Co-parenting in Iowa: Joint Custody Tips for Divorced Parents

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In Iowa, parental responsibility is often referred to as "custody." While there are several different types of custody, including legal and physical, custody generally refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions about their children, including matters of education and healthcare. According to Iowa Code §595.2, "except as otherwise provided in this chapter, each parent has an equal natural right and obligation to the care, custody and control of the minor children of the parent." There are three main types of custody in Iowa. These are: sole legal custody, joint legal custody, and sole physical custody.


Child Support

Iowa law recognizes that both parents have an obligation to provide support for their children in an equitable manner. To ensure fairness, Iowa Code §252.51 provides for a standard calculation of child support that uses both parents’ incomes, the number of children to be supported, the amount of time each parent has with the children, and other factors. In addition, Iowa Code §252.52 allows for additional child support payments if the parents’ combined incomes are greater than $13,000 per month. In most cases, one parent pays the other a portion of their income to support the children. If the parents’ incomes are roughly equal, the court will consider both parents' incomes when ordering child support.


Co-parenting Expenses

Co-parenting involves more than just child support payments. Iowa law also takes into account additional costs that come with co-parenting, such as health insurance premiums and costs associated with visitation. These expenses are generally divided equally between the parents unless otherwise provided in the parenting plan. In that case, the parents will agree to a different arrangement or the court will assign who will be responsible for any particular expense.


Parental Rights

Under Iowa law, each parent has the same rights and responsibilities when it comes to making decisions about their children. Both parents can, for example, make decisions about healthcare and education. Iowa Code §595.3 also grants both parents the right to receive information about the child’s health, education, and welfare, as well as access to documents relating to the child. Additionally, both parents have the right to participate in the child's schooling, including attending parent-teacher conferences and school open houses, or to receive written reports from the school.


Decision Making

Most decisions involving the child must be agreed upon by both parents, with the exception of emergency decisions, which can be made by either parent. In all other cases, Iowa Code §595.3 requires both parents to "mutually consent and agree on decisions about the upbringing and care of their children." While this does not necessarily mean that decisions must be unanimous, both parents must make a good faith effort to reach agreement. If the parents can’t agree on a decision, either parent may petition the court for a determination.


Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a document that outlines how the parents will raise their child. The plan should include information about how the parents will make decisions and handle child-related matters. Parenting plans can be written by the parents or the court, but they must be approved by the court to be legally binding. Iowa Code §595.7 requires the court to consider several factors when approving a parenting plan, including the parents’ individual philosophies regarding parenting and their ability to co-parent effectively.


Visitation Rights

Visitation rights refer to a non-custodial parent’s right to spend time with the child. Visitation rights are generally outlined in the parenting plan, but can also be agreed upon through a private agreement between the parties. Iowa Code §595.2 provides that "any proper order made by the court in connection with a dispute between the parties involving the care, custody, and control of a minor child shall provide for the reasonable rights of access and visitation by the parent who does not have the principal physical care of the child."



Parenting disputes can be difficult to resolve without the help of a neutral third party. Iowa law recognizes the need for mediation and encourages parents to use it as a way to settle disputes. Iowa Code §595.1(b) requires that "the court may refer the parties to a mediator or other qualified professional to encourage the resolution of disputes." The parties may also enter into agreements to resolve their disagreement without involving the court. Mediation can be an effective alternative in helping parents reach agreement without a court battle.



Co-parenting in Iowa is governed by Iowa laws, which are designed to ensure that both parents meet their parental obligations. While the law establishes certain rights and responsibilities for both parents, it also allows parents to work out private agreements or develop a parenting plan that accounts for the unique needs of their family. Finally, mediation can be an effective tool for resolving disputes and is encouraged by the court.


Fact Check and Resources

In crafting this post, we conducted thorough fact-checking and research, consulting the following sources:


Co-parenting in USA


Co-parenting in Canada


Warning:  This post is neither financial, health, legal, or personal advice nor a substitute for the advice offered by a professional. These are serious matters, and the help of a professional is recommended as it can impact your future.

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