Iowa law requires that the parents in a divorce or child custody case take a court-approved class. This class is called Children in the Middle in many parts of Iowa.
The purpose of Children in the Middle is to give parents information about how a divorce or custody case affects the child or children, and what the parents should do to avoid causing emotional harm to their children during and after the case.
Taking Children in the Middle (or a similar court-approved class) is required. If neither party takes the class, the court will not allow the case to be completed (or even scheduled for trial). If one party takes Children in the Middle but the other does not, the Iowa District Court will often impose sanctions upon the party that failed to take Children in the Middle. Those sanction can include a fine, a negative outcome for the case, or in extreme situation even a jail sentence may be imposed. As such, it is vital that the Children in the Middle class requirement is followed by everyone who has a pending child custody or divorce case.
Since Children in the Middle is mandatory, it is best to signup for and take the Children in the Middle class as soon as possible once the divorce or custody case starts. By getting the class out of the way early, a party can avoid problems that often occur when procrastination leads to attempts at taking the class at the last minute. For example, I have had clients who chose to wait and wait, then had a family emergency come up that caused them to miss the last Children in the Middle class that they could take before court. The result was that they missed the class, and that caused their trials to be delayed.
Often, people will ask if they have to take Children in the Middle again, if they have recently taken that class. The answer is almost always “yes.” For example, if a person was divorced in 2012 and then there is a custody modification filed in 2015, they will have to take children in the middle again.
Individuals located out of state are not excused from the Children in the Middle class requirement. However, it is often possible to seek approval from the court to substitute an out-of-state course. We have had clients over the years obtain court approval for out-of-state substitutes for the Iowa children in the middle class. Doing so saved the clients the expense and hassle of having to travel to Iowa for the class.
For those located in Eastern Iowa, the Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (Scott County, Clinton County, and Muscatine County) offer Children in the Middle classes. More information about those classes can be seen here.