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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we explain the child support law in Iowa for 2020. We answer many questions, including:

  • “Are any significant changes being made to Iowa child support law in 2020?;”
  • “Do I have to pay child support?;”
  • “Who pays Iowa child support to whom?;”
  • “How is Iowa child support calculated in 2020?;”
  • “What if I disagree with my child support calculation?;”
  • “Am I required to cover medical expenses for my child?;”
  • “Where do I send child support payments in Iowa?;” and
  •  “How are child support orders enforced in Iowa?”

Are Any Significant Changes Being Made to Iowa Child Support Law in 2020?

There are a couple of minor changes that have been approved for 2020. The most notable change began on October 1st, 2019, at the beginning of the fiscal year. Federal law now requires the Child Support Recovery Unit to deduct an annual fee of $35 from the family’s support payments. The fee is withheld after the family has received $550 in support payments. Exceptions and adjustments may be made, depending on the family’s circumstances. For example, if the payee or any child of the payee has received cash assistance from Iowa or any other state, the fee will be waived. The fee may be deducted from each case if you have more than one child support obligation.

Follow the Iowa Department of Human Services website link to see What’s New for Iowa in 2020.

Do I Have To Pay Child Support?

Yes. In the state of Iowa, both parents have a legal obligation to support their minor children as long as they are enrolled in high school full-time or an equivalent, with the intent to graduate between the ages of 18 and 19.

Who Pays Iowa Child Support to Whom?

As both parents are obligated to provide support, payments are typically made by the parent with the highest income. Except for extreme cases, the non-custodial parent makes payments to the parent with physical custody of the child. Even if both parents have joint physical custody, one parent must be named the custodial parent for legal purposes and to determine where the child will attend school. The temporary or permanent child support order will dictate the exact amount to be paid and how often payment is to be made.  

How is Iowa Child Support Calculated in 2020?

Child support payments are made at a rate that makes up the difference between what each parent is expected to provide based on their individual net income. If one parent has a significantly higher income than the other, they are likely to pay a more significant amount for support than the other parent to avoid radical lifestyle changes, which would not be in the best interests of the child. The court considers the following factors to calculate child support:

  • Number of children who are the subject of the pending action;
  • The monthly net income (take-home pay) of both parents;
  • Cost of daycare paid by the non-custodial parent;
  • Number of overnights the children spend with the non-custodial parent;
  • Amount of alimony the non-custodial parent is responsible for from a prior marriage; and
  • Amount of child support paid to the children of a prior marriage by the non-custodial parent.

In addition to the considerations listed above, the court system in Iowa also uses a tool called the Iowa Schedule of Basic Support Obligations (known as the “Schedule” for short) to calculate the statutory support amount for each case at hand. The Schedule is based on each parent’s combined adjusted net income and the number of children involved. Multiplying the established Schedule amount by the non-custodial parent’s share of the total parental income will result in the amount of basic child support obligation. Conditions that might cause the court to deviate from this amount include:

  • The amount and affordability of health insurance for the non-custodial parent;
  • Variance possible for child care expenses of the custodial parent; and
  • There may be an extraordinary visitation credit for the non-custodial parent if that parent has “joint physical placement” of the child.

As the amount of child support varies from case to case, the Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) provides a child support calculator to help the paying parents figure out what they can expect from the permanent order. The uniform guidelines for child support calculation are detailed in Chapter 9, Iowa Child Support Guidelines.

Visit the Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit website to take a closer look at how the Schedule is calculated individually.

Follow the link here to the Iowa child support calculator to learn more.

What if I Disagree with My Child Support Calculation?

Before an order for child support is in place, either parent can request a hearing to present evidence that explains why an amount should go up or down. Factors such as if sticking to the guidelines would work a substantial injustice on either parent or the child, where adjustment is necessary to meet the child’s needs, or specific circumstances with foster care can contribute to a judge’s decision to deviate from common calculation standards. For more information, see our article on Iowa Child Support Modification Explained | How to Change Child Support Payments.

Am I Required to Cover Medical Expenses for My Child?

Yes. Federal law requires states to address medical support in all child support orders. In Iowa, both parents are fiscally responsible for their children and required to provide medical support. The terms can be different on a case-to-case basis and will be designated by the court. Medical support includes dental, prescription, medical, and other healthcare expenses for the child and includes insurance and cash support. An Iowa statute sets the medical support standard at no more than five percent of the parent’s gross income.

Where Do I Send Child Support Payments in Iowa?

All child support payments must be sent to either the clerk of court office or the Child Support Recovery Unit collection centers of the Iowa Department of Human Services. Payments should never be sent directly from one parent to another. If you don’t want to worry about sending the payments yourself, you could set up “income withholding” and have child support money taken directly out of your paycheck. This is an excellent way to ensure you do not fall behind on payments or fail to send them on time. On the other side of the coin, if you seek reparations for unpaid child support, you can file a petition with the court to have income withheld from the delinquent party.

Click to learn more about income withholding and how to set it up.

Other questions can be directed to the Child Support Recovery Unit website.

How are Child Support Orders Enforced in Iowa?

Several enforcement options are available to a person seeking compliance with a child support order, including income withholding, wage garnishment, liens, and contempt of court. Regardless of whether or not you were ever married to the other parent, you must obtain an official child support order from the court in order to make child support payments enforceable. If the payor party has fallen behind on payments, you can seek relief through the court system or the Child Support Recovery Unit. You can also request assistance from the CSRU, which would be an administrative (meaning non-judicial) approach to retrieving child support arrears.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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