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Joseph Lyons

One of the core principles of Iowa custody law is that, absent extreme circumstances, the child’s best interests are best served by the child having a relationship with both parents. In custody determinations, the court will order legal and physical custody arrangements which will best allow children to have relationships with both parents, as long as the award is reasonable and in the best interests of the child.

In this article, we discuss child alienation from the other parent in Iowa custody cases. We cover questions including:

  • Determining If a Parent Capable of a Relationship With A Minor Child
  • Willingness of Parties to Communicate in Iowa Child Custody Cases
  • How to Avoid Custody Modifications in Iowa

The court has held the ability of each parent to support the other parent’s relationship is instrumental in the successful mental, emotional, and social development of the children. Courts routinely hold that parental alienation of affection, when one parent interferes with the child’s feelings of love and affection for another parent, is something that will weigh heavily against the parent responsible for the alienation. This may result in custody being ordered in favor of the non-alienating parent, or the custody order being modified to give the non-alienating parent more visitation time.

Determining If a Parent Capable of a Relationship With A Minor Child

In accordance with these principles, one of the things a court must consider when making a custody determination is whether each parent can support the other parent’s relationship with the minor child or children. The court will not look favorably on actions taken by one parent to harm the other’s relationship with the child. While every case is unique, examples of these actions could include:

  • Talking badly about the other parent in the presence of the child;
  • Preventing communication between the other parent and the child, unless otherwise ordered by the court;
  • Preventing visits between the parent and child, unless otherwise ordered by court;
  • One parent making false DHS claims, or criminal complaints, against one parent.

Willingness of Parties to Communicate in Iowa Child Custody Cases

The court also examines the ability of the parties to communicate. One party alienating the children from another party evidences this poor communication and willingness to co-parent. If the parties cannot communicate or co-parent, the party responsible for the alienation will be less likely to receive legal custody of the child, or to have a say in the decisions about the child’s upbringing.

How to Avoid Custody Modifications in Iowa

In extreme situations, one parent’s attempt to alienate the child from the other parent may result in custody modifications, or a parent’s visits being supervised to prevent any further alienation. This is something to be mindful of, especially if a judge makes a statement warning you that this may be a possibility.

There are several things a parent can do to guard against being accused of parental alienation. These include:

  • Maintaining an, at least, cordial relationship with the other parent and important people in that person’s life; If there are differences with the other parent, do not discuss them in front of the children. Exchanges of the child are often difficult. Because the child is present, this is likely not a good time to discuss a sensitive issue;
  • Complying with all court-ordered communication and visitation, and allowing for some flexibility toward the other parent (if allowed under the court order);
  • Allowing the child to have regular, reasonable contact with the other parent;
  • Allowing the other parent to participate in the child’s activities and decisions involving the child, if the parents have joint legal custody.

Remember, it does a parent no favors to unreasonably prevent a child from having contact with their other parent. While a parent may not have had good experiences with the other parent, that does not mean it is in the child’s best interest never to see their parent.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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