Whether they are married or have a child who was born out of wedlock, when parents separate, the questions of support and visitation come into play. In most cases, the Iowa courts will respect the decision of the parents if they are in agreement as to how time with the child should be shared. However, not all parents can come to terms and it becomes necessary to involve the Iowa family court system.

The Iowa courts divide child custody into two categories: legal custody and physical care.

  • Legal Custody — In Iowa, this gives the parent the right to make decisions about the child. This includes certain determinations about healthcare, where the child will go to school, religious upbringing, and other aspects of the child’s life. This type of custody can be awarded jointly or to an individual parent. Joint legal custody is the norm in Iowa, except when a parent shows him or herself to be unreliable or dangerous to the welfare of the children.Sole legal custody is sometimes awarded if the other parent has been violent or unwilling or unable to do what’s right for the children. Sole legal custody would give that parent most of the control over the decision making for the child; however, visitation is probably still likely for the other parent.
  • Physical Care — Most people think of this as physical custody, but we refer to it as “physical care” in Iowa. This refers to the question of who will have the child in their household.One parent is usually the primary caregiver in Iowa, but not necessarily. If parents can work together, live close by and both are willing and able to do well by their children, we do allow “shared physical care,” what some people often refer to as joint physical custody. The Courts are more and more willing to consider shared physical care, but only when parents can cooperate.

Child support is usually ordered in most paternity and divorce cases in Iowa, with the person with primary care usually getting the child support. In cases of shared physical care, it’s usually the person who makes more money who gets child support.