Family law is without a doubt one of the most contentious areas of law. Many people go into a family law dispute (a divorce, child custody, or child support proceedings, as examples) with the best of intentions, only to see it turn into an acrimonious slugfest. As an experienced family lawyer, I like to see things work out amicably — but I am ready to fight for you if discord becomes inevitable.
Family law courts are considered courts of equity rather than courts of law. Although this distinction might not mean a lot to most people, in actual practice it gives family law judges considerable leeway in making decisions. Although this flexibility is desirable under certain circumstances, in others it can result in the great injustice without the intervention of a skilled family lawyer.
Let Me Guide You Through the Family Law Maze
Family law, like any area of law, is complex and arcane, with byzantine rules of evidence and procedure. At nearly every step of the way you will be required to make decisions. Of course, I will not substitute my beliefs for yours, because only you know what matters most to you and your family. It is my job to counsel you on options and possible consequences so that you can decide for yourself what you think is best.
Compromise vs. Combat
The stakes are typically high in a family law dispute. It is an unfortunate fact of life that cooperation can turn to conflict at a moment’s notice. Because of this, my abilities run in two directions: settlement and litigation. In many cases, a little creativity can bring about a solution that is ideal for both parties. I will do my best to settle your case amicably, but I will not sacrifice your interests to do so.
“Jonathan is an excellent attorney who genuinely seems to care about his clients. Both my children are special needs, and I don’t have a huge bank account, but going through my divorce, Jonathan was always mindful of how to best serve my children’s needs. He fought for them and helped me to be able to continue caring for them as they need. I will always be grateful for that. I hope to never need a lawyer again, but if I do, I won’t hesitate to call him.”
Some of My Practice Areas
I practice in many sub-specialties of family law, including:
- Divorce: Divorce rarely goes as smoothly as the parties hope it will. If major property division issues exist or there is disagreement regarding the status of the children, a divorce proceeding can turn into a “perfect storm” that absolutely requires the assistance of an Iowa divorce lawyer, especially if your spouse has hired a lawyer.
- Child custody: Few legal proceedings routinely get as rancorous as contested child custody proceedings, and few legal principles are as inherently ambiguous and prone to abuse as “the best interests of the child.” A child custody proceeding is absolutely no time to go it alone, because later, it can be difficult to change an initial custody determination.
- Child support: The determination of child support payments can go smoothly if the facts of the case are not in dispute. If they are in dispute, however, things can get ugly very quickly. If you are involved in a child support dispute or you anticipate being treated unfairly, a skilled Iowa family lawyer is exactly the person you are going to need on your side.
- Domestic violence: Domestic violence matters must be handled decisively yet as delicately as possible under the circumstances due to the due to the emotions surrounding this issue. I frequently prosecute and defend Civil Domestic Assault No Contact Orders along with every other aspect of civil domestic violence law.
- Prenuptial agreements: Although family law courts treat many prenuptial agreements as valid contracts, these types of contracts are more. likely than other types of contracts to be arouse disputes that lead to litigation. A carelessly drafted agreement can affect your interests in ways that are difficult to predict.
- Property division: Property division incident to a divorce is perhaps the most contentious area of family law, at times even more so than child custody issues. Depending on your overall wealth and the complexity of your finances, the property division process can be simple or incredibly complex.
- Spousal support (alimony): Iowa courts recognize three different types of alimony. The process of determining alimony can be complex and is at least partially subjective. Great injustice can result if you lack a committed, professional advocate on your side to protect your interests – especially if the other side is represented by aggressive counsel.
- Paternity: A home DNA test is simply not enough to establish paternity in Iowa – paternity must be established by an Iowa court. Until paternity is established, the father will be presumed to be whoever is married to the mother; otherwise, the mother will enjoy sole legal custody of the child. An Iowa family lawyer can help you resolve any uncertainty.
- Adoption: Surprisingly complex legal issues can arise during the adoption process, whether you are adopting domestically or internationally. A good Iowa adoption attorney can work with all parties involved to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as humanly possible.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How does custody work for a child born out of wedlock?
Since it is obviously easier to identify the mother of a child than the father, the mother has sole custody until the court legally declares the identity of the father. The father can request DNA testing and if he is identified as the father, he can request visitation and/or custody. He may also be required to pay child support based on the custodial arrangement.
What is the difference between legal custody and physical care?
Legal custody is the right to make critical decisions concerning the child’s upbringing such as religious training, education, and medical treatment decisions. Physical care means the actual residential arrangements for the child. Both custody and physical care may be sole or joint. In a joint (also known as shared) physical care arrangement, the child would typically spend 50 percent of the time with each parent.
What is the guiding legal principle in child custody decisions?
The ultimate consideration in child custody decisions is the best interests of the child. This principle the guidepost for the court to make such a determination. A court will take many factors into consideration when determining what is in the best interests of the child.
When determining residence, how much weight is the child’s preference given?
It depends on many different factors. The child’s age is certainly relevant – the older and more mature the child, the more likely his or her wishes will be listened to. The court will also judge the child’s reasons for wanting to live with one parent or the other. Original residence determinations cannot be changed absent a “material and substantial change in circumstances.”
What is a postsecondary education subsidy?
A postsecondary education subsidy is a subsidy charged to parents of a child enrolled in a postsecondary educational institution. The following rules apply:
- The child must be between 18 and 22 years old;
- “good cause” must be shown (financial need, for example); and
- the subsidy for each parent must not exceed one-third of the child’s education expenses.
What is a prenuptial (premarital) agreement?
A premarital agreement is an agreement between two prospective spouses concerning the disposition of property in the event of divorce or death. For public policy reasons, Iowa law limits the types of provisions in a premarital agreement that will be enforced, but otherwise they are generally enforceable.
Does Iowa law recognize common law marriage?
Yes, it does. For a common law marriage to be valid:
- the couple must have agreed that they are married;
- the couple must live together continuously; and
- the couple must have publicly declared that they are married.
There is no such thing as a common law divorce —— ordinary divorce law applies.
How are child support payments determined?
In Iowa, child support payments are determined with reference to Iowa’s child support guidelines. Child support obligations can continue in some cases until the child is 19, or even longer if the child is mentally or physically disabled. This determination is complex and can be aided by a computer program.
Your Case Could Hinge on a Single Decision
The most important decision you make might be who you choose to represent you. Of course, your confidence in my ability to effectively represent you should not be based on what I am saying, but on what my peers in the legal profession are saying:
- In 2017, I was named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers, an honor I share with only 2.5 percent of Iowa lawyers.
- I am rated “Distinguished” in 2016 and 2017 by Martindale-Hubbell.
- I have been rated 10/10 (“Superb”) in both 2016 and 2017 by the Avvo attorney rating service.
Time Matters – Act Today
It takes a certain amount of time to develop a winning strategy in a family law case. Meanwhile, compromise becomes more difficult as opinions and positions tend to harden over time (and in some cases, under the influence of an unscrupulous family lawyer on the other side who may feel that fighting is more profitable than compromise).
If you live or work in the Cedar Rapids area (or anywhere in Eastern Iowa), or if your case is being heard here, feel free to contact me online or call my office at (319) 774-6078.