Divorce and Family Law Attorneys

50 Northcrest Drive, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503

Twitter LinkedIn Martindale Simpson Legal Group, LLC

News & Resources

Child Custody and School Choice: Navigating Education Decisions in Iowa

By Sep 15, 2023 Posted in Divorce

Early in 2023, the Students First Act (SFA) became law. By 2025, SFA will give parents up to $7,598 per year for each child should they enroll them in a private school. SFA will allow parents to send their kids to a school they hadn’t considered. For divorced parents or those who share custody of their children, this new law may spark some disputes about where their children should go to school and who should pay any costs not covered by the SFA credits.   

Resolving disagreements over where your child should go to school are some of the most difficult disputes to resolve. Our firm’s experienced family law attorney can help if you need guidance on this issue. 

Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody

When discussing child custody, it is helpful to recall that Iowa law recognizes two types of custody: 

  • Physical custody – the right to have the child in the home and provide for their physical necessities (food, clothing, and shelter)
  • Legal custody – the right to make decisions on their behalf, including religious formation and education

Your custody order should address both physical and legal custody. The presumption in IOa is for the parties to be awarded joint legal custody (decision). Many parents will focus mainly on physical custody and overlook the importance of legal custody. As a result, you should first look to your custody order to determine whether you or your co-parent have the sole right to decide where the child goes to school. 

A Difficult Decision

In most cases, the parents share joint legal custody of their children. This means both parents have the right to decide where their children should attend school. For those who have not yet divorced or separated, SFA emphasizes the importance of giving your child’s education some deep consideration so that your custody agreement can be structured accordingly. 

However, this may be a difficult process for parents who already have a custody order in place. You may even have to seek an amendment to your custody order. Before that happens, both parents should attempt to come together and do their best to work it out. Some of the issues that you will need to resolve include the following: 

  • Who will pay any tuition that SFA does not cover
  • How additional transportation needs and costs will be addressed
  • Who will pay for incidental expenses such as uniforms, books, and other materials

You must also understand what is at stake if you cannot agree. If one parent has primary custody of the child, Iowa courts may rule in their favor. However, they may be obligated to pay any tuition not covered by SFA. There are many factors that the court will consider, but it is one of those times where having an attorney to advocate for your side can make a significant difference in the outcome. 

Call Simpson Legal Group Today to Discuss Your Options

These are complex issues that often do not have easy solutions. To get assistance regarding school and custody-related issues, call us today at 712-256-9899 or send us an email to schedule a consultation. 

Contact Us

50 Northcrest Drive, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51503
Phone: 712.256.9899

Twitter LinkedIn Martindale Simpson Legal Group, LLC