In situations where the parents of a child are no longer together, the parent with primary care of the child may decide to move at some point. For the other parent, that could in essence mean losing their child. Iowa law addresses that by considering a move of 150 miles to be a material change in circumstances, which justifies a Petition to Modify custody and physical care.
In Iowa, a parent that wishes to have a previous custody or physical care arrangement changed has the burden of showing that there has been a material change in circumstances. The purpose of that rule is to prevent custody and physical care of a child from being transferred back and forth unnecessarily, as that would produce uncertainty and instability for the child.
In the context of a parent wishing to move more than 150 miles away with a child, the Iowa courts see that as a material change in circumstances. That doesn’t mean that a parent who wishes to move will lose custody or primary physical care of their child. Rather, it means that the parent who wishes to prevent the child from being moved has the proper legal basis to ask the court to prevent the child from being removed, and can ask the court to grant them primary custody/care of the child.
In terms of whether the court will grant that request for a change in physical care and/or custody of the child, the Iowa district court will apply its custody factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. Each case is unique, so there is no clear-cut answer as to which parent will prevail without first being able to analyze the facts of each case. Weighing in favor of the moving parent is the weight of history in that they have been the primary caregiver. On the side of the parent who wishes to have the child stay in the current location in the State of Iowa is the fact that a move would take the child out of the school out of the neighborhood, and away from their other parent. Those facts, combined with the remaining custody factors that the court applies, determine whether the child will be moved with the current custodial parent or not.
Finally, it is important to note that in cases where a parent removes a child from the state without first getting the court’s permission to modify the existing visitation order, that can be unlawful visitation interference that subjects the moving parent to a contempt action under Iowa law.
A parent who wishes to move with their child, or a parent who is seeking to prevent their child from being moved away from them, are each wise to seek an attorney at once. It is important to handle child removal matters properly in Iowa.