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Child Preference for Custody in Iowa

The issue of child custody in an Iowa divorce often seems to boil down to a battle between parents’ desires. This can be a misguided approach as courts generally decide this issue not on what is best for either parent but what is in the best interests of the child. In some cases, a court may even consider the opinion of the child as to what he or she would prefer along with the many other factors it may review.

A basic primer on child custody in Iowa reveals that custody can be granted jointly to both parents and singly to just one. Custody is broken down into two parts: legal custody and physical care. Legal custody gives you as a parent the legal right to make decisions about your child’s major life issues, such as medical care, education, religion, and other important aspects of wellbeing. Physical care, also known as physical custody, involves which parent the child with reside with and often includes maintaining the child in the family home. These two types of custody can be awarded in a variety of combinations.

When Does a Child’s Preference Matter?

Generally, the court may consider a child’s preference as to custody arrangements in cases where the child is mature enough to have a valid opinion. This does not set into stone any particular age. Each case where a child has voiced a preference will be considered individually by the judge. Obviously, a teen’s opinion on the matter would carry more weight than a younger child’s. Courts generally consider that, the younger the child, the less mature he or she will be and the more given to parental pressure or shallow reasons for the preference. These reasons could vary from how tough or lax a parent is on discipline to which parent is an easier mark for toys, gifts, or other concessions.

What Will a Judge Consider When Deciding the Value of Child Preference?

Judges will likely consider various factors when reviewing this matter to come up with a decision. How persistent or strong has the child been in his or her stated preference? Has the child later backed down or forgotten about it? What are the reasons behind the child’s choice? Why does the child prefer one parent over the other? Is the child trying to “protect” the preferred parent? If so, why? Where did that need come from? Has the preferred parent cast doubt on the other parent’s love, affection, or willingness to support?

The latter could reveal that the preferred parent engaged in “parental alienation” in which statements and actions were made to degrade the other parent’s parenting abilities. Or has the preferred parent made the child feel guilty about not choosing him or her? Perhaps a form of emotional bribery has taken place where the preferred parent has promised the child certain benefits if he or she voices the preference. If the judge discovers these negative machinations behind a child’s preference, the judge will likely rule against the parent who has plotted them.

On the other hand, a preference based on the fact that the child has a better relationship with the preferred parent would be valid and significant. Finally, a judge is not required to act solely on the factor of child preference. Judges review many factors in determining what they deem to be the best interests of the child.

Need Help with a Custody Issue in Des Moines?

Child custody can be a complex issue and one that can lead to adversarial proceedings. In these matters, it is to your advantage to work with a family law firm that handles such cases on a routine basis in your local courts. At Hope Law Firm, our lawyers have decades of combined experience and have negotiated and litigated even the most complicated divorce issues. Let us use our vast knowledge and procedural abilities to advocate on your behalf in any divorce or family law matter.

Phone us at (515) 305-2772 to schedule a consultation today.