Grandparent Visitation Rights In Iowa

Grandparent Visitation Rights in Iowa

January 6th, 2010

In the State of Iowa grandparents have minimal visitation rights over their grandchildren. A recent article in the Des Moines Register chronicled a struggle involving this exact issue.

In the past, grandparents had visitation rights under Iowa Code section 598.35(1) if: "(1) the parents are divorced, (2) "visitation is in the best interests of the child," and (3) the grandparent ... [has] established a substantial relationship with the child prior to the filing of the petition. However, the Iowa Supreme Court held Iowa Code section 598.35(1) unconstitutional in a series of rulings between 2001 and 2003. See Santi v. Santi, 633 N.W.2d 312 (Iowa 2001) and In Re Marriage of Howard, 661 N.W.2d 183 (Iowa 2003).

In response to these rulings, the Iowa Legislature drafted new constitutional legislation to address the issue. Now, pursuant to Iowa Code section 600C.1 (2009), grandparents can win visitation rights only if they can prove the custodial parent is "unfit" to make decisions about visitation. Grandparents petitioning the court for visitation rights carry a heavy burden in proving that this "unfit" requirement. As a result, at the present time it is extremely difficult for grandparents to win visitation with their grandchildren in the state of Iowa.