Joint Custody Work Explained

One of family law’s most challenging and emotionally draining aspects involves child custody determinations. Deciding who your child lives with and how much time each parent spends with your child can be stressful. After ending a relationship, both parents still want to be involved with every aspect of their child’s life. Joint custody is a shared parenting arrangement that allows both parents to be equally involved in their child’s life after a split-up.

If you have questions about joint custody or need help with a child custody matter in Iowa, the compassionate and understanding attorneys at Arenson Law Group, PC are here to help. Our Cedar Rapids child custody attorneys will work tirelessly to get the best possible outcome for you and your child. 

What Is Joint Custody?

Iowa law allows joint custody of a minor child when the parents divorce, separate, or otherwise are not together. Joint custody means the legal responsibility for a minor child is shared equally between the parents, and neither parent has rights superior to the other. When making custody decisions, Iowa courts look to the best interests of the child and generally favor joint custody unless that would lead to the child’s physical or emotional harm.

What Types of Custody Are There?

Iowa has two types of custody: legal custody and physical care.  

Legal custody refers to significant decision-making about the child, such as where the child goes to school, the child’s religion, medical decisions, and extracurricular activities.

  • Joint legal custodymeans both parents make critical decisions for the child’s well-being. Iowa courts favor joint legal custody.
  • Sole legal custodymeans only one parent has the right to decide about the child. In some circumstances, courts may think it’s in the child’s best interest if only one parent makes important decisions about the child.

Physical care (or physical custody) essentially refers to where the child lives and the amount of time each parent gets to spend with the child.

  • Joint (shared) physical care.Joint physical care generally means that both parents have rights and responsibilities to maintain a home for the child and provide routine care. Both parents share equal and regular care for the child.
  • Sole physical care. Iowa courts may grant one parent sole physical care, meaning that the child lives with this parent primarily, and the other parent gets visitation time with the child. Courts may award sole physical care to avoid uprooting a child. Both parents may still have joint legal custody, sharing decision-making responsibilities for the child.  

How to Get Custody without Going to Court

Parents can’t always agree about how to handle parental responsibility and parenting time after the relationship or marriage ends. At Arenson Law Group, PC, our skilled attorneys typically work with the other parent’s lawyer to negotiate a parenting plan, sometimes in mediation before court involvement. Often, our attorneys work on an arrangement without the parents’ presence and then return the proposed agreement to the parent for approval or further adjustments. However, you and the other parent must ultimately agree on everything. If you cannot agree, we will end up in court before a judge.

When reaching an agreement about joint custody, parents should consider the following factors:

  • How they will make decisions impacting the child
  • Where the child will live
  • How to divide the child’s time between the parents
  • How to facilitate the child’s time with the other parent
  • How to handle child-related expenses

What Happens If a Custodial Parent Doesn’t Show up for Court?

Joint Custody Work ExplainedWhen one parent does not appear for a child custody hearing, the court can enter a default judgment against that parent. A default judgment in a child custody case is an extreme outcome and occurs when a judge decides in favor of one party due to the inaction or absence of the opposing party.

A default judgment in child custody cases can have serious consequences. The absent parent can lose custody rights or visitation rights. Under certain circumstances, the absent parent can ask the court to set aside the default judgment.

Child Custody Lawyers in Iowa

You should speak with a lawyer if you and your child’s other parent are at odds about your custody arrangements.Arenson Law Group, PC can help you arrange a custody agreement that promotes your interests and ensures your child’s well-being. To learn more about your legal options, contact us today for a confidential consultation with a skilled Iowa family law attorney. Or call us at (319) 363-8199. We’ll help you maintain a meaningful relationship with your child.

Written by James H. Arenson

Last Updated : March 7, 2024