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iowa - can a child decide

dakotamom's picture

i live in Iowa - ss15 wants to live with DH and I because somewhere Dh got the idea in his head that at 16 the skids can decide where they want to live - i have searched the iowa child support websites and can't find this to be true - nor can i find anywhere to discredit it.

does anyone know??


caregiver1127's picture

When SS was 9 almost 10 DH and I got married and he was fighting with he mother and as she told my DH - she wanted to be single and free and wanted him to take SS off of her hands - after having DD - then SS decided when he was 13 that he wanted to live with his mother because he could not understand why we had to do everything for DD - mind you she was a newborn and could do nothing for herself - he called his mother and she called DH and informed him that SS wanted to live with her and she had already contacted a lawyer and since he was 13 the judge would listen to him and would in all likelihood grant custody to her if DH tried to fight the move -

DH told her that if SS wanted to live with her that he would agree but that this was the final move and that he could not keep deciding to move back and forth because he was not completely happy with where he was - we live 700 miles apart and even after he moved back with his mother he did after about a year and a half want to move back with us but we said No that he had made the decision and it was final till he graduated. So as far as I know in the state that BM and SS live since he was 13 the judge would have taken his request very seriously.

I have also read that the Judge will take into consideration the reasons the child wants to change more than the age!!

simifan's picture

I have never understood why a parent would ever ask their child to stand up in court and choose one parent over the other.

Also, I think it is a horrible precedent to say to a child sure you get to make adult decisions without the responsibilities that go with them.

NCMilGal's picture

Simifan, I can tell you why, in our case.

SD15 is miserable with BM. 99% of it is typical teenage drama, and I would (and will) tell her to tough it out. However, SD15 is the scapegoat of the family. She is the maid, the cook, and the personal nanny of her little brother. After getting screamed at by BM (deserved or not, and she does deserve it sometimes) her stepfather will pile on, even when he has NOTHING to do with the situation. She is still being spanked and hit for transgressions such as "being rude." (i.e. not saying sir and ma'am in every response) BM calls her a "wild child" when she has decent grades, is in honor band, doesn't do drugs, doesn't have a boyfriend, just DARES to not bottle up her feelings.

SD15 is at the point of telling everybody she wants to run away from home. I think part of it is to wind up BM, and part of it is a fantasy that running away from her life will somehow make everything better. I have looked her in the eye and told her that if she runs away, we can't help her; she goes straight back to BM. Legally, we have to do it that way.

We cannot do ANYTHING to help SD15. The ONLY way we would ever get custody is if SD15 makes the decision AND tells a judge, AND the judge listens to her. Even if she does testify, the chances of us getting custody are slim. From the outside, BM is MOTY and we're unstable.

We haven't asked her to do it, but we've let her know that she either has to tough it out, or work with us to change custody the right way.

tigerlily's picture

My DH went through a custody trial in 2009 in the state of Iowa. The kids were 13 and 15 at the time. Mom was the custodial parent for approx 9 years prior.

The judge did take the kids into chambers to hear their opinions (one at a time, separate). Closed chambers, just the judge and court reporter, no attorneys.

In his ruling in which DH was surprisingly awarded custody, the judge stated that in Iowa that they do take the kids wishes into consideration along with considering their age, emotional maturity, etc. (can't remember all the wording off the top of my head).

Their wishes were strong to remain with their mother, but the judge felt dad could provide more stability, discipline, etc. than mom could. So in DHs case, the judge went against the children's expressed wishes in the state of IA. It was pretty shocking, DH didn't really expect considering how long mom was custodial.

There were a lot of MAJOR issues going on in that case, mom wanted to move with kids to WA, there was a history of witholding visitation, instability, major missing of school, can probably read about it in some of my older posts (I don't post all too often, but I think some of our history is in there). That contributed a lot to why the judge did not go with only as the kids wanted.

Each situation is different, but wanted to share this as it was in the state of IA.

tigerlily's picture

Hi dakotamom,

I dug out DHs ruling to give the specific info the judge included about Iowa and about modifying custody, in addition to children's preferences. I left in all of the other court case references in case those are of interest to you. Hope it helps!

The burden to modify custody provisions of a decree is heavy. In re: Marriage of Mayfield, 577 N.W.2d 872, 873 (Iowa Ct.App 1998). To change custodial provisions of a decree, the party seeking a modification must establish by a preponderance of evidence that conditions since the decree was entered have so materially and substantially changed the the child's best interest make it expedient to make the requested change. In re Marriage of Frederici, 338 N.W.2d 156, 158 (Iowa 1983). The change must be more or less permanent, relate to the welfare of the child, and must not have been contemplated by the court when the decree was entered. In re Marriage of Walton, 577 N.W.2d 869, 870 (IowaCt.App. 1998). The question is not which home is better, but whether the parent seeking modification could provide superior care. Id.; in re Marriage of Whalen, 569 N.W.2d 626, 628 (Iowa 1997). The moving party must show an ability to minister more effectively to the child's needs. Whalen, 569 N.W.2d at 628. If both parents are found to be equally competent to minister to the child, custody should not be changed. Id.

In deciding how much weight to give the children's preference, the following factors should be considered:
1) The children's respective ages and education levels;
2) The strength of their preference;
3) Their intellectual and emotional makeup;
4) The relationship with family members; and
5) The reasons they give for their preference.

In re Marriage of Anderson, 509 N.W.2d 138, 141-142 (IowaCt.App. 1993); In re Marriage of Behn, 416 N.W.2d 100, 102 (IowaCt.App. 1987). In re Marriage of Ellerbroek, 377 N.W.2d 257, 258-9 (IowaCt.App 1985)