In order to discuss and make good decisions about how to handle such questions with an ex, it is important to understand some basic legal child custody terminology, given that unintended consequences and unproductive arguments may occur when former partners don’t understand the legal terms.
Contrary to what many people believe, there is no presumption in Iowa that parents are entitled to an equal amount of care time with their child.
While there is a presumption in favor of joint legal custody, this term does not mean the same thing as “physical care” or “joint physical care.” These are all legal terms defined by Iowa law.
Joint legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of parents to consult with one another on decisions affecting a child’s legal status, medical care, education, extracurricular activities and religious instruction.
Iowa law presumes and courts require separated parents to make decisions for their child this way unless the safety of a parent or child would be jeopardized by expecting it. In these rare cases, a grant of sole custody to one parent may be appropriate. Even in cases of sole custody, however, visitation is likely to be ordered.
The term physical care, or primary physical care, has a very different meaning.
This is the right and responsibility to maintain a child’s home and provide routine care for the child. A primary physical care provider can be established even when joint legal custody is granted to the parents.
When a primary physical care parent is identified, the other parent is considered a non-custodial parent and receives visitation. There are primary physical care arrangements, however, where a non-custodial parent may have almost equal care time for the child.
Even when joint legal custody is established, the primary care parent has the right and responsibility to provide the child’s primary home and make routine care decisions for the child. When there is a difference of opinion between parents on a child’s routine care (such as what clothes the child wears, when they go to bed, or who they associate with), greater weight may be given to the primary physical care provider’s position in court.
Joint physical care means an award of physical care to both parents. When joint physical care is awarded, no primary physical care parent is established, and both parents have equal rights and responsibilities. Typically, joint physical care means an equal or close to equal division of a child’s care time between the parents. Neither parent is given a superior right to decide routine care issues.
Read the full story at The Gazette.