Iowa Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Iowa and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Iowa courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
When writing a parenting plan in the State of Iowa, it is important to be aware of the laws of the state and incorporate the aspects of those laws into the plan.
The Iowa Code outlines very specific family law issues, but case law from both state and federal court decisions can impact a family law case involving a child, as well. The case law can be studied in depth, or you may rely on an attorney to help you with complicated issues in a custody case.
Familiarizing yourself with the law is an effective and positive approach to creating a parenting plan. The Iowa Code is clearly written, easily accessible, and an excellent reference when creating a parenting plan in situations where there aren't any extenuating circumstances.
The statutes pertaining to child custody and visitation are found in Chapter 598 of the Iowa Code entitled Dissolution of Marriage and Domestic Relations.
The State of Iowa uses the best interest of a child as the ultimate determining factor when making decisions in family law cases involving children.
Iowa recognizes that it is in a child's best interests for the child to have meaningful, ongoing contact with both parents, and uses the following factors as a guide when defining the child's best interests when considering a custody arrangement (Iowa Code §§ 598.41.3):
- The suitability of each parent to be a custodian for the child
- The emotional needs and development of the child and whether or not the child would suffer from lack of contact with and attention from both of the parents
- The ability of the parents to communicate with each other effectively about the child's needs
- Whether or not both parents have actively participated in the care and nurturing of the child, both before and after the separation
- The likeliness that a parent will encourage and foster the child's relationship with the other parent
- The child's wishes as to a custodial preference, given the child is of adequate age and maturity to voice a valid opinion
- The parents' preference as to custody of the child and whether or not they are in agreement
- How close the parents live to each other
- Whether or not an award of joint custody or unrestricted visitation would jeopardize the safety of the child, any other children, or the other parent
- Any evidence of domestic violence or abuse
Iowa law considers joint custody in almost every case, so you need to understand exactly what joint custody means in the state. Here is some information from Iowa Code §§ 598.41 about joint custody:
- You can have joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or both.
- Joint legal custody is the right and responsibility that parents have to make decisions about the child.
- Joint physical custody refers to the physical care of the child and where the child lives.
- On application of either parent, the court will consider granting joint custody even when the parents do not agree to joint custody.
- Before ruling on joint custody in cases where the parents do not agree, the court can mandate that the parents go to mediation to work out a joint custody agreement.
- If joint legal custody is awarded to both parents, the court can award joint physical care upon the request of either parent. Prior to this ruling, the court may require the parents (either together or individually) to submit a proposed joint physical care parenting plan.
- If joint legal custody is granted, but only one parent is awarded physical care, the parent with physical care must support the child's relationship with the other parent and they must create a schedule with liberal visitation rights to the non-custodial parent.
A joint custody agreement gives both parents equal rights for making decisions for the child and for taking care of physical needs.
You can also have an agreement where the parents share decision-making responsibility and one parent primarily provides for the child's physical needs.
If you and the other parent agree on the custody arrangements, then the court will accept your agreement as the best one for the child.
If you and the other parent disagree about the custody arrangements, the court will determine the custody agreement for your situation. Either way, you will want to prepare and submit a proposed joint physical care parenting plan.
Iowa law mentions a joint physical care parenting plan, which is basically the same thing as a custody agreement / parenting plan. If you and the other parent agree on custody, you can make your plan together. If you do not agree, you will each make a plan and the court will decide which one (if any) to adopt.
Basically the only time you will not have a joint physical care parenting plan is when one parent has sole physical custody of the child.
Here are the requirements for what should you should include in your Iowa custody plan:
- Information about how the parents will make decisions affecting the child
- Information about how the child's time will be divided between the parents and how each parent will facilitate the child's time with the other parent
- The arrangements in addition to the court-ordered child support for the child's expenses
- How the parents will resolve major changes or disagreements affecting the child including changes that arise due to the child's age and developmental needs
- Any other issues the parents want to address in the plan
This is a good, basic guideline to follow as you make your agreement and plan. As you make each decision for your plan, you should base it on what is best for your child. When you go to court, you will need to explain how your plan benefits your child and meets your child's needs.
You may include as many stipulations in your parenting plan as you would like.
This could include a breakdown of how the responsibilities of raising the child should be divided or shared, a method in which to resolve any future disputes that may arise, details regarding the transportation of and communication with your child, and just about anything you can think of that would prevent future conflict and warrant a return to court.
Verbiage can be included in your parenting plan that offers the other parent additional time with your child in the event that one of you needs to make an impromptu child care arrangement. The other parent is not obligated to accept the offer, but should be asked prior to contacting an outside party for child care.
Taking the time to create a well thought out, organized, mutually agreeable parenting plan will prove to be beneficial to both you and your child. When you incorporate the relevant aspects of the law into your parenting plan while upholding the best interests of your child, it is a likely method for having your parenting plan accepted by the court.
The top fifteen cities in Iowa (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Iowa City, Waterloo, Council Bluffs, Dubuque, Ames, West Des Moines, Ankeny, Urbandale, Cedar Falls, Marion, Bettendorf.