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Cedar Rapids Attorneys for Grandparent Custody

Child custody cases aren’t always clear-cut. Custody arrangements can quickly become complicated. Typically, the only thing that matters to an Iowa court is the health and safety of the child. When parents cannot provide this safety, custody of a child may pass to another family member. In many cases, that may be the child’s grandparents.

There is generally a lot of confusion over grandparents’ rights versus grandparent custody. Iowa makes a distinct legal separation between visitation and custody. The Cedar Rapids child custody attorneys with Arenson Law Group, PC can help you understand your rights as a grandparent and work with you to ensure that the best interests of your grandchild are being met.

If you are concerned about your grandchild, call our office today at (319) 363-8199. We will set up a case evaluation and review the circumstances of your situation with sensitivity and compassion.

How Is Custody Decided in Iowa?

When a couple with kids chooses to end their marriage, the question that looms large over everyone involved is, “what will happen to the children?” In Iowa, custody arrangements are not taken lightly. When parents cannot agree on how custody should be divided, the court will examine various aspects of both parents’ lives and living arrangements to determine what is in the best interest of the child. Common factors a court will consider include:

  • Income of both parents
  • Living arrangements of each parent
  • The child’s needs
  • The relationship the child has with each parent
  • The level of care each parent provided the child before the separation
  • Depending on the maturity of the child, the child’s wishes or preference
  • Whether a parent has a history of abuse or domestic violence

In many cases, Iowa prefers to award joint custody to parents, recognizing the value both parents bring to a child’s life. When that is not in the best interest of the child, the court may grant sole custody to one parent but award visitation to the other.

What Is an Unfit Parent?

Unfortunately, in some cases, neither parent is fit to retain custody of a child. An unfit parent is a parent who cannot give proper care, guidance, and support to a child or a parent who fails to give proper care to a child. Examples of behavior that may result in a parent being declared unfit include:

  • Failing to provide education
  • Failing to provide medical care or treatment
  • Failing to provide adequate clothing
  • Failing to provide adequate housing
  • Failing to provide food

Parents with a history of abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or substance abuse may also be deemed unfit. Iowa courts take physical and mental abuse extremely seriously. An individual who has participated in any type of violence or abuse against their partner or child will often find themselves unable to gain custody of their child.

A parent may also be unfit to maintain custody of a child if they suffer from a significant psychiatric illness. Not all mental health disorders will result in a child being removed from their parent’s care. Generally, only psychiatric disorders that pose a threat to the safety of the child will result in a parent being deemed unfit to have custody.

When a Parent Is Declared Unfit, What Happens Next?

When one or both parents are unfit to care for their child, the court must decide where that child should live and who should be responsible for their care. The paramount concern is placing a child in a loving and safe environment that will allow them to grow and thrive. A court can decide to give custody of a child to a family member, foster family, or the child’s grandparents. Grandparents may also request custody of a child when their adult children voluntarily relinquish custody of the child or when both parents pass away.

Even when you are a grandparent, gaining custody of a child can be challenging. You need the help that an experienced Iowa family law attorney can provide. An attorney can review your situation with you and lay out your legal options.

Grandparents’ Rights

Grandparents’ rights are often discussed in conjunction with custody arrangements. However, these are two separate and distinct legal concepts. Custody refers to the legal guardianship and living arrangements of a child. Grandparents’ rights only involve visitation.

When a couple divorces or one spouse passes away, grandparents may be concerned about being able to have access to their beloved grandchild. The bond between child and grandparent can be strong, and grandparents may feel they play an important role in the development of a child. However, to be granted visitation by an Iowa court, a grandparent must prove that continued visitation is in the best interest of the child. Factors a court may consider for determining grandparent visitation rights include:

  • Child’s relationship with the grandparent
  • How close the grandparent lives to the child
  • Health and safety of the child
  • The physical and mental health of the grandparent
  • The physical and mental health of the child
  • Whether the grandparent has a history of abuse or neglect
  • The wishes of the parents
  • Depending on maturity, the wishes of the child

If a parent denies a grandparent the ability to visit a child, the grandparent must demonstrate to the court the parent is unfit to make that decision. Again, grandparents’ rights only apply to visitation, not custody arrangements.

Talk to an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

As a parent, you want to do what is best for your child and grandchild. Unfortunately, sometimes situations arise where a child would be better off in the care of another family member. If you are a grandparent and believe it is in the best interest of your grandchild that you seek legal custody of them, contact a skilled Iowa family law attorney from Arenson Law Group, PC.

Our legal team has over 15 years of experience in family law and child custody cases, and we want to put that experience to work for you. At Arenson Law Group, PC, we can assess your situation and offer supportive and compassionate advice about what comes next. Call (319) 363-8199 today.