The following is a summary of Iowa child custody laws, and is by no means intended to be an all-inclusive description of what to expect in your particular case. In some cases, the exact text of the statute may have been simplified and/or modified to provide for easier understanding. For a more specific understanding of the laws, you should consult the full Iowa Code and/or consult with an attorney about how the law might apply to your particular situation.

Definitions.

“Joint custody” or “joint legal custody” means an award of legal custody of a minor child to both parents jointly under which both parents have legal custodial rights and responsibilities toward the child and under which neither parent has legal custodial rights superior to those of the other parent. Rights and responsibilities of joint legal custody include, but are not limited to, equal participation in decisions affecting the child’s legal status, medical care, education, extracurricular activities, and religious instruction.

Joint physical care” means an award of physical care of a minor child to both joint legal custodial parents under which both parents have rights and responsibilities toward the child including, but not limited to, shared parenting time with the child, maintaining homes for the child, providing routine care for the child and under which neither parent has physical care rights superior to those of the other parent.

Legal custody” or “custody” means an award of the rights of legal custody of a minor child to a parent under which a parent has legal custodial rights and responsibilities toward the child. Rights and responsibilities of legal custody include, but are not limited to, decision making affecting the child’s legal status, medical care, education, extracurricular activities, and religious instruction.

Physical care” means the right and responsibility to maintain a home for the minor child and provide for the routine care of the child. Physical care awarded to one parent does not affect the other parent’s rights and responsibilities as a joint legal custodian of the child.

-From Section 598.1 of the Iowa Code.

Parenting Course.

Iowa law requires that parties to any action which involves the issues of child custody or visitation must attend a court-approved course to “educate and sensitize the parties to the needs of any child or party during and subsequent to the proceeding”. In all judicial districts, there are courses such as “Children in the Middle” or “Children Cope with Divorce”. These classes are designed to help minimize the negative impact of divorce on children and educate parents about the needs of children whose parents are divorcing. Parents are required to attend within 45 days of the service of original notice or application for modification of an order.

-From Section 598.15 of the Iowa Code

Access to Records.

Unless otherwise ordered by the court in the custody decree, both parents shall have legal access to information concerning the child, including but not limited to medical, educational and law enforcement records.

-From Section 598.41 of the Iowa Code.

Custody of Children.

The court, insofar as is reasonable and in the best interest of the child, shall order the custody award, including liberal visitation rights where appropriate, which will assure the child the opportunity for the maximum continuing physical and emotional contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved the marriage, and which will encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising the child unless direct physical harm or significant emotional harm to the child, other children, or a parent is likely to result from such contact with one parent.

If the court finds that a history of domestic abuse exists, a rebuttable presumption against the awarding of joint custody exists.

The court shall consider the denial by one parent of the child’s opportunity for maximum continuing contact with the other parent, without just cause, a significant factor in determining the proper custody arrangement.

-From Section 598.41 of the Iowa Code.

Factors Used in Determining Custody of Minor Child.

In considering what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the minor child, the court shall consider the following factors:

  1. Whether each parent would be a suitable custodian for the child.
  2. Whether the psychological and emotional needs and development of the child will suffer due to lack of active contact with and attention from both parents.
  3. Whether the parents can communicate with each other regarding the child’s needs.
  4. Whether both parents have actively cared for the child before and since the separation.
  5. Whether each parent can support the other parent’s relationship with the child.
  6. Whether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child’s wishes or whether the child has strong opposition, taking into consideration the child’s age and maturity.
  7. Whether one or both the parents agree or are opposed to joint custody.
  8. The geographic proximity of the parents.
  9. Whether the safety of the child, other children, or the other parent will be jeopardized by the awarding of joint custody or by unsupervised or unrestricted visitation.
  10. Whether a history of domestic abuse, as defined in section 236.2 , exists. In determining whether a history of domestic abuse exists, the court’s consideration shall include, but is not limited to, commencement of an action pursuant to section 236.3 , the issuance of a protective order against the parent or the issuance of a court order or consent agreement pursuant to section 236.5 , the issuance of an emergency order pursuant to section 236.6 , the holding of a parent in contempt pursuant to section 236.8 , the response of a peace officer to the scene of alleged domestic abuse or the arrest of a parent following response to a report of alleged domestic abuse, or a conviction for domestic abuse assault pursuant to section 708.2A .

-From Section 598.41 of the Iowa Code.

 

This information has been summarized from the Iowa statutes. You can find the full-text version of these and other Iowa divorce statutes online here: Iowa Divorce Laws.

LEARN MORE ABOUT GENERAL CHILD CUSTODY LAWS.

GO TO ANOTHER DIVORCE ARTICLE.

 

IMPORTANT: Help Yourself Divorce is a paralegal service, not a law firm. Please don’t rely on this information for legal advice. Seek help from an attorney if you need legal advice.

 

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