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Father in joint custody situation is concerned that his teenage son isn't doing well with the mother

Your Question:
What are the laws in reference to custody of a child that will be 14 in december, in iowa, who wants to be with his father full time? The temporary order in effect now allows joint physical and this child is miserable with his mother who has mental problems and makes his time with her unbearable. She has told a number of lies in this divorce, some can be disproved, some cannot just due to the nature of the lies. The father has always played the larger parenting role is this childs life from birth to present, mother has always chosen to not have a relationship with him.

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My Answer:

Thanks for writing.

Ummmm, I've got disclaimers all over this website stating that I'm not an attorney. So how could I know about specific laws in a state a thousand miles away from me? That's information that only an Iowan attorney would have.

In general, you need to show a change of circumstance to modify custody.

A fourteen year old probably has enough maturity for his opinion to be considered. But a judge would probably want to know WHY he wants to be with you.

Is the mother making him "miserable" because she has strict rules about curfew, homework, and school attendance? If so, then a judge won't care about the kid's opinion.

Is the mother making him "miserable" because she's on drugs, has new boyfriends over all the time, forgets to pick him up, seduces his friends, etc? If so, then the judge will be very concerned.

Does the boy want to live with you because you let him drink beer and watch porn?... or is it truly because you're the far better parent?

So, to build your case, you need to outline-- with credible evidence or witnesses -- what has been changing in his life and why it's critical that he spend most of his time in your care.

This means that instead of saying that mom has "mental problems", outline (with evidence) the behavior stemming from what you think are mental problems. A judge doesn't want you to make conclusions. The judge wants you to present evidence that lets the court reach a conclusion (e.g., "Based upon all the things Dad has shown me, I think this mother has some serious mental issues that need to be addressed."

You may want to take your son to meet with a psychologist. Inform the psychologist that he doesn't seem to be doing well with Mom, and you want to really understand the roots of it to address what's going on. Make it clear that you want to understand if you're contributing to any of it, so you can correct whatever you're doing (if anything). The psychologist may, in turn, become a witness at a future hearing to testify what's best for your son.


This website gives common sense advice that is not intended to act as legal guidance nor psychological guidance. The author is neither an attorney nor licensed psychologist. For specific legal guidance or specific psychological guidance, consult with a licensed professional.

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