Marvin and Betsy were married
and had two kids. Then they separated.
During the separation, the
children lived with Betsy, but Marvin had them almost half the time,
maintained daily contact, and provided support.
Based on testimony, Marvin
and Betsy did not get along with
each other after the separation.
16 months later, the Trial
Court awarded a final divorce, and gave Betsy sole physical custody of the children. Marvin appealed.
The Trial Court found that
while both Marvin and Betsy were fit and suitable to act as a custodial
parent, they had not demonstrated that they were able to communicate and
give priority to the welfare of the children by reaching shared decisions
in the best interests of the
Basically, they were
fighting a lot and using the children as pawns against each other.
Sole custody means that the children shall reside with and
be under the supervision of one parent, subject to the power of the court
to order visitation.
Conversely, joint custody means that each parent shall have significant
periods of physical custody in such a way to assure a child of frequent
and continuing contact with both parents.
The Iowa Supreme Court
affirmed the sole custody decree.
The Iowa Supreme Court found
that under Iowa law (§598.21),
custody determinations are to be made in the best interests
of the child, but there is a preference for joint custody.
The Court noted that §598.21 lists a number of factors that courts should
use to determine best interests, but they aren't hard and
fast rules, just guidelines. "The quality of the total family
custodial setting rather than a given quantity of the listed factors
should be determinative on the issue of joint custody."
In this case, the Court
found that since Marvin and Betsy fought whenever they were together, it
was in the best interest of the
children to keep the parents from interacting. Joint custody only works if the parents are willing to try
to make it work, and that wasn't the case here.