The Effect of Domestic Abuse in Iowa Divorce and Custody Cases

A history of domestic abuse can have a serious effect upon the custody determinations that the Iowa court makes in a divorce or custody cases.

Iowa Code section 598.41 provides that

. . . if the court finds that a history of domestic abuse exists, a rebuttable presumption against the awarding of joint custody exists. . . A finding by the court that a history of domestic abuse exists, as specified in subsection 3, paragraph “j”, which is not rebutted, shall outweigh consideration of any other factor specified in subsection 3 in the determination of the awarding of custody under this subsection.

This (and other) portions of the Iowa code show that Iowa has a strong public policy in favor of giving legal custody and primary physical care of children to the parent who was the victim of domestic violence, and denying such custodial placement to a parent who has been the perpetrator of domestic violence.

More specifically, Iowa law says that the court should award custody to the parent who was the victim of domestic violence unless the court finds a very good reason to do otherwise.  For example, if one parent has committed an act of domestic violence on one occasion that resulted in only minor harm and is otherwise an excellent parent, the court may still award custody to that parent when the parent who was the victim of that domestic violence is not a person the court believes can properly care for the child (e.g. is someone who abuses the child).

While not insurmountable, that rebuttable presumption is a powerful one that can often tip close cases in favor of one parent or the other.  For that reason, handling accusations of domestic abuse in divorce and custody cases in Iowa is of great importance, whether those accusations are part of a criminal case, a protective order case, or part of the testimony and evidence in a divorce case.

See also  Dissolving a Guardianship in Iowa