Divorce and Family Law News: Senate File 571 Joint Custody and Joint Physical Care Alert


Recently, individuals lobbied the Iowa Legislature to pass legislation regarding child custody. Specifically, they asked legislators to create a rebuttable presumption where joint physical care becomes the standard custody arrangement in child custody cases. This would effectively erase current law, including years of case law where the best interests of the minor child took ultimate precedence in Iowa’s court system.

On Wednesday, March 10, 2020, the Iowa Senate passed amended Senate File 571. The bill concerns the the awarding of joint custody and joint physical care. If passed by the Iowa House of Representatives and signed by Governor Reynolds, the bill will make the following changes:

  1. Iowa Courts will not be allowed to take into consideration if one or both parents are opposed to joint custody;
  2. If Iowa Courts grant the parents joint legal custody, such award will create a rebuttable presumption in favor of awarding joint physical care to the parents;
  3. Iowa parents must now submit a proposed joint physical care parenting plan;
  4. If the Court does not award the parents joint physical care, the Court must cite to clear and convincing evidence that the awarding of joint physical care is unreasonable and not in the best interests of the child. (Note that a finding by the Court that a history of child abuse or neglect exists relative to the child is sufficient to rebut the presumption in favor of the awarding of joint physical care.)

Ultimately, nearly any change to existing child custody laws will impact Iowa families for years to come. For more information concerning joint physical care legislation, contact Tyler Coe by e-mail or by phone at 515-246-5523.


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