Within the last week, a Los Angeles judge ruled against a petition filed by Halle Berry to relocate her daughter with actor and model Gabriel Aubry, to France.  Aubry objected to Berry’s request.  Presumably, Berry wanted to relocate her daughter to France because of her engagement to actor Olivier Martinez.  Berry has also stated that France has stronger paparazzi laws, which would provide more protection for her daughter.

Child Custody Modification in Iowa

In Iowa, a child custody/visitation schedule may be modified by a court if the petitioning party show, by a preponderance of the evidence, there has been a substantial and material change in circumstances since the entry of the decree.  The changes need to be permanent in nature.  Also, the party attempting to switch the primary care of the child needs to show that they can provide superior care than the other parent.  The courts recognize the importance of stability in a child’s life, thus the burden for justifying a change in location is high.

“Once a physical care arrangement is established, the party seeking to modify it bears a heightened burden, and we will modify the arrangement only for most cogent reasons.”  Dale v. Pearson, 555 N.W.2d 243, 245 (Iowa Ct. App. 1996).

The court must also consider the following factors:

  1. Best interests of the children
  2. Child’s preference (but less weight in modification than in initial custody proceedings)
  3. Siblings should not be separated
  4. Conduct of the custodial parent (including whether the parent encourages and facilitates the child’s relationship with the other parent),including denial of visitation or contact.
  5. Stability for the Child

If Berry’s case were held in Iowa, she would need to show that her move to France is permanent, and that she can care for the child in a superior manner as compared to Aubry.  She must show that the move is material and substantial in nature. She then would have to overcome all of the additional factors the court must consider in a child custody modification case.  Examining all of these hurdles leads one to believe that, as her petition was unsuccessful in California, it would also be unsuccessful here in Iowa.