Child custody can be a part of a divorce or a separate action between two parents who are not married to each other. Iowa law defines joint legal custody as an award of custody of a minor child to both parents under which both parents have rights and responsibilities for the child which neither parent has rights superior to those of the other parent. Iowa law presumes joint legal custody, but that presumption can be challenged. If the presumption is challenged, the Court can award sole legal custody to one parent in appropriate cases.

Physical care means the rights and responsibilities to maintain the principal home of the minor child and provide for routine care of the child. The Court can award physical care to one parent or to both parents jointly. There is no presumption in Iowa in favor of physical care to one parent or joint physical care.

Child support is calculated based on the physical care arrangement and the parent’s financial situations.

Keep in mind:

Agreements between parents that are not married about visitation and custody are common.  If these agreement are not approved by a Court, they are unenforceable. It may work out for a while, but what happens if one parent gets upset with the other?

Without a custody order from the court, there are many problems that can occur.

Example one: If one parent decides to move to another state with the child, that parent has committed NO crime.  It could be used against that parent in a future custody case if the other parent files for custody, but no criminal charges can be filed.

Example two: If one parent decides to refuse the other parent the opportunity to see or spend time with the minor child, again, that parent has not committed a crime. It is very important that a custody order is in place to assure that both parents have their rights to their children protected.  The Police or DHS do not typically get involved in custody matters unless another crime has been committed such as abuse or neglect.

Get all your questioned answered so you can make an informed decision on your next step.  Call for a free initial consultation at 712-258-8272.


Circumstances change in life.  Whether it be six months after the Court Order on your custody was given or ten years, there may be reason to get it modified.

See Reasons To Modify Your Custody Order

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