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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we answer the question, “Is child support taken out of unemployment benefits in Iowa?” We also discuss how child support is calculated in Iowa, how and when the Iowa courts can impute income, determining underemployment and what happens to Iowa child support payments when one of the parents becomes unemployed?

How is Child Support Calculated in Iowa?

Iowa has specific state guidelines that should be followed when calculating child support unless the calculated child support award would be much too large and considered unjust or impossible to pay back. These calculations will be applied to both parents to determine the total amount of monthly child support payments for the child. The amount of child support ordered by the Iowa court handling the case will depend on each parent’s net income relative to each other. To read more about calculating Iowa child support, check out our article Iowa Child Support Law 2020

It’s very important to be truthful when calculating child support. If a parent misreports their income or is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed without a medical excuse the court may increase that parent’s child support payments by imputing income to them, whether the parent feels the amount is correct or not. 

How and When Iowa Courts Impute Income

If the Iowa court handling the child support case determines that the parent is capable of earning more than their current monthly gross income they may impute, or assign, additional income to the parent’s child support calculation. In this case, if the judge rules that the parent is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed without a good reason, the court will calculate the child support amount based on the parent’s potential earnings versus the parent’s actual earnings.

The court cannot impute income to a parent greater than a previously recorded salary, but if it’s clear the parent is intentionally trying to decrease their child support payments through voluntary underemployment or unemployment the court will review a number of different factors in the parent’s financial and unemployment history to come up with an appropriate amount of income to impute to the parents. Some of these factors include:

  • The parent’s earnings history over the last 5 to 10 years;
  • Pay stub and tax returns for at least the last 5 years; and
  • Compare earnings within the same field against time spent in the profession and promotion level, and geographic area

Some other questions the court might ask when determining voluntary underemployment include:

  • Did the parent reject a promotion?
  • Does the parent have a medical reason for working less than 40 hours per week?
  • Did the parent deliberately delay receiving a bonus or commission?

If after evaluating the case and the court is unable to find the information it needs the court may decide to impute a full 40-hour workweek at or above minimum wage.

What Happens to Child Support Obligations If One Parent Becomes Involuntarily Unemployed?

If a parent becomes involuntarily unemployed or underemployed and the parent is making a good faith attempt at rectifying his or her employment situation, the parent’s actual income will be used to calculate child support.

An involuntarily unemployed or underemployed obligor (the person who pays child support) will pay an amount appropriate for his or her new lower income because the new actual income will be taken into account when calculating the child support obligation.

On the flip side, an involuntarily unemployed or underemployed obligee (the recipient of child support) will receive more from the obligor than he or she would if he or she had a full income.

Will Child Support Be Taken Out of My Iowa Unemployment Benefits?

When calculating the amount of child support to be paid by the obligor the court looks at the net income of each parent. Net income is gross income minus applicable deductions. In Iowa, unemployment does not fall under the list of legal deductions from gross income and thus will count towards overall net income when calculating child support. This means that child support will be taken out of unemployment in Iowa. What can be deducted from gross monthly income when determining net income for child support in Iowa includes:

  • Federal Income Tax
  • State Income Tax
  • Social Security and Medicare Deductions
  • Mandatory Occupational License fees if not paid by the parent’s employer
  • Union Dues
  • Medical support to another child
  • Other cash medical support determined by the court
  • Other child support as determined and ordered by the court
  • Qualified additional dependent deductions

This list is not exhaustive. It is highly suggested to seek guidance from a child support attorney to determine what can be deducted from your gross monthly expenses, so you’re not overpaying on child support. 
It’s important to note that child support increases or decreases do not automatically kick in when there is a change in income or employment for one parent. In order to modify an existing child support agreement one of the parents must file a motion to modify child support with the court. For more information on this checkout, Iowa Child Support Modification Explained.

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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