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Heather Jones

If you have come across this article it is likely that you are a father trying to determine what you rights are as a father in a court of law. Iowa prefers to award joint legal custody, which means the two parents share the legal right to make decisions for the child concerning things like education, health care and religious participation.  

There are no specific laws in Iowa pertaining to father’s rights, or mother’s rights for that matter, there are only laws in Iowa governing parental rights. When it comes to child support, the court will most likely award it to the custodial parent. When it comes to primary child custody, the court will most likely award it to the parent best equipped to care for the daily needs and well-being of the child. There is no reason why that parent could not be the father, depending on the facts and circumstances of your situation.  

Father’s Rights in Iowa

Under Iowa law the father of a child has the same rights as the mother of a child. There are no Iowa laws specific to either father’s rights or mother’s rights, there are only laws governing parental rights.  

When the Iowa court considers things like custody and visitation the court will always use a very common standard called “the best interests of the child” standard.

Best Interests Of The Child Standard

Th court will examine what the child needs to thrive and not what the parents want or claim to intend if they are awarded physical custody of the child. The court wants the child to be cared for properly, encouraged to grow and develop as a person and have a safe, secure and loving environment that provides the child with daily consistency. The court will look at all the factors involved in each situation and rule on child custody and visitation accordingly.  

Unmarried vs. Married

People often wonder do unmarried fathers have the same rights as married fathers in Iowa? The first important step in establishing the biological father’s rights and responsibilities as a parent is to prove paternity. If you are unmarried, you must establish your paternity prior to attempting to exercise any parental rights. You can voluntarily admit paternity with an affidavit either before or after the child is born. Another option to establish paternity is to go through the court system and get a court order of paternity. Once paternity is established, an unmarried father has the same rights and responsibilities as a married or previously married father, regardless of marital status.  

Can A Mother Stop A Father From Seeing A Child In Iowa?

Technically, no, a mother cannot stop a father from seeing a child in Iowa, but the court can. If there is a custody or visitation order in place and the mother has some basis for asking that the court modify the existing order so that time between father and child is limited, supervised or stopped entirely, she can. The father can do the exact same thing, that is, request that the court no longer allow contact between mother and child because of extreme circumstances.  

What Makes A Father Unfit In Iowa?

There are no specific criteria for finding a father unfit in Iowa, there are only criteria for finding a parent unfit in Iowa. Generally speaking, if one parent has custody of a child or children and engages in behavior that is harmful to the child’s well-being, that could be grounds to ask the court to modify custody or visitation with the unfit parent. It cannot simply be something the other parent does not like, for instance a new romantic partner. It needs to rise to a level where is child is being damaged or is in danger of being damaged. Here are some of the reasons a court in Iowa might find a parent unfit:

  • Substance abuse that renders them unfit to properly care for a child or children
  • Parent neglects the child, for instance not feeding them or providing health care
  • Physical or mental abuse of child
  • Inability to keep a job or maintain a stable residence
  • Working an excessive amount, so that they never spend any time with the child
  • Excessive discipline
  • Psychiatric issues  
  • History of domestic violence

Can A Child In Iowa Choose To Live With The Mother Or Father?

The short answer to this question is no, the child cannot choose which parent they will live with. The court does not want to put the child in a position where they are being asked to choose between their parents or allow the child to select a parent who might not be the more appropriate caretaker. The court may choose to take the preference of the child into consideration when making a custody decision but it depends on the age and maturity of the child involved when the court is making the custody decision.  

If you are a father in Iowa and you are concerned about your parental rights then you should consult with an experienced Iowa family law attorney who can discuss your goals and concerns with you. You have all the same rights as a mother in Iowa. Feel free to give us a call today, we would be happy to help you. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.  

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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