What happens to the children may be divorcing parents’ most significant concern. Wondering about where they should live, who makes the medical decisions and getting equal parenting time can weigh heavily on parents’ minds.
Knowing the child custody laws might help parents navigate the divorce process and work toward arrangements that meet their children’s needs.
1. All parents must attend an informational class
The state requires divorcing parents to participate in a class that teaches them how to help their children through divorce. Not taking the course within 45 days of the divorce filing might affect the custody arrangements.
2. Courts encourage joint legal custody
Legal custody gives parents the power to decide their children’s education, religion and health care. Iowa courts often default to joint legal custody, so both parents stay involved in their children’s lives. According to the law, courts must award joint legal custody even when one parent requests full legal custody unless that parent can prove the arrangement would not be in the children’s best interest.
3. Multiple factors affect physical custody arrangements
When determining with whom children reside, courts review different criteria than those that influence legal custody. Physical custody may result in children living equally with both parents, with one parent or with one parent more often than the other. Some considerations are:
- How the children interact with each parent
- The caretaking role of each parent before the divorce
- How to best support the children emotionally
- How each parent supports the other parent’s relationship with the children
Background history of criminal activity, substance abuse or domestic violence can also impact the courts’ decisions.
Courts consider several factors when determining child custody, and in most divorces, both parents have an equal opportunity to share childrearing responsibilities.