Divorce in Iowa - Joint Physical Care

The traditional approach in Iowa is joint legal custody with primary physical care to one party, typically the mother and visitation to the father.  In recent years, fathers rights have become a bigger issue and many women work as much as men who more and very involved in caring for the children.  Hence, Iowa courts are more likely now to award joint physical care if both parties have been very involved in child rearing.

Factors Iowa Courts consider in awarding Joint Physical Care

1. Stability and Continuity

Iowa courts prefer to limit joint physical care to couples that have had a history or very active participation by both parents in child rearing.  So if one party has left most or all of child rearing to the other during the marriage, joint physical care may not be appropriate.  The focus is more on what continuing what the kids have become used to.   So if one parent has historically cared for the child 2/3 of the time, the joint physical care order may call for then to continue 2/3 and the other party to have 1/3.  This is a recognition that fathers in particular are much more involved in parenting that in the past.  The traditional once a week, every other weekend and 6 weeks in the summer just does not cut it for either kids are parents in many cases.

2.  Communication & Respect

Our Judges are a lot more comfortable awarding joint custody where there has been good communication and respect shown between that parties, especially with respect to the children.  If there is no trust between the parents, joint physical care is less likely to be approved.

3.  Degree of Conflict

Since joint physical care requires a lot of give and take between the parties, marriages that have been conflict ridden, followed by divorces involving various charges and counter charges do not support an order of shared physical care.  Uncontested divorces are more likely to result in joint physical care than contested cases.

4.  Agreement as to Child Rearing Practices

If the parties are in general agreement about how the kids should be raised including discipline, bed times etc,, joint physical care makes more sense.

Jeff Mathias Law Office, 4800 Mills Civic Parkway, Suite 218, West Des Moines, Iowa 50265, 515-261-7526 or Toll Free, 1-800-997-1395. Divorce in Iowa website.

How does joint physical care affect child support?

When a judge here in Des Moines or elsewhere in Iowa orders joint legal care, child support is calculated for both parents.  Whichever parent would be obligated to pay the higher amount does pay support to the other minus the amount they would receive.  In cases where both parties earn approximately the same amount and share custody equally, there may be no child support.  See Jeff's History of Divorce and Child Support.

See Divorce in Iowa with no children and no lawyer


Divorce & Bankruptcy in Iowa

Divorce and bankruptcy go together like peas and corn.  Oftentimes, if a couple is keeping it cordial and will have an uncontested divorce, they will file their bankruptcy jointly before getting divorced.  This way there is only one attorney fee and only one filing fee.  It does require cooperation between the parties.  And if there is a conflict like who will take possession of the home or child custody, two separate attorneys would be needed for the bankruptcy as well since hiring one attorney would create a conflict of interest.

Bankruptcy can also smooth the divorce process whether filed before or after the Iowa divorce is filed.  Iowa is not a community property state, so you are not automatically liable for all debts of your spouse, but many married Iowan's do have joint debt.  When you are divorced, you may agree and the Judge may approve through a divorce decree which party is responsible for joint debt.  People tend to think that is the end of the discussion.  But because the lender was not a party to the divorce, they are not bound by this order.  So the bank can still pursue both parties even though the divorce court ordered payment of the debt by one party.

Hence, people will often file bankruptcy so they and/or their spouse will be free of the hassles of joint debt.  I've even seen cases where a party was pressured by the Iowa District Court Judge to file bankruptcy as part of resolving the divorce.  Judges probably can't actually order a party to file bankruptcy.  But they can impose sanctions and then give the party a chance to avoid the sanctions if they do follow through on their promise to discharge joint debt in bankruptcy.

Eligibility for bankruptcy can be helped sometimes by filing the bankruptcy after separation or divorce, especially for women.  If the husband has a high salary that might make it difficult to file a Ch 7 full discharge, the wife may find she is suddenly eligible to file Ch 7 individually once she is apart from him, especially if there are kids.

Conversely, sometimes the party with the higher income benefits from filing bankruptcy before the separation since they can count their spouse in their household size.

If you are paying child support, you get to include the kids you are supporting in your household size for Chapter 7 income eligibility.

If you are considering uncontested or collaborative divorce here in Des Moines and you have heavy debt, discharging the debt in bankruptcy can be a way to get a real fresh start after divorce.  Jeff also handles Des Moines, Iowa Criminal Law defense.

See Jeff's Des Moines Iowa Bankruptcy Blogger.  See Cheap Missouri Uncontested Divorce