What if you were a young child, whose life has been in upheaval? What if the voices that are supposed to be calming and comforting to you have been screaming at others, or calling out in pain for most of your life? What if you were removed from your mother or father's care, and placed with a foster family? Or removed from one parent and placed with the other?
You'd be pretty scared, right? Even if you got used to your surroundings, there is no place like home. No place like mom's lap while she reads you a story. No place like the chair where you snuggle with dad as he reads your favorite book to you.
Judge Constance Cohen came up with an amazing and simple idea: what if the noncustodial parent could read the same book to the child every day over the phone while the child snuggles a blanket or stuffed animal that smells like their parent?
And so the 2-4-2 Book Project was born. With 2-4-2, the non-custodial parent and the custodian are provided a copy of a book. They work together to determine a good time of each day to call, and the noncustodial parent reads the book to the child while the caretaker turns the pages if needed. If it is an older child, they can alternate with the parent reading pages or paragraphs. This routine gives the child a connection with their parent, and lends predictability to their day.
This program is an excellent way to continue to build and repair the relationship between the child and the parent. The routine of a daily call to read the book supports brain development, healthy attachment between parent and child, and trust. The child can learn to associate mom or dad's smell and voice with something that is comforting and enjoyable. Plus, all of the benefits of reading - speech development, stipulation, reading comprehension, communication, motor skills, school readiness, memory development, and focus!
If you are a caretaker for a child, or a parent whose child has been removed, as the Department of Human Services about this program!
This question is a frequent flyer when it comes to dissolution and child custody cases. Everyone has an opinion or a belief they've garnered from a friend of a friend who lost custody of a teenager because the child testified. Nearly every time someone comes to me with what they believe to be the "magic number," they're wrong.
The correct answer in the state of Iowa is that there is no magic number. There is no cutoff or minimum age for a child to decide which parent with whom he or she wants to live. Or, as a judge put it recently when a self-represented litigant asked this question of them during a hearing, "a child cannot choose until they are 18."
Iowa Code 598.41(3) provides a lengthy list of factors for the Court to consider when deciding what custody arrangement is appropriate. The factor in subsection (f) states that the Court should consider "[w]hether the custody arrangement is in accord with the child's wishes or whether the child has strong opposition, taking into consideration the child's age and maturity" when deciding what is in the child's best interests.
The case law expands upon that factor, giving different considerations for the Court in deciding how much weight to attribute to a given child's statement of where they wish to live. A child's preference is not controlling, but it is important. The Court considers the child's age and educational level, the strength of the preference, the intellectual and emotional makeup of the child, relationships with family members, the reasons for the decision, the advisability of recognizing the preference and the realization that the court cannot be aware of all the factors that influence the child's decision. See In re Marriage of Ellerbroek, 377 N.W.2d 257, 258-59 (Iowa Ct. App. 1985).
Each case is going to require specific analysis, which is more complicated than something you will find in a blog post on an attorney's website. If you are interested in establishing or modifying child custody based on your child's wishes, contact us to schedule your initial consultation. We would be happy to discuss these matters with you.
A blawg about solo, general and rural practice.
Melissa S. Larson is a solo practitioner in Greenfield, Iowa. She has a general practice, and offers mediation and collaborative law services. Melissa is a mother, wife, daughter, sister, grand-daughter, cousin, niece, aunt, friend, attorney, photographer, writer, student, teacher, and wanderer. She loves Gilmore Girls and Dr. Pepper, and knows far too many song lyrics.
"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." -- Henry David Thoreau
"Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry." -- Jack Kerouac
"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others." -- Mohandas K. Gandhi
© 2019 Melissa S. Larson, P.C.