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Iowa Custody (Parenting) Plan

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Iowa Custody (Parenting) Plan

Updated June 20, 2023

An Iowa custody agreement is a parenting plan created by parents who no longer cohabitate collectively with their children. It outlines the rights and responsibilities of each parent regarding the care and supervision of their child or children. A custody agreement is usually necessary for parental separation, divorce, or death. When parents can’t agree on a custody arrangement, they can petition the court to hold a hearing to finalize a plan.

Child Custody Factors

Iowa courts consider the following factors in establishing a custody arrangement in the child(ren)’s best interest:

  1. Are both parents suitable custodians for the child(ren)?
  2. Can the parents communicate effectively about the child(ren)’s needs?
  3. Can the parents support each other’s relationships with the child(ren)?
  4. Did both parents physically care for the child(ren) before and after the marriage separation?
  5. Do the children have preferences and are they mature enough to express them?
  6. Has either parent knowingly allowed a registered sex offender unsupervised access to the child(ren)?
  7. Has one parent previously tried to deny the other parent contact with the child(ren) without just cause?
  8. Have the parents attempted custody mediation?
  9. Have the parents collaborated on a “joint physical care parenting plan”?
  10. Is there a history of domestic violence in the home?
  11. What are the child(ren)’s relationships like with each parent?
  12. What is the parents’ geographic proximity to one another?
  13. Will contact or lack of contact with one or both parents potentially physically or emotionally harm the child(ren)?

Table of Contents

How to File for Custody in Iowa

Filing a legal custody agreement in Iowa is required whether or not a couple agrees on custody terms privately. Follow these steps to formally file for custody with the state, and consult the state’s Guide to Representing Yourself in an Iowa Divorce Case with Children.

1. Agree on a Parenting Plan

Both parents should make every best effort to outline an agreement in the best interest of the child(ren) before entering custody proceedings.

2. Calculate Child Support

Under Iowa’s Child Support Guidelines, both parents’ net incomes are factored in when determining the amount of child support. For sole custody cases, the Iowa Child Support Estimator may be used to calculate an estimate of how much child support will be ordered by the court.

3. Complete Required Custody Forms

Complete the following forms required to begin the divorce process (with children).

4. File Forms with County Clerk

Electronic: Register an account with the Iowa Judicial Brand eFiling system. Follow the steps to file forms 201, 204, and 211. The system will send a Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) when the court clerk approves the Petition filing.

Paper: Contact the county clerk to request permission to file by paper. Make two copies of all forms (201, 202, 203, 204a, and 211) when self-serving the other parent directly and three copies when requesting the court to serve the other parent with the paperwork. File the original forms and photocopies with the clerk. The clerk will sign and return the Original Notice (204a) to the filing parent.

5. Serve Approved Petition to Other Parent

Electronic: When the petition is approved, download the Petition (201), Original Notice (204), and Protected Information Disclosure (211) and serve them to the other parent.

Paper: Serve the signed Original Notice (204a) to the other parent.

Custody Laws

Related Forms

Marital Settlement Agreement

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Separation Agreement

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