Every client that walks through our doors has unique personal circumstances and legal goals they want to achieve. Even so, there is one subject that can turn any divorce case into a drawn-out, costly, and high-conflict affair: child custody. Many divorcing parents turn to us because they have countless questions and concerns about the legalities and regulations surrounding child custody determinations. After all, the internet is rife with misinformation, and no parent wants to make a mistake that compromises their future relationship with their child.
In the last decade, we’ve helped many families successfully navigate this challenging and emotional legal process. Our West Des Moines child custody attorneys have compiled this useful FAQ blog to address some of our clients’ most frequently asked questions and concerns.
What Factors Does the Court Consider When Assigning Child Custody?
The decisions that encompass a child support agreement can have a lasting impact on a child’s quality of life. For this reason, the court usually encourages parents to develop their own child custody arrangements. After all, parents have a better grasp of their individual circumstances and the needs of their child. However, the court may be forced to intervene if the parents fail to negotiate a reasonable agreement that benefits their child.
The court may consider the following factors when determining child custody:
- The child’s age
- Which parent can provide a stable home
- The child’s personal preferences
- The quality of both parent-child relationships
- The physical and mental health of each parent
- The physical and mental health of the child
- How a change in location or schooling may impact the child’s well being
- If one parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse
- Has one parent physically, sexually, or emotionally abused the child
- Which parent can best provide for a child with special needs
- Each parent’s willingness to let the child have a strong relationship with their other parent
Despite common misconceptions, neither parent – mother or father – benefits from an automatic preference when it comes to determining child custody. The court reviews many factors and awards custody based on the “child’s best interests.”
Should I Stay in the Family Home?
Your home is your sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Unfortunately, it can also be a veritable warzone if you’re still sharing that space with your future ex. Even so, it may be in your best interest to stay for your child’s sake until the judge orders one spouse to vacate the premises. If you leave the property, the court may interpret it as a lack of commitment to your child. This can impact your ability to obtain the child custody order you desire.
Of course, this entire scenario is dependent on the safety of your home and if there is a history of domestic violence in your relationship. It’s important to discuss your personal situation with an attorney before making any significant decisions.
Should I Aim for Joint Custody?
Iowa courts usually prefer to award joint custody if and whenever possible. While it isn’t a perfect arrangement, joint custody is generally the best option for your child. Remember, when it comes to child custody and child support determinations, the court always makes its decisions based on “the best interests of the child,” not the parent. Also, numerous studies have proven that children benefit from the stability of having both parents in their lives. Parents who try to obtain sole or “full” custody usually find themselves facing a difficult legal battle where neither spouse is willing to compromise. When negotiations fail, the court will have to make a determination on the parents’ behalf.
Does the Primary Custodial Parent Always Receive Child Support?
The purpose of child support is to guarantee that a child of divorce lives in a financially stable environment. These monthly payments cover basic living expenses including food, clothing, health care costs, and more. Because raising a child is expensive, the court will likely issue a child support order before finalizing the divorce. Granted, the court makes its determinations based on the “best interests of the child,” so a noncustodial parent may not agree with the amount documented in the order. However, this doesn’t mean that a noncustodial parent can refuse to make child support payments; in fact, a parent can face serious legal penalties for violating a child support order.
Schedule a Consultation Today
These are just a few of the questions we happen to hear on a regular basis. However, we’re aware that you likely have many questions and concerns that are specific to your individual situation. Please feel free to contact The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw to speak directly with our legal team. We can help you resolve any divorce or child custody disputes that threaten your parental relationship and parenting time.
Contact our West Des Moines child custody lawyers at (515) 200-7571 to schedule a consultation.