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This article will cover the following topics relating to child support in Iowa:

  • How long you need to pay child support
  • How child support is calculated
  • How to collect child support
  • How to challenge the amount of child support you have to pay
  • How to modify a child support order

Raising a child is not inexpensive. In a divorce or a breakup, parents need to consider the needs of their children, ranging from who will have physical care of the children, what the other parent’s visitation rights are, and how much money one parent owes to the other to take care of the children. In Iowa, both parents have a duty to support their children. Although a court could order either parent to pay child support, generally speaking, the noncustodial parent typically makes payments to the custodial parent to cover the expenses associated with the child living with them. The custodial parent is responsible for child support too, but the law assumes that the custodial parent is already paying their portion of the child’s expenses.  

Where parents share custody, typically the parent with the greater income is the one who makes support payments, but only enough to make up for the difference between what each parent must provide. This is to ensure the child has the same standard of living with both parents.  

This article will cover the following topics relating to child support in Iowa:

  • How long you need to pay child support
  • How child support is calculated
  • How to collect child support
  • How to challenge the amount of child support you have to pay
  • How to modify a child support order

How long do you have to pay child support?

In most circumstances, parents have to pay child support until the child is 18. Child support payments could be cut short if the child becomes emancipated. On the other hand, support can continue past the child’s 18th birthday if the child is still in high school full time or if the child has a disability requiring continued support. See Iowa Code Section 598.1 for more information.  

How is child support calculated?

In most circumstances, the amount of child support depends on the number of children needing to be supported and the income of the parents. Parents also need to cover the healthcare costs of their children. The Iowa DHS has a Child Support Estimator on their website, though the court could increase or decrease child support payments based on the children’s needs and the parents’ circumstances.  

In order to use the tool found on the Iowa DHS page, you will need to know both of the parents’ incomes and the child-custody arrangement. You will need both gross and net income calculations.

Gross income is the income from all sources. This includes salary, bonuses, wages, commissions and retirement payments and pensions. This can also include royalties, dividends, trust fund payments or other returns on investments. Spousal support that you currently receive also counts and, when appropriate, the court could also set aside other assets to meet the child’s needs.

If someone is unemployed, they likely might have some income from workers’ compensation, unemployment or disability. This income is considered for purposes of child support. The court could also assign a minimum amount of income to a parent who voluntarily works less or not at all, unless there is a real reason they have to do so. An example is if one of the parents has a disability that causes them to be unable to work full time, they won’t be held responsible for the additional income.  

After the gross income of both parents is calculated, deductions are then made to get your net income. Net income is the gross income minus state and federal taxes, Medicare, social security and other qualified deductions. These other qualified deductions can include mandatory pension or union dues, military deductions, other child support, among other things. If you go to the Iowa Judicial Branch website, there is a page dedicated to these deductions and calculations. Additionally, you can look to Iowa Code section 598.21B.

Finally, you will need to know how much time each parent spends on the child. Most of the time, parents will split time in some way, though in certain circumstances, one parent will have sole custody. A noncustodial parent whose visitation exceeds more than 127 days per year can earn credits that offset the amount of support they are required to pay.  

How to collect child support

Getting an order from a court requiring one parent to pay child support is half of the battle. The other half is collecting the money owed. The obligating parent (the one responsible for paying child support) must pay the support as required by the court order. A parent who fails to pay child support, pays late, or pays partial payments can face fines or sanctions.  

Child support can be paid in a number of ways. Cash, check, bank transfer, direct deposit, Venmo or Paypal are all acceptable methods of payments. In a situation where the parent isn’t making the payments they are required to, the Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit can be a helpful resource to get the money you are owed.  

How to challenge the amount of support you have to pay

Iowa presumes that child support based on the child support guidelines are appropriate. However, sometimes the final amount or the way it’s divided would be unfair to a parent or the child. Before a child support order is in place, either parent may request a hearing to present evidence that shows why the amount of support needs to be increased or decreased.

A judge will decide whether to deviate from the guidelines and adjust the amount of support based on a few factors, including:

  • If sticking to the guidelines would cause a substantial injustice to either the parent or the child;
  • Where adjustment is necessary to meet the child’s needs or do justice for all concerned; or
  • For certain circumstances that involve foster care.

How to modify a child support order

After a child support order is in place, there are a number of options to change or modify the amount of support. At any time, a parent can ask a court to add the child’s medical support (if the current order excludes it) or to adjust support payments when either parent experiences a “substantial change in circumstances”.

A substantial change is a change where the amount of support would increase or decrease by 10% at the current rate based on the child support guidelines. To calculate this, you can use the Iowa child support estimator to help determine if a substantial change has occurred. This commonly occurs if a parent has lost a job, gotten a new, higher paying job, has received an inheritance or the needs of the child have changed.

Under some circumstances, the Child Support Recovery Unit can review support orders and make adjustments. These adjustments will have to be approved by the court.  If you have any questions, contact an experienced attorney at O’Flaherty Law today. Call our office at (630) 324-6666, or schedule a consultation. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.

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