considered separate property. However, if a piece of separate property generates income, it is considered marital property. For instance, let’s say one spouse owned an apartment before the marriage and rents it during the union. The apartment is considered separate property, but rent money collected while married is marital property.

How to Divide Property in Idaho After a Divorce

The marital property will be divided during a divorce. If the spouses agree, this can be done without the involvement of a judge. If the case goes to trial, though, the judge will make decisions about how to split up the marital estate. Because Idaho is a community property state rather than an equitable distribution state, this generally will be a 50-50 split.

How to Manage Child Support and Alimony Under Idaho Divorce Laws

Idaho uses the “income shares model” to determine child support payments. The judge estimates how much the parents would have spent on the child if they were still together and divides that based on how much money each parent makes. There is a fairly complicated process to determine exactly how much each parent owes, but income is the baseline. Projected custody time also impacts the final child support numbers.

Alimony, on the other hand, has no strict formula, as judges use a number of factors to figure out alimony payments. These include financial resources, time it will take a supported staff to become self-supporting, length of the marriage, physical and emotional health, tax consequences and marital misconduct of either spouse.

There are three types of alimony: temporary, fixed-duration and permanent. Here’s how they work:

  • Temporary alimony: This only lasts throughout the course of the trial.
  • Fixed-duration alimony: This lasts a predetermined amount of time to give the supported spouse time to get the training or education needed to become self-sufficient.
  • Permanent support: This type of alimony is rare, only being awarded in cases where one party can’t work due to age or disability. This support ends when the supported spouse dies or remarries.

401(k) and IRA and Divorce in Idaho

If money was put into a retirement plan such as a 401(k) or IRA during a marriage, those dollars are considered marital property. As such, they may be split up during a divorce proceeding. Normally, taking money out of a retirement plan before age 59.5 would result in a 10% penalty. But the judge will issue a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) which will waive these penalties.

After the money is taken out, you’ll have a few options. The distributions can be given directly to the relevant spouse, in which case it would count as normal income and be subject to income tax. It can also be rolled over into a new retirement account. The judge may order exactly what is to be done with the money or it may be up to the person receiving the money.

For an IRA, a QDRO is not needed. Instead, the judge will write into the separation agreement exactly what is to be done with the money, allowing the penalties to be waived. Retirement plans are some of the most difficult parts of a marital estate to split up, so  speak with financial advisor to make sure everything is taken care of.

Divorce and Estate Planning in Idaho

SmartAsset: Idaho Divorce Laws

If you and your spouse have an estate plan, now is the time to revisit it. First off, your assets were likely set to go to your now ex-spouse after your death, and you may want to change that. If you want your assets to pass to your children, you’ll need to form a trust. You’ll also want to change the designated inheritor on any financial accounts you have, including retirement accounts. If you have advanced directives or powers of attorney set up, you’ll need to change them unless you want your ex-spouse making medical decisions for you.

Finally, think about your children. If you have plans for what happens if you and your spouse both die, make sure it still applies.

Bottom Line

Idaho has both fault-based and no-fault divorces. If both parties agree on terms, they can draw up a separation agreement and submit it to the judge. If not, they’ll work with a mediator and, failing that, go to trial where a judge will make decisions about relevant issues.

Divorce Financial Planning Tips

  • Regardless of where you are in life, hiring someone to help you work towards your future financial goals may make sense. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • After a divorce, you may need to find a new place to live. If you’re thinking of buying a new place, use SmartAsset’s mortgage calculator to figure out your new monthly payments.

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