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This article will give you an overview of Iowa Child Custody Laws and Child Support Laws and discuss whether there have been any significant changes to Iowa Child Custody and Child Support laws for 2022.

This article will give you an overview of Iowa Child Custody Laws and Child Support Laws and discuss whether there have been any significant changes to Iowa Child Custody and Child Support laws for 2022. There have not been any significant changes to Iowa Child Custody laws and Iowa Child Support Laws for 2022.  

What is Child Custody in Iowa?

Child Custody in Iowa is the Court Ordered care and control of the child or children between the parents and the child or children. In Iowa there are two types of Custody:

  • Legal Custody- This means the Parent or Parents’ right to raise their child or children as they see fit, and that they are the ones to make the decisions pertaining to their child or children. This includes the religious instruction the child will receive, i.e. Judaism faith instruction, Muslim faith instruction, Christian faith instructions. The medical care the child or children will receive or not receive. Educational direction of the child.
  • Physical Care-This means the Parent or Parents’ right to have the child in their own home and provide support to the child.

How Does a Court Determine Child Custody in Iowa?

The Iowa Courts always look to the best interests of the child in determining child custody issues, the court will look at the totality of the circumstances between the parents to determine what is better for the life of the child or children and the child or children’s interests. Iowa likes to almost always Order Joint Custody to the parents of the child or children, just as long as it is in the best interests of the child and or children involved. This gives each Parent the right to equal footing when it  comes to decisions pertaining to the child or children’s: medical care, religious instructions, educational decisions, and any other activity the child needs guidance or approval from the parents of the minor child or children. Iowa will only grant sole custody after balancing many factors in it’s determination that it would not be in the best interests of the child to share time with both parents through a joint-custody situation. This usually occurs when there is abuse of the child, the Parent has a drug or alcohol problem, the Parent makes decisions that put the child in risk of harm or danger, there has to be clear and convincing evidence of the aforementioned issues.  

Joint Legal Custody vs. Joint Physical Care in Iowa

Though it is true the Iowa courts and Judges usually like to award “Joint-Custody” of the child (where both parents have decision making rights regarding child’s healthcare, education, religion), they do not like uprooting a child from their parent’s home which they spend most of their time, the child/children’s “home base” so to speak. The Judge will likely grant one parent sole “physical care”, meaning that the child will live with that one parent primarily, this parent is referred to as the “custodial parent”, and the other parent will get plenty of visitation time with the child or children this parent is the “non-custodial parent”. This decision again rests on the best interests of the child and the court will look at this when making its decision. In his discretion, although it is not common the Iowa Judge can award both parents “Joint-Physical Care” where both parents have an equal split and both parents’ homes are considered the “home base”.

Can I Change my Child Custody Order that is Already in Place in Iowa?

This is a difficult question to answer, but generally speaking if there was a substantial change in circumstances that was unforeseen at the time of the original Judgment of a Child Custody Order, then the Court may modify a child custody agreement that was entered in an Iowa Court, so long as there is enough evidence to show that it would be proper to show that the child’s best interests would be protected by a modification of the Original Child Custody Order.

What is Child Support in Iowa?

In Iowa child support refers to a parent’s duty to support their minor children financially until the child reaches the age of 18, this is 19 years old in cases where the child is completing their high school level education or equivalent GED program.  

Will I have to pay Child Support in Iowa?

In order to determine whether or not you will be the parent paying child support, you will first need to find out who the Court awards physical custody of the child/children this parent is called the “custodial parent”, the custodial parent that has physical custody of the child/children will not pay child support. The Court will make the parent who does not have physical custody (physical care) of their child/children pay child support, this parent will be referred to as a “non-custodial” parent and will have the obligation to pay child support every single month. This person may be the mother or the father of the child, gender does not matter in the determination of this, the Court will always look to the best interests of the child to ensure the child’s financial needs are being met.  

What can I expect regarding how much money I will pay in Child Support, how will the Court determine this?

In Iowa the parents’ duty to support their child financially through child support  is determined by guidelines adopted by the Iowa Supreme Court, these guidelines look to the best interests of the child in making the child support determination. Both parents’ income is an important aspect of the calculations of child support.  

Calculating Child Support

Where one Parent is the Custodial Parent and the other Parent is the Non-Custodial Parent and there is only one child involved.

