Child custody is often used interchangeably to describe both legal custody and physical care; however, legal custody and physical care relate to different aspects of a child’s life. Legal custody refers to the rights of a parent in making decisions about a child’s upbringing – essentially basic parenting rights. When parents have joint legal custody, they equally participate in decisions affecting the child’s legal status, medical care, education, extracurricular activities, and religious instruction1. Physical care is where the children live and spend most of their time. It is possible that parties may have joint legal custody even though the children live primarily with one parent.
When a parent has primary physical care, the children primarily reside with him/her. The other parent, the “non-custodial” parent, has scheduled visitation. A common visitation schedule for the non-custodial parent is every other weekend and one evening during the week.
When the parents have shared physical care, the children generally spend equal amounts of time with each parent. A common shared physical care schedule is a week on/week off arrangement or a schedule in which the parents exchange every two to three days. You should discuss various visitation options with your attorney to ensure the schedule is in the best interests of your children.
The court will consider the following factors to determine which physical care arrangement is in the child’s best interest2:
- Whether each parent would be a suitable custodian for the child.
- Whether the psychological and emotional needs and development of the child will suffer due to lack of active contact with and attention from both parents.
- Whether the parents can communicate with each other regarding the child’s needs.
- Whether both parents have actively cared for the child before and since the separation.
- Whether each parent can support the other parent’s relationship with the child.
- Whether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child’s wishes or whether the child has strong opposition, taking into consideration the child’s age and maturity.
- Whether one or both the parents agree or are opposed to joint custody.
- The geographic proximity of the parents.
- Whether the safety of the child, other children, or the other parent will be jeopardized by the awarding of joint custody or by unsupervised or unrestricted visitation.
- Whether a history of domestic abuse exists.
- Whether a parent has allowed a person custody or control of, or unsupervised access to a child after knowing the person is required to register or is on the sex offender registry as a sex offender.
Sometimes parents can amicably agree upon a visitation schedule for their children. However, sometimes it is complicated and emotional. We have experience working with a wide range of custody matters. We know that your children are your top priority and helping you protect them will become ours too. If you need an attorney to help with your child custody matter, contact Sailer Law today at (319) 260-2096 to schedule a consultation.
1 Iowa Code Section 598.1(3)
2 Iowa Code Section 598.41 (3)