A proposed bill that has been passed in the Iowa House of Representatives will require judges to grant shared custody to parents going through divorce proceedings unless the court finds it is in the best interest of the child. The bill's proponents argues that the bill is a much needed update to out-of-date laws that don't place mothers and fathers on equal footing in divorce and custody proceedings. If passed, the new law would represent a substantial modification to initial custody cases.
Iowa, like Pennsylvania, currently begins child custody cases with an analysis of the child's best interests. This is to be distinguished from the proposed Iowa law that would only address the child's best interests after the mandatory presumption that the child should spend equal time with each parent. Iowa's "joint physical custody" is the equivalent of Pennsylvania's "shared physical custody", with both terms indicating that the parents share a 50/50 split in terms of time spent with their child or children.
Currently in Iowa as well as Pennsylvania and several other states, a judge has the authority to grant shared physical custody as well as shared legal custody after an analysis of the child's best interests. By effectively changing the burden of proof, the proposed Iowa law elevates this new factor of placing parents in equal positions over the best interest standard.
In Pennsylvania, after an initial complaint for custody, the number one factor is always the best interest standard. The court has the authority to grant primary, shared, or partial custody including visitation and/or supervised visitation to any parent or person with custody rights to a child based on this analysis. Neither parent's case begins with a presumption that both parents should be considered equal in this regard. In determining a child's best interest, Pennsylvania Court's considers the following:
- Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party?
- Present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party's household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.
- The need for stability and continuity in the child's education, family life and community life.
- The availability of extended family, and the child's sibling relationship.
- The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child's maturity and judgment.
These factors, as well as others considered by the courts all relate to the determination of what custody award is in the child's best interest. If you have questions about the child custody factors and/or have questions about filing for custody, call our office today!