At What Age Can Children Decide Where They Want to Live in Iowa?

At What Age Can Children Decide Where They Want to Live in Iowa?

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 22, 2019

In this article, we answer the question "at what age can children decide where they want to live in Iowa?". We address the following:

  • Can a child decide where they live in Iowa?
  • Will the court consider a child’s preference?
  • How is custody determined?
  • Will joint custody always be considered?
  • Does a child have to testify about their placement preference?
  • Does the court need to review custody terms decided upon outside of the courtroom?

Can a Child Decide Where They Live in Iowa?

No, a child cannot decide where they live in Iowa in the event of a custody dispute. The courts will always be involved in a case where the parents (married or unmarried) of a child cannot decide on a proper placement arrangement. A child under the age of 18 cannot make decisions related to child custody arrangements.

Will the Court Consider a Child’s Preference?

If a child displays a mature demeanor, a judge may consider their opinion when deciding child custody rulings. There is no set age for when a judge will take a child’s preference into account. If a child is exceptionally young or if they seem to have been swayed by a parent or relative, their preference will not be considered.

How Is Custody Determined?

There are several questions a judge must ask when determining the best placement for a child. These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Are both parents suitable custodians?
  • Have both parents been active in the child’s care thus far and, if applicable, since their separation?
  • Is either parent opposed to joint custody?
  • What are the parents’ geographical proximity to one another?
  • Can the parents civilly communicate regarding the child’s needs?
  • Would the child benefit more from contact with one or both parents?
  • Is there a history of abuse with either parent?

The answers to these questions help a judge decide whether to award joint custody or sole custody in dispute cases.

Will Joint Custody Always Be Considered?

If either parent requests joint custody, the court must consider the arrangement.

Joint custody can be divided into two parts. When parents are awarded joint legal custody, they are both equally responsible when making legal decisions, like medical care, regarding their child.

Joint physical care refers to the time a child spends with each parent. In Iowa, this time could be split in half or decided upon by the parents as they see fit.

It is possible to have joint legal custody but not joint physical custody.

Does a Child Have to Testify About Their Placement Preference?

Depending on the circumstances, it may be beneficial to have a child testify about their placement preferences. However, Iowa judges don’t normally require children to testify, especially if they are young. 

In some cases, a child may be interviewed in court chambers with the parents’ attorneys and a court reporter. This is done to prevent a child from answering out of fear or pressure from one or both parents.

Does the Court Need to Review Custody Terms Decided Upon Outside of the Courtroom?

Yes. Even when parents have agreed to their own custody terms, the court must still review and approve them. Only an Iowa judge can finalize custody terms.

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Can a Child Decide Where They Live in Iowa?

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