Iowa law encourages parents to work out custody arrangements themselves without bringing the issue to court. If they cannot come to an agreement, courts make custody decisions based on what is in the "best interest" of the child. Typically, the courts favor joint custody, although sole custody may be granted under certain circumstances.

What Is a Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan is a detailed, written agreement that sets out how divorcing parents will share legal and physical custody of their children. If parents cannot agree on a plan, the court may require mediation (a dispute resolution process). If mediation is unsuccessful, the court will evaluate the case and assign custody.

What Does the Court Consider in Assigning Custody?

Iowa courts balance a series of factors when determining the best interest of a child.  These factors include:

  • The child’s safety and welfare,
  • Each parent’s capacity to raise the child,
  • Each parent’s level of active caregiving and engagement,
  • The child’s emotional and developmental needs,
  • The history of contact and communication between the parents and the child,
  • The distance between the parents’ residences,
  • Evidence of child abuse or spousal abuse, and
  • The child’s reasonable preference (if age appropriate).

A parent’s gender is not considered as a factor. However, evidence of abuse is a rebuttable presumption against custody. In a custody dispute, a guardian ad litem may be assigned to advocate for the child and help assess his or her best interests. A guardian ad litem may be an attorney or another trained professional.

What Happens When the Court Has Made a Decision?

Once the parenting plan and divorce order are signed, they are filed with the court clerk. Both parents are then bound by the approved custody order and the court must approve any modification of the plan. 

Should I Contact an Iowa Lawyer Regarding my Custody Issues?

Child custody disputes can be emotionally charged and require a detailed understanding of the law. If you have concerns about custody and parenting time, it is important that you speak with an experienced Iowa child custody lawyer. A lawyer will help advocate for you and your child and work to secure the best possible parenting arrangement for your family.