When a couple decides to end their relationship or their marriage, they often have a difficult time going through the process of splitting their assets and other marital items. If the couple shares children, they also have to deal with going through the proceedings of deciding the custody of the child or children who are involved. The Iowa family court system has very strict outlines when it comes to child custody issues, but they always attempt to make decisions that are in the best interest of the children involved.
Child Custody Laws in Iowa
All child custody cases are handled on an individual basis in the state of Iowa. If at all possible, it is always best for the parents of the child or children involved to try to come up with an agreeable child custody arrangement on their own or with the help of mediation. If this is not possible, it will then become the duty of the family court system to create a child custody agreement for the parents and the child or children. This decision will always be based on the child’s best interests.
Joint Legal Custody in Iowa
When it comes to child custody cases in the state of Iowa, the court system has a preference for awarding parents joint legal custody. This means that both parents have an equal right and responsibility to make important decisions about the child or children’s upbringing. These decisions may include but are not limited to their education, religious upbringing, medical care, and any extracurricular activities they are or will be involved in. In most cases, sole legal custody will only be awarded when there is convincing and clear evidence the decision is in the child or children’s best interests.
Joint Physical Custody in Iowa
While the state of Iowa has a definite preference for joint legal custody, it does not prefer to award joint physical custody in child custody cases. More often than not, an Iowa family court judge will grant sole physical custody to the more capable parent and will award the other parent liberal visitation with the child or children. Additionally, this state does not express any preference on which parent the child or children will reside with – it will choose a parent based on a number of different factors and what situation it feels is in the child or children’s best interest.
What Determines Child Custody in Iowa
When choosing a primary custodial parent for the child or children involved, the family court judge will have a lot of factors to consider. During the evaluation process, the judge will take time to evaluate each parent on an individual basis, including their demeanor and characteristics, among other factors, to best determine which parent will make the better primary caregiver and provide the best living conditions. Judges will often compare the parents on their ability to provide financially for the children, what their child rearing skills are currently, and what type of relationship each parent has with the children.
Some additional factors that will come into a judge’s decision making will also include:
- Each parent’s physical health and ability to care for the child or children
- Each parent’s ability to properly invest and care for the child or children’s medical needs
- Each parent’s ability to properly invest in the child or children’s educational opportunities
- Each parent’s ability to make proper decisions about the child or children’s upbringing and well-being
- Each parent’s ability to foster and encourage a positive relationship between the child or children and the other parent
- Each parent’s willingness to adhere to the child custody agreement as it is outlined by the family court judge
It is also possible for Iowa judges to appoint an attorney for the child or children involved in the case or an independent investigator to look deeper into the different factors that may affect the child custody case. This appointed professional will create a report and present it to the judge which will outline different recommendations for the well-being of the child or children in terms of a custody agreement. Generally, the court will place a great deal of emphasis on this report when making its final decision.
Child Custody Modification in Iowa
As it is with many child custody arrangements, there may come a time when a modification to an agreement is needed or desired by one or both parents. If both parents agree to the proposed modification, they will need to appear in court with their request, have it approved, and made legally binding, which means they will both need to follow the new custody arrangement. If only one parent is requesting a modification and the other parent does not agree, the process becomes more involved.
When only one parent is making a modification request and the other parent does not agree, the burden of proof for having this modification approved will fall on the parent making the request. Family court systems and judges do not like to grant any and all modification requests as constant changes in a child or children’s lives can have a negative impact on their well-being. When making a request for modification, the parent asking for the change in the agreement will need to prove the following:
- A substantial change in one or both parents’ circumstances has occurred since the last child custody agreement was set
- The requested modification and the disruption to the child or children’s schedule will benefit the child or children in some way
- The benefits the child or children will experience due to this modification will outweigh the disturbances they will ultimately face
Child Custody and Relocation in Iowa
Relocation requests and modification requests often go hand in hand – in some cases, a modification to a child custody agreement needs to be made because one parent wishes to relocate. Should both parents agree to the custodial parent relocating with the child or children, they will need to appear in court with their request, have it approved, and made legally binding. Should the non-custodial parent not agree to the relocation, the custodial parent will need to prove their case before a judge.
The burden of proof will fall with the parent making the relocation request. While there may be many reasons why they wish to relocate, including finding a new job, wanting to be closer to family, or having better educational opportunities, they will need to prove to the judge the relocation will benefit the children even though it will take them farther away from the other parent. Some of the areas that judges are interested in knowing about include:
- Ages and genders of the child or children involved
- The relationships between the child or children and the custodial parent
- The relationships between the child or children and the non-custodial parent
- The reason(s) why the custodial parent is requesting to relocate
- What benefits the child or children will see from the relocation
- What alternative communication methods are available for the non-custodial parent to use with the child or children and what are the costs of these communication methods
- Depending on the child or children’s ages, what their preferences are for custody