Divorce between Iowa and Illinois

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It’s what no two people entering into marriage want to think about – divorce.

But, it happens a lot.

While the divorce rate in this country has decreased, it’s still about 50-percent and Iowa has a higher divorce rate than most states, including Illinois.

There are some subtle and not so subtle differences in the way divorces are carried out on both sides of the river.

Looking at Sheila Holdren-Engh today, you’d never guess she’s been to hell and back.

“He came home one day and said he wanted a divorce,” said Holdren-Engh, who lives in Silvis. “It was shocking. I never saw it coming.”

Blindsided by divorce 10 years ago, she looks back on what could have been signs the marriage was in trouble.

“He would just tell me, ‘I have to work’ and I believed him,” she said. “I never thought anything different and apparently he and a woman were seeing each other on the side.”

She says the pain she felt at the time is hard to put into words.

“You think the world has come to an end. You lose a piece of you. You devoted 11 years of your life to one person and expected them to grow old with you.”

Besides the emotional scars Sheila and her two kids suffered, there were also the financial ones.

“I ended up having to file bankruptcy. I lost a house. I lost a lot,” said Sheila.

Sheila’s story is one of millions just like it.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census, in 2009 Iowans had a higher rate of divorce and marriage, compared not only to Illinois but the entire country.

In Iowa, for example, for every 1,000 men 10.2 got divorced and in Illinois the average is considerably lower at 8.0.

The national average is 9.2 for every 1,000 men.

“It is truly an adversarial situation,” said Moline attorney, Bill Laird.

He says besides the numbers, there are some key differences between the two states in the way divorce is carried out.

Iowa is a no fault state, meaning you have to prove your case in order to get your divorce granted.

“If the judge doesn’t find that you’ve proven your ground, then you don’t get the divorce,” said Laird.

Some other key differences: -There’s a 90-day waiting period for divorces in Iowa. – Formula for determining child support is much more complex in Iowa. -In Illinois, one judge is assigned to a case, while in Iowa a different judge may handle the hearings.

There’s a good reason for that, says Julie Carlin, Scott County Clerk of Court.

“We don’t keep them on assignments for very long periods of time because we don’t want to get them burned out,” said Carlin. “They have a constant variety.”

But, Holdren-Engh says, it didn’t necessarily work in her favor.

“There are some situations where it’s better to have the same judge because they already know the story, they know what’s happened.”

That wasn’t the only thing Sheila had a problem with when it came to the divorce proceeding.

“I know in the state of Iowa, my ex’s affair was not allowed as part of evidence. That’s horrible. They needed to know what that did to me and the kids.”

Despite all the turmoil from the divorce, Sheila’s now happily remarried.

“You don’t want to talk about him or think about the whole situation because it still brings up terrible memories. But, I have found an awesome, awesome husband and I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to go on.”

To anyone going through the same thing, she has some advice.

“Find that inner strength.”

Also, find a good attorney.

Take advantage of that first free consultation with an attorney, she says.

If you think you might be headed to divorce court, start writing everything down and keep a journal that you can refer back to in court.

Most importantly, Holdren-Engh says, don’t give up.