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Child Custody in Iowa

Familiarize Yourself With Child Custody Laws in Iowa


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Iowa uses several criteria to determine child custody. Primarily, a court in Iowa will grant custody to a parent based on the best interests of the child. Parents who wish to file for child custody in Iowa should first become familiar with the custody statutes in this state.

Related: Help our readers by sharing your experience with child custody in Iowa.

Joint Custody

A court in Iowa will award custody based on the best interests of the child. The court will also consider the best possible arrangement that will allow the child continuous physical and emotional contact with both parents after separation. Joint custody allows both parents to share in the rights and responsibilities of rearing a child. A court in Iowa will consider joint custody if it determines that joint custody serves the best interests of the child, even if the parents do not agree about an award of joint custody.

Best Interests of the Child

A family court in Iowa will look to the best interests of the child to determine child custody. Factors included in determining a child's best interests are:

  • The parents' ability to communicate with one another about the child's needs
  • The child's wishes
  • The geographical proximity of the parents
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • Each parent's willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the child's other parent

Domestic Violence and Child Custody in Iowa

If a parent has been convicted of an act of domestic violence, the court presumes that the parent should not be awarded joint custody. However, unless the court finds that there has been physical or emotional harm to the child, a court in Iowa may request a parent to participate in mediation, if it determines that joint custody may be in the best interests of the child.

Modification of Child Custody in Iowa

An Iowa court will be reluctant to modify a child custody determination unless the court determines:

  • There's a history of domestic violence or abuse, or
  • Direct physical or severe emotional harm will occur to the child, other children, or a parent, if custody is not modified

The court may require a parent to participate in mediation to help resolve custody issues between them instead of ordering a modification.

For more information about child custody in Iowa, speak with a qualified attorney in Iowa or refer to the Iowa Code.

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