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Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article, we answer the question what are the consequences of unpaid child support in Iowa and explain enforcement of child support orders.  We also expound on the following topics:

  • Overview of Child Support in Iowa;
  • How are Child Support Orders Enforced in Iowa?;
  • How Do I Collect Unpaid Child Support in Iowa?;
  • Additional Penalties for Failing to Pay Child Support in Iowa; and
  • What Should I Do if I Fall Behind on My Child Support Payments?

Overview of Child Support in Iowa

Iowa Law requires both parents to support their children.  Regardless of whether you are the mother or father, or whether or not you were ever married, both parents are responsible for the welfare of the child, including medical expenses and general financial support.  The parent with the greater net income gives support payments to the other parent.  The parent making payments is usually the non-custodial parent, but that does not have to be the case.  Payments should never be exchanged between the parties directly.  Once your support order has been accepted by the court and payments begin, and you must either file them through the clerk of the court office, or the Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU).

Check out our website for more information, with articles such as Iowa Child Support Law 202 | Iowa Child Support Law Explained.

How are Child Support Orders Enforced in Iowa?

First, in order for child support to be enforceable, there must be an official child support order filed with the court.  If you have an order and the other party is not adhering to the conditions of that order, you can contact the CSRU within the Iowa Department of Human Services for their administrative (meaning non-judicial) approach, or you can hire an attorney to assist you in requesting enforcement of your child support order from the court.  Each path to acquiring child support arrears has its pros and cons.  For example, the CRSU is able to enforce state and federal laws about child support, so seeking help from them may help you to avoid court costs and attorney fees.  On the other hand, if the CRSU is backlogged with cases, it may take a long time to get your case started.  Hiring an attorney is likely to be the more efficient choice, especially if the matter is urgent or complicated.

How Do I Collect Unpaid Child Support in Iowa?

There are several ways to go about collecting child support arrears.  Examples of actions you can take to enforce your court order and collect reparations include:

  • Obtaining an “income withholding” order so that funds are taken directly out of the payor parent’s wages.  This is the most common method, as it makes things easier on all of the parties involved;
  • Filing reports with credit bureaus to alert them that payor party is in direct violation of a court order and is therefore accumulating debt;
  • Garnishing bank accounts;
  • Intercepting federal and state tax returns of the payor and applying the funds to the payee’s child support arrears until the debt is paid;
  • Initiating contempt proceedings, which means there will be a hearing and the paying parent needs to explain to a judge why he or she is out of compliance with the court order;
  • Referring the case to the U.S. Department of State, which will deny or revoke the payor parent a passport if the child support arrears are over $2,500 behind; and
  • Obtaining a lien against the payor’s house or land.  A lien cannot be released until the child support arrears are paid off, so the paying party would not be able to sell or transfer the house or land until the debt is settled.

Additional Penalties for Failing to Pay Child Support in Iowa

Many of the methods of collection are also penalties to the parent in violation of the child support order.  The following penalties can also be applied:

  • Warrant issued for the arrest of the payor, either civil or criminal;
  • Contempt of court;
  • Suspension, revocation or denial of various licenses, such as professional, recreational (hunting/fishing etc.), motor vehicle and driver’s licenses;
  • Fines, jail time, or both; and
  •  Probation/community service.

What Should I Do if I Fall Behind on My Child Support Payments?

The consequences of missing child support payments can potentially be very harsh.  If your financial situation changes and you may not be able to make payments for a time, speak up.  Be proactive.  Contact at least one enforcement agency and explain your situation.  You may be able to establish a temporary payment plan to avoid penalties or falling behind on payments.  Child support arrears will not go away by ignoring them.  Preemptive action might be rewarded.

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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