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2011_iowa_custody_study (pdf)


Case Law Research (pdf)




Joint Physical Care


Joint physical care is when both parents share physical placement of the child(ren).  Simply defined, joint physical care allows the child(ren) to live with each parent 50% of the time during the year.  Research has shown that child(ren) need equal access to both parents and joint physical care accomplishes this challenge.  Parenting schedules are established to determine when each parent has the child(ren) living with them.  The most frequent joint physical care schedule is one week at moms, the next week at dads, and holidays are usually alternated. The State of Iowa, allows parents to determine what parenting schedule best meets the needs of their child(ren). Joint physical care is established in Iowa Statute 598.41(5)(a).

A study just released by UNICEF ranked the top 21 wealthiest countries in the world on their children’s well being.  The United States received the second worst ranking (20 out of 21), citing divorce and the number of children being raised in single-parent households as major risk factors. Click here for the UNICEF Report Card 7, released in 2007. 

All thirty-three comparative studies in the U.S. comparing the outcomes of children in joint physical care to those in the care of only one parent found that children in joint physical care have better outcomes. (“Child Custody in Joint-Custody Versus Sole Custody Arrangements…” by Dr. Robert Bauserman, published in Journal of Family Psychology, 2002, Vol 16, No 1). 

International comparative research demonstrates that by all twenty-six accepted measures of child well-being, children in joint physical care have better outcomes than children in the care of only one parent (Father and Child Reunion, Dr. Warren Farrell, Tarcher/Putman, 2001). 

A recent survey, The Changing Shape of the American Family, found that “Nearly nine in ten (88%) of U.S. adults say divorce has a negative impact on maintaining a stable American family life.”

One of the most important steps for reducing conflict in a divorce is for state legislatures to enact clearer guidelines for determining custody (Custody Disputed by Emery, Robert E.; Otto, Randy K.; O'donohue, William. Scientific American Mind; 2005, Vol. 16 Issue 3, p64-67, 4p, 1bw).

80% of children with divorcing or divorced parents experience some form of Parental Alienation.  20% of these children experience such behaviors at least once a day (Source: American Bar Association).

Nationwide, the number of children living without their father has exceeded 25 million. In Iowa, Polk County is contributing 21,000 children to this national statistic. The rates of fatherless children are increasing due to divorce and children born out of wedlock. Children whose fathers are actively involved have better social and economic outcomes (Source: Polk County Fatherhood Initiative, January 2006). 


Joint Physical Care Continued


The language associated with divorce suggests: a broken home implies that something needs to be fixed; visitation implies that one parent is a “visitor”; custody implies “ownership.” Parents need to devise parenting plans and share parenting responsibilities. (“The Divorce is Over- What About the Kids?” by Mitchell K. Karpf and Irene M. Shatz PhD, published in American Journal of Family Law, Spring 2005, Vol. 19 Issue 1).

Around 1400 families split up in Polk County last year. Statistically, 427 sets of parents reside in the same zip code, the average number of children per separation is 1.5, and the average age of the children was 5 years old (Source: Polk County Fatherhood Initiative, January 2006). 

Seventy-two percent (72%) of U.S. citizens believe the most significant social problem facing our country today is the physical absence of the father from the home, resulting in a lack of involvement of fathers in the rearing and development of children.  Unfortunately, in many cases the former spouse’s actions, lack of father support, the artificial nature of “visitation”, and the unequal parenting power lead to a reduction in father involvement (Gallop Poll - The National Center for Fathering (1999), Today's Father, v 7). 

The U.S. Supreme Court regards parental rights as fundamental. Such a status should subject any legal procedure that directly and substantively interferes with the exercise of parental rights to strict scrutiny. On the contrary, though, despite their status as fundamental constitutional rights, parental rights are routinely suspended or revoked as a result of procedures that fail to meet even minimal standards of procedural and substantive due process. This routine and cavalier deprivation of parental rights takes place in the context of divorce where, during the pendency of litigation, one parent is routinely deprived of significant parental rights without any demonstration that a state interest exists—much less that there is a compelling state interest that cannot be achieved in any less restrictive way. In marked contrast to our current practice, treating parental rights as fundamental rights requires a presumption of joint legal and physical custody upon divorce and during the pendency of divorce litigation.  The presumption may be overcome, but only by clear and convincing evidence that such an arrangement is harmful to the children (Hubin, Donald C., "Parental Rights and Due Process,"   Journal of Law and Family Studies, vol. 1, no. 2.  University of Utah, 1999.  pp. 123-150). 

Women received physical placement in 84.4% of the cases and men 15.6% (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, released February 2005).

The most prevalent custody arrangement was the mother having both legal and physical custody (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, released February 2005).

The second most common custody arrangement was joint legal custody between both parents with the mother having sole physical custody (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, released February 2005).

Approximately $24 billion was paid exclusively for child support (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, released February 2005).

76% of child support payments were court ordered (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, released February 2005).

Male providers were more likely to make the child support payment (80%) than female providers (55%) (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, released February 2005).


Joint Physical Care Continued


Research by Drs. Judith Wallerstein and Joan Berlin Kelly revealed that 50% of mothers either saw no value in the father's contact with his children and actively tried to sabotage it, or resented the father's contact (Source: Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center, 2006).

Almost 40% of the custodial wives reported that they had refused at least once to let their ex-husbands see the children, and admitted that their reasons had nothing to do with the children's wishes or the children's safety, but were somehow punitive in nature (Source: Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center, 2006).

Fulton reported that 53% of non-custodial fathers claimed their ex-wives had refused to let them see their children (Source: Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center, 2006).

It is NEVER in the child's best interest to withhold visitation or to make it unnecessarily difficult for the other parent to spend time with the child, just for the purpose of punishing or getting even with the other parent.  Even if you are not receiving child support, the child needs to spend time with the other parent (Source: Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center, 2006).

Some of the methods used to discourage contact are forgotten appointments, insistence on rigid schedules for visits, refusal to permit the visit of the father brought an adult friend, a thousand mischievous, mostly petty devices designed to humiliate the visiting parent and to deprecate him in the eyes of his children (Source: Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center, 2006).

Consider this statistic when you are tempted to use the child to punish the other parent (Source: Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center, 2006).

The decision to keep the child with the mother is theoretically made in the best interest of the child; however, when children were surveyed later in life, fewer than half felt their mother's motives had anything to do with their best interests, only a quarter felt it was because their mother loved them (Source: Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center, 2006).


Legal Definitions

Legal Definitions

Child Custody Arrangments