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What Factors Influence Child Custody?

Whether you are going through a divorce, legal separation, or another type of split from your child’s other parent, dealing with the issue of child custody can be tricky. Parents are typically encouraged to try to find a solution amongst themselves, without the interference of the court system, and sometimes this works. However, if the parents are unable to come to an agreement on their own, they will need to turn to the Iowa court system for a legal decision.

In Iowa, the courts aim to find the best solution for the children involved, based on their best interest. However, this could mean several things. The child’s “best interest” is somewhat subjective, so if your child custody case rests in the hands of the Iowa court system, it’s important for you to understand what factors will influence the judge’s decision.  

Understanding Child Custody in Iowa

Child custody is split into two key types: legal and physical. Physical custody refers to the amount of time spent with the child, whereas legal custody has more to do with authority and the legal power to make decisions about the child’s welfare. Parents may be granted sole custody, meaning one parent has full rights to either physical custody, legal custody, or both. Or, parents may share one or both types of custody in a joint custody arrangement.

If parents share physical custody, the child will likely split time living with both parents, equally or not, depending on each custody arrangement. Parents who share legal custody will be responsible for making legal decisions about the child’s welfare together. This includes decisions about the child’s healthcare, education, safety, extracurricular activities, religious upbringing, and other major life decisions.

Usually, courts favor joint custody arrangements because children are almost always better off when they benefit from the involvement of both parents. That being said, there are always exceptions to this rule.

The Court’s Considerations

Before the court makes any decisions about child custody, they will review the following factors:

  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child
  • Whether or not the child will benefit from contact with both parents
  • Whether or not the parents can communicate about their child’s needs
  • The role each parent played in the child’s life until this point
  • The location of either parent and their proximity to one another
  • If the child, other parent, or any other children in the family will be in danger if joint custody or unsupervised visits are granted
  • Whether or not there is a history of domestic abuse
  • If either parent has knowingly exposed their child to a registered sex offender

Additionally, the court may take the child’s opinion into account, if he or she is deemed old enough and mature enough to make such a decision. The court will also consider the opinions of both parents if they oppose joint custody, and why.

If you are dealing with a child custody case, our firm is ready to help. Legal issues involving children can be extremely emotional and stressful, not to mention frustrating. We understand how difficult this process can be for you, and we know what’s at stake. Our experienced Des Moines family law attorneys can work with you to protect your interests in and out of the courtroom.

Contact The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw, PLC to discuss your case with our Des Moines divorce lawyers.

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