While some divorcing couples know from the outset who their child will live with, in many cases, it is not so simple. Maybe both parents want the child to spend the most time with them. Or perhaps, the child themselves has a strong view about their future living situation.
Will a court listen to what the child has to say? Or will they consider they are not old enough to make such decisions yet?
What does the law say?
Iowa law says that a court will consider “Whether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child’s wishes or whether the child has strong opposition, taking into consideration the child’s age and maturity.” In other words, the judge will look to other factors first, but the child’s opinion could affect their final decision.
This is because the court will always look to do what is in the child’s best interests. They don’t want to run the risk of parents pressuring their children to choose them, and they know that not all children are capable of making such an important decision.
They’ll look at each parent’s relationship with the child, their financial situation, where they plan to live and more. Typically, the older the child, the more likely the judge is to go with their preferences (providing there is no serious reason not to). Someone who is 16 is far more capable of making a reasoned decision than someone who is two. They could, however, completely ignore the child’s wishes if they think going with them will jeopardize their safety.
Clearly, custody is an area that is up for discussion during a divorce. Getting legal help to build and argue your case, whether in court or in a more collaborative format, increases the chance you get the right result.