There are numerous ways to address child custody matters during an Iowa divorce. Parents can sometimes negotiate their own custody arrangements where they agree on a specific division of parenting time and decision-making authority. Other times, parents litigate or take the matter to family court.
Iowa family law judges have the authority to create custody orders that parents must abide by until their children become adults. When litigation seems likely because parents cannot cooperate, there are often questions about the process, including what factors the courts consider when making a determination about custody.
A child’s preferences can sometimes influence a judge’s decision about custody matters. Specifically, if the courts determine that a child is old enough and mature enough to give reasonable input on the matter, their wishes can influence the final terms set by the judge. Should parents ask their children to discuss their preferences?
Involvement in custody matters can cause extreme stress
When looking at what aspects of divorce are the most damaging for children, there are two elements that stand out above the others. The first is exposure to parental conflict. The more fighting and bitterness the children witness, the more likely they are to struggle to adjust after the divorce.
The second element is the belief that they are at fault or that they must serve as an intermediary between the parents. Pressure to talk to a judge or testify in court about personal preferences could exacerbate a child’s feeling of being in the middle of a war zone. They may perseverate for weeks about the need to speak to a judge and may spend years second-guessing themselves. If their relationship with either parent declines after the divorce, they may blame themselves and the requirement to state their preferences for the issues in that relationship.
Parents who shield their children from pressure and conflict may find that their children bounce back from the divorce proceedings more quickly and more thoroughly than children in higher-conflict situations. Instead of pressuring the children to express a preference about who they live with after the divorce, parents can potentially attempt a collaborative approach to custody negotiations or even attend mediation sessions to settle their current disagreements.