Iowa Custody and Visitation Schedules

How do I make my Iowa custody and visitation schedule?

You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (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 schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.

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In Iowa, how can I use the custody laws to help me make my schedule?

When creating a child visitation schedule in the State of Iowa, it is important to be familiar with some of the laws of the state.

Understanding the State's family law statues will give you a better idea of what the courts expect and will enable you to create a child visitation schedule that not only complies with the expectations of the court, but meets the needs of your child, as well.

The family law statutes for the State of Iowa are found in Chapter 598 of the Iowa Code, Dissolution of Marriage and Domestic Relations.

The Iowa Code explains the different types of custody and what criteria the court uses to determine custody. If one parent has died, grandparents and great-grandparents may seek visitation.

The Iowa Code can be a valuable resource when creating your child visitation schedule.

What are the various types of custody in the State of Iowa?

Prior to creating a child visitation schedule in the State of Iowa, it is important to decide what type of custody you each shall have so that the schedule can be written accordingly. There are a few different kinds of custody:

  • Physical custody (or physical care) involves where the child will live, and with whom.
  • Legal custody encompasses the rights and responsibilities of the parents.
  • Sole custody means one parent shall have the exclusive right to either legal custody, physical custody, or both.
  • Joint custody means the parents share legal custody of the child. They must share the responsibility of making decisions about the child's education, medical needs, religious upbringing, and other important aspects of the child's life. In most case, the courts prefer that the parents share joint custody.
  • Joint physical custody (or physical care) means the child lives with each of the parents (at different times) and may be awarded to both of the parents to share.
  • Primary physical custody may be awarded to one parent, even if they both have joint legal custody, and this means the child primarily lives with that parent.

The parents' rights and responsibilities are not diminished regardless of who has physical custody (Iowa Code §§ 598.41.5).

Even when the court awards joint physical custody to the parents, the court will usually designate one parent's home as the child's primary residence for legal purposes.

This does not designate that parent as being the "preferred parent" or as being superior over the other parent in any manner.

In Iowa, how does the type of custody affect the visitation schedule?

Once the specific custody labels have been applied, the child visitation schedule should be written in a manner that reflects the type of custody each of you shall have.

Typically, if only one of you has sole physical custody and the other is entitled to reasonable visitation, the schedule involves the noncustodial parent having the child every other weekend and one night per week.

If you have joint physical custody, you will probably share the time with your child in a more balanced manner, though the time with the child does not necessarily need to be divided equally.

Regardless of the type of custody, no schedule is set in stone. The child visitation schedule can be tailored to meet the specific needs of your child while accommodating your schedules in a manner that provides your child with the optimal amount of quality time with each of you.

In Iowa, who is responsible for creating the custody schedule?

The court prefers that you create your own schedule. If you are able to agree upon the custody arrangements and the child custody and visitation schedule, the court will typically adopt your parenting plan and make it a court order.

However, if you are unable to reach an agreement, you will be referred to a mediator to help you decide.

Should your attempt at mediation fail, the court will determine the custody of your child and provide each of you with a visitation schedule that you will be legally obliged to follow.

In Iowa, what does the court consider when making a custody decision?

The court accesses a variety of factors it considers to determine what is in the child's best interests (Iowa Code §§ 598.41.3). These factors include:

  • Assessing the parents' suitability to act as fit and proper parents
  • Any wishes the child may have about custody
  • The history of care and involvement of each parent in the child's life both before and after the separation of the parents
  • All relevant information including several other determinants in the Iowa Code

What should be included in my Iowa child custody and visitation schedule?

Regardless of who writes the child visitation schedule, the schedule needs to contain three basic elements:

  • A regular parenting time schedule dictating when the child will spend time with each parent on a regular basis.
  • A holiday schedule dividing up the holidays in a fair manner, allowing the child access to both parents on holidays. Most parents elect to alternate holidays each year, e.g., one parent has the child on Christmas in even years, the other in odd years.
  • A vacation schedule allowing the child to spend extended time with each parent during school breaks or other vacations.

The court bases decisions in custody cases on what is best for the child. However, the judge doesn't know you. As parents, you know your child and are well suited to make decisions for them.

Set aside your differences with the other parent and work with them to create a child visitation schedule written in the best interests of your child.

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.

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