5 Law Misconceptions Debunked: How Custody Really Works

13 Mar
5 Law Misconceptions Debunked: How Custody Really Works

Horn Law Offices practices in Family Law, which includes divorces, custody, and child support. Many potential clients come in for their free initial consultations with ideas about how the custody process is going to work, and unfortunately, they’ve based their plans on misconceptions about the law or what friends told them happened in their cases.

There are some types of cases where a friend’s situation may be similar enough to your own that you may get an outcome in court that resembles his or hers. But, divorce cases, custody hearings, and child support amounts are too dependent on the unique factors of your relationship. You can’t assume that because your friend got full custody and receives a hefty child support sum every month that you will, too.

I have been confronted with the following law misconceptions repeatedly, and I think it’s important to debunk them. But, before we get started, let me be clear: I am an Iowa attorney, so all of my clarifications below are based on Iowa laws. To learn more about custody laws in your state, please contact an attorney in your area.

Misconception 1: My spouse kicked me out and wants a divorce. I’m worried about losing custody of my kids because I left and it looks like abandonment.

All states recognize no-fault divorce. This means that a spouse does not have to show that the other spouse did anything wrong in order to obtain a divorce. The court does not expect you to remain in a horrible relationship and stay in the same house while you’re divorcing for the sake of your children. The important thing is to remain in contact with your kids and to continue your relationship with them. If your spouse will not let you see your children because you left the home, you can obtain a court order that allows for custody and visitation while your divorce is pending.

Misconception 2: I was awarded primary care, so I will get a large amount of child support.

Most states have established child support guidelines that determine the amount that will be paid in each case, but every state has a different calculation method. Iowa’s Child Support Guidelines can be broken down into three steps:

Step 1. The state looks at mom and dad’s gross income, minus certain deductions for taxes and a few other expenses. The parents’ living expenses are not factored into the Iowa Child Support Guidelines.

Step 2. The state then estimates the total amount that a couple would spend raising the child while making the amount of income established in Step 1.

Step 3. The state divides the total amount from Step 2 based on each parent’s proportion of the income. So, if dad makes two-thirds of the income, mom makes one-third, and mom has custody, dad will have to pay mom two-thirds of the amount.

For example, if a couple has one child, mom makes $30,000 per year, and dad makes $50,000 per year and pays $100 per month for the child’s health insurance, the state calculates that the parents should spend $1,044 per month raising one child. Dad would be ordered to pay child support of $592 per month to mom if she has primary custody.

Misconception 3: If I get 50/50 custody, I won’t have to pay child support.

If you’re granted 50/50 custody, which is known as shared physical care, it refers to equal parenting time with the children, not how much you’ll have to pay in child support. Just because you have 50/50 custody, that does not mean that everything equals out and you will not have to pay child support.

In a shared physical care arrangement in Iowa, the state’s child support guidelines first determine the amount each party would have to pay the other if one person had custody. Then, the amounts are offset against each other. Using our previous example, dad would pay mom $123 per month in child support for 50/50 custody. While this is significantly less than $592 per month, he still has to pay child support.

Misconception 4: As the mom, I’ll automatically get primary care.

There is no automatic gender preference when it comes to custody. Historically, women tended to be the primary caregivers for children, so that gave them a leg up in custody situations, but nowadays, there are many cases where men are the primary caregivers for the children and win full custody.

Each state has its own long list of factors that it measures, and Iowa Code considers these factors to determine custody:

1. Whether each parent would be a suitable custodian for the child.

2. Whether the psychological and emotional needs and development of the child will suffer due to lack of active contact with and attention from both parents.

3. Whether the parents can communicate with each other regarding the child’s needs.

4. Whether both parents have actively cared for the child before and since the separation.

5. Whether each parent can support the other parent’s relationship with the child.

6. Whether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child’s wishes or whether the child has strong opposition to it, taking into consideration the child’s age and maturity.

7. Whether the parents agree or are opposed to joint custody.

8. The geographic proximity of the parents.

9. Whether the safety of the child, other children, or the other parent will be jeopardized by the awarding of joint custody or by unsupervised or unrestricted visitation.

10. Whether a history of domestic abuse exists.

Unless you have solid proof that the other parent is unfit and incapable of caring for the children, he or she is going to be awarded, at the very least, the minimum visitation schedule, which is generally every other weekend and one overnight during the week. You can be punished for refusing to allow visitation when it’s court ordered in your divorce decree. If you have concerns about your spouse having visitation, it is important to speak with an attorney. You can ask the court to impose restrictions on visits, such as eliminating overnights and/or requiring a third party to be present.  

For assistance with your custody case, please schedule a free initial consultation with Horn Law Offices by calling 515-283-2330, emailing, or submitting a contact form on our website.

If you found this information helpful, please share it with your Iowa friends and like Horn Law Offices on Facebook to receive more legal tips.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. It is meant to give you general information and a basic understanding of the law, not to provide legal advice. By using this website, you understand that there is no attorney/client relationship between you and the publisher and any statement is solely the author’s. This website or article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction. This article is not published for advertising or solicitation purposes. Regardless, the hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements.


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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Uncategorized


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