Many clients come into the office requesting shared care, or 50/50. They like the idea of each parent having equal time with the children.
Iowa law calls this child care arrangement “joint physical care.” It is defined as an award of physical care of a minor child to both joint legal custodial parents under which both parents have rights and responsibilities toward the child including, but not limited to, shared parenting time with the child, maintaining homes for the child, providing routine care for the child and under which neither parent has physical care rights superior to those of the other parent.
There is no legal presumption in favor of joint physical care. In fact, in the past, Iowa has disfavored joint physical care arrangements. While joint physical care is no longer rejected out of hand, it is still not a preferred custodial arrangement.
Here’s what the Court is going to consider when deciding whether to award joint physical care.
- Stability and continuity in the history patterns of caretaking
Joint physical care is most likely to be in the best interests of the children where both parents have historically contributed to physical care in roughly the same proportion. In cases where one parent has been the primary caregiver, the Court may find that joint physical care may be disruptive to the emotional development of the children.
- Ability of the parents to communicate and show mutual respect
In a recent Iowa case, the Court denied the father’s request for joint physical care based in part on the father’s text message to the mother telling her to “f— off” and that she was a “piece of s—.”
- Degree of conflict between parents
Stormy marriages reduce the likelihood joint physical care will be successful. Any domestic abuse in the marriage is an important factor that counsels against a joint physical care arrangement.
- Agreement about approach to child rearing practices
The Court is looking for evidence of agreement about child-rearing practices such as discipline, academic performance, and values. Parents must generally be operating from the same page on a wide variety of routine matters. The Court continued a joint physical care arrangement when it found that the parents had been able to consistently agree on child care, preschool, discipline, participation in extracurricular activities, the importance of regular contact with extended family, and other important issues such as the children’s school district.
The final analysis is always whether joint physical care would be in the best interests of the children.