Child Custody Laws in Iowa

Mother and infant bonding after a bath

The family laws and court practices may vary slightly from state to state around the country. Iowa child custody laws hold many ideas that are common with those of most other states. It is important for co-parents to get to know these laws and standard practices so that they can get a better idea of what to expect in their own custody case. Preparing for your case can get rid of any unexpected surprises.

What types of custody do the Iowa child custody laws allow?

The types of custody that the Iowa child custody laws and courts typically grant are common with those of most other states across the country. These common types of custody include the following.

  • Legal custody refers to the important decision-making rights and responsibilities for the child. This includes but is not limited to decisions regarding education, religion, and health issues.
  • Physical custody refers to the primary caretaking rights and responsibilities for the child including providing the child with food, clothing, and shelter.

Both of these types of custody must be defined in a parenting plan. It must also be decided whether these two types of custody will be granted solely or jointly. Sole custody simply means that one co-parent holds custody and joint custody means that custody is shared between both co-parents. In cases where sole physical custody is awarded to one co-parent, courts will typically grant visitation rights to the non-custodial co-parent.

How will Iowa child custody laws determine custody?

Co-parents are given the opportunity and encouraged by Iowa child custody laws and courts to come to an agreement on joint custody outside of court. The co-parents must create their own detailed parenting plan to be submitted to the court for review and approval. Certain details must also be included in the parenting plan such as how custodial time will be split between the co-parent, how expenses will be split, and other important information regarding their child.

If the co-parents cannot come to an agreement on a joint custody arrangement it will be the job of the Iowa child custody laws and courts to determine custody. The general consensus within family law is that the best interest of the child should be upheld above everything else in custody cases. The Iowa child custody laws and courts closely follow this idea. If the situation allows for it, the court prefers to grant a custody arrangement that facilitates a continuous and meaningful relationship between the child and both co-parents. Iowa child custody laws and courts will also consider granting joint custody even when the co-parents were not previously able to come to an agreement on a joint custody arrangement. In order to determine the best interest of the child, the Iowa courts will look at a number of factors involving both co-parents and the child. These factors address important issues such as the health of all parties involved, the relationship between the child and each of the co-parents, how the child will adapt to any type of custody order, and so on.

Modifying your current custody arrangement

Custody orders are not meant to be modified. It is assumed by the Iowa child custody laws and courts that the custody arrangement that was awarded to you and your co-parent will continually be in the best interest of you and your child. Unless the co-parents requesting modification can display a substantial change in circumstances that would affect the child. Iowa child custody laws and courts sometimes order the co-parent to attend mediation to address the problem instead of modifications to the custody agreement.

This information is not to be used as legal advice. For additional aide and legal information please consult with an Iowa family law professional. For a list of resources in Iowa visit our Helpful Links – Iowa page. The OurFamilyWizard website® is dedicated to providing co-parents with the tools and resources they need to easily manage their custody agreements. After becoming familiar with the Iowa child custody laws, please visit the Child Custody and Divorced Parenting page for more information.


NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.