This is how the court will determine how much you will pay in child support:

  1. Combine both parents’ monthly gross incomes, this does not include income from Iowa public assistance programs or the parents’ spouses incomes, only the parents of the child incomes count.
  1. Make your deductions to the parents’ monthly gross incomes, examples include Federal and Iowa State income tax deductions from the parents’ income, employed sponsored pension plan payments, union dues, and the parents’ other child support obligations,  

Number of Court-Ordered Overnight stays with Noncustodial Parent:

0-127 = 0% credit  

128-147=15% credit

148-166= 20% credit

167-365= 25% credit

  1. After subtracting the parents’ deductions from their combined monthly gross incomes you will reach a number, that number is referred to as the parents’ combined monthly adjusted net income.
  1. Example (for illustrative purposes only): Father and Mother have one child of the Marriage and are now divorcing after 10 years, the Court has ordered Father as the non-custodial parent to make Child support payments to the Mother, the custodial parent.  
  • The Father makes $10,000.00 a month and the Mother makes $2,000.00 a month. After you combine the parents’ monthly gross incomes that results in a total monthly gross income amount of $12,000.00
  • Subtract as deductions ($1,000.00, Moms Deductions, and $2,000.00, Fathers Deductions), you are left with $9,000.00 as the parents’ combined adjusted net monthly income.
  • Father’s proportional share of income is 88.89%
  • Mother’s proportional share of income is 11.11%
  • Father’s share of basic support obligation using the Parents’ combined income amounts: $1,251.57
  • Mother’s share of basic support obligation using the Parents’ combined income amounts: $156.43
  • Father as the Non-Custodial Parent will have a monthly child-support payment obligation of $1,252.00 owed to Mother Custodial parent.  
  • Father pays $500.00 for Father’s Health Insurance payment amount, and $500.00 for Father’s Monthly Family Health Insurance payment amount. Father as the Non-Custodial Parent will likely be Ordered by the Court to provide health insurance/medical support for the child in the amount of $500 per month.
  1. For estimation purposes only you can use the Iowa Department of Human Services Iowa Child Support Estimator here.

You must note that if a parent is disabled and their only source of income is from Supplemental Social Security Income that parent’s income is automatically set to $0 for the net monthly income.

When Joint Custody or “Joint Physical Care” is Ordered by the Court between the Parents

Child Support is calculated differently when there is Joint Custody between Parent 1 and Parent 2, the Judge takes into consideration the fact that both Parents are more on an equal footing concerning time with the child or children and determines the calculation of a child support Order in a different manner.  

Taking the same example as above but switching the facts around to show a Joint Custody Situation we have the following scenario:

Father and Mother have one child of the Marriage and are now divorcing after 10 years, the Court has awarded Father and Mother Joint Custody of the child. The Father makes $10,000.00 a month and the Mother makes $2,000.00 a month. In the aforementioned example, Father’s monthly child support obligation amount ordered by the court was $1,252.00 per month to the Mother.

  • For Joint Physical Custody situations the formula for determining the amount of child support paid by Parent 1 to Parent 2, and Parent 2 to Parent 1, is taking each parents basic support obligation using the Parents’ combined income amounts, and multiplying that by 1.5 and then taking that amount and multiplying by 50%.
  • So, Father’s share of basic support obligation using the Parents’ combined income amounts: $1,251.57
  • Mother’s share of basic support obligation using the Parents’ combined income amounts: $156.43
  • Father’s Joint Custody Child Support obligation will be:  $1,251.57 x 1.5 = $1,877.35 x 50 % (.5) =  $938.67
  • Mother’s Joint Custody Child Support obligation will be:  $156.43 x 1.5 = $ 234.64 x    50 % (.5) =  $117.32
  • Under the child support guidelines that the Iowa Supreme Court has adopted in a Joint Custody scenario the guidelines will allow a Parent who has a higher child support monthly obligation amount to deduct or offset the amount against the other paying Parent’s amount.
  • In our situation Father’s monthly child support obligation amount is $938.67 and Mother’s monthly child support obligation amount is $117.32
  • We would take Father’s $938.67 – Mother’s $117.32= $821.35.
  • In our Joint Custody Child Support Monthly Obligation example the Court will order Father to pay  Mother $821.35 per month even though both Father and Mother are in a Joint Custody scenario, because of the fact that Father makes more monthly income than Mother.

What will the Court look at in determining if “Special Circumstances” exist to warrant departing from the Iowa Supreme Court Child Support Guidelines?

The Court in most cases will assume that the guidelines the Iowa Supreme Court adopted are correct and should be applied in every case, however, this is a rebuttable presumption which means that if you can prove under unique circumstances that the guidelines would not be proper to apply to your case, the Court may depart from the Iowa Supreme Court Guidelines in order to provide for the best interests of the child. If the court does decide to depart from the child support guidelines adopted by the Iowa Supreme Court the Court must issue a written summary on why it would be an injustice to apply the child support guidelines in the case at hand.  

Will I have to pay medical Support for my minor child will this be a part of the Court case?

In Iowa each parent also has a duty to provide health insurance or a health care plan for their child, the reason for this is clear, children have medical needs that need to be taken care of and the parents are responsible to ensure that their children’s medical health care needs are being met.

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