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Parents in Iowa generally have a duty to support their children financially irrespective of the circumstances under which they are born.
The non-custodial parent will be ordered to pay child support in some amount in almost all circumstances; some exception exist, such as shared care arrangements (equal custody), explained next.
If it is a shared care arrangement where the child lives with each parent equally, then the parent that has a higher earning capacity will often times be required to pay child support. In situations where one is required to pay child support because of a higher income, the amount is usually not as much as if the child lived with the other parent primarily.
A parent will be financially responsible for their child whether they are born to that parent or legally adopted by them. If a married couple has children and they decide to get divorced, the court will determine which party will have to pay child support.
If unwed individuals have a child or children and one of them petitions the court, the Court will also decide who must pay child support and in what amount. Even if neither unwed party petitions the court, but the primary caregiver is receiving some form of government assistance, the state may, on its own accord, request child support be established to help defer the cost to the government.
The amount of child support ordered will vary widely on a case-by-case basis depending upon the income of the parents and the physical care arrangement of the parties or order of the court. The court is required to follow the child support amount set forth by the Iowa Child Support Guidelines unless the special circumstances of the case require adjustment of the child support amount.
Generally, a court must follow the Iowa Child Support Guidelines in setting the amount of child support a parent is ordered to pay. The purpose of the guidelines is to provide for the best interests of the children while also taking into account each parent’s income. Determining a parent’s income for the purposes of the Guidelines takes into account several factors including earned income from working, bonuses, employee benefits, Social Security benefits, tax deductions, and several other factors.
The Iowa legislature has reworked the guidelines numerous times over the years. In fact, as of the end of 2012, a committee set up to review the guidelines has reviewed and recommended modifications to the current guidelines. Currently, the monthly support amount that can generally be ordered can be as low as $10 for an individual who is incapable of working. On the other end of the spectrum , if an individual makes over $20,000 per month, the courts have discretion to set the amount of child support as it sees fit and support is not directly governed by the guidelines. This threshold for monthly income to reach what is referred to as the “discretionary range” of child support is recommended to be raised to $25,000 by the current Child Support review Committee.
Iowa courts will not enforce any agreement that cancels a parent’s obligation to pay child support. Iowa courts will also not enforce any agreement made by the parties that deviate from the guidelines unless the court determines that it is in the best interests of the child.
Generally, a parent’s obligation to pay child support continues from the time the child support order is put in place until the child reaches age 18 (or 19, if they are still working toward a high school diploma or a GED). Child support can continue past a child’s 19th birthday in certain circumstances such as if the child has a physical or mental disability which makes them dependent on a parent.
If a parent who is ordered to pay child support is not paying or is paying less than the amount they are required to pay, assistance is available to help collect child support that is due to a parent. Iowa has an agency called the Child Support Recovery Unit (CRSU) that is responsible for enforcing child support orders and processing support payments. The CSRU also offers other services such as:
CSRU uses a variety of methods to enforce child support orders, including:
Iowa Code section 598.21F, the Post-Secondary Education Subsidy Statute, allows a court in Iowa to order a postsecondary education subsidy also known as a PSES.
The Court will almost always require one parent to provide health insurance for the children, which may be in addition to his/her monthly child support obligation.
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