Iowa House Unanimously Agrees that Parents Aren’t Visitors

Sherry PalmerNews & Events

Iowa State Capital, Des Moines, IA

On February 27, 2020 the Iowa House of Representatives voted unanimously 95-0 and 5 absences to approve HF 2366. This bill was formally known as HF706 and is a bill to replace the term “visitation” with the term “parenting time” throughout the Iowa codes. This recommendation creates no legal change but provides a loud and clear message and mindset shift that parents are not visitors to their own children.

An act to change the term “visitation” to the term “parenting time” is sponsored by Representative Norlin Mommsen as HF2366. This bill has unanimously passed the subcommittee for the second year in a row and unanimously passed through committee, and now through the Iowa House. It will now go before the Senate for consideration.

Representative Mommsen has been a gladiator and supporter of Family Law Reform issues for several years now. Sending him a simple thank you message would definitely be appropriate.

The goal is to prevent marginalizing either parent from the duties and responsibilities of parenting in order to maintain the disciplinary authority of the parent and rights of both child and parent. This recommendation creates no legal change but provides a strong and clear mindset shift that parents are not visitors to their own children. In time, we expect this subtle cultural change in mindsets to increase collaboration between custodial and noncustodial parents while also creating a new level of expected accountability of the role of parenting.

This bill seeks to change most references of “visitation” to “parenting time” within Iowa Code 598 and 232 with the exception of 232 p.105 233.163 that deals with siblings and other relative visitations.

Further, “parenting time” shall be defined as the amount of time each custodial, non-custodial, collaborative parent spends with their child/children, and whenever possible complying with the “best interest of the child” definition through maximizing physical time with each parent unless a court determines that a child is at risk as outlined throughout the Iowa Code 598 and 232.

This trendsetting bill FUAN hopes sets the stage for the passage of SF571, Iowa's equal Shared Parenting bill. This bill would update the Iowa code to reflect the change in mindset and reflects Iowan's desire to support and protect children from losing a parent just because the parents get divorced. This is a national trend taking hold throughout the United States where Kentucky passed the first equal Shared Parenting bill in 2017. Since the passage of Kentucky's bill, the state has seen a decline in domestic violence cases.

Over the summer we hosted an event in Denison, IA. This event was attended by several legislators as FUAN presented our 2020 Family Law Reform Recommendations. This one event propelled our goals forward as all but one attending legislators sponsored FUAN recommendations in 2020. It was very clear that getting the proper time to gain their attention has led to a much deeper understanding of this and other Family Law Reform issues. Senator Randy Feenstra who can be seen here in this video was one of those in attendance. 

Senator Randy Feenstra has since introduced this same bill as SF2140, which also received a unanimous vote through the subcommittee. However, it failed to yield a committee vote. There was a small amendment to this bill that did not change the meaning of the bill at all. Rather it was a section that LSA had forgotten to include this verbiage change within Iowa code.

We would also add that there are no registered lobbyists against these bills. The ISBA has been a great ally endorsing this bill, showing that it is already standard practice throughout Iowa courts. Jenny Dorman also spoke to the psychological damage that the term “visitor” could have on a child. We very much appreciate their support on this and other recommendations FUAN has supported in 2020.

We would appreciate your support by registering to lobby and declaring on this piece. When you register as a lobbyist, you have the opportunity to let every legislator know where you stand. If you register through lobbyist link, you are still able to make declarations as to how you feel about specific bills, and all you need is an internet connection. The legislators do carefully follow who is for or against a particular bill. Register as a “Personal Interest Lobbyist” here: TAKE ME TO REGISTRATION

Remember that once you are registered as a Personal Interest Lobbyist, you need to make declarations on bills to have your voice heard. Please go to this link and watch the “Lobbyist Training Video” provided by the Iowa Lobbyist Help Services.