Child support is one of the most important issues facing couples when they divorce and have minor children. In Iowa, courts and the state’s Child Support Recovery Unit (CRSU) take active roles in enforcing child support orders.
If you’re a parent involved with a child support action, here are several things you should know to guide you through the process.
- Who Must Pay Child Support in Iowa?
- How is Child Support Determined in Iowa?
- What is the Purpose of Child Support?
- Which Agency Handles Child Support Matters in Iowa?
- How Do I Ask for Child Support?
- Does Alimony Affect Child Support?
- Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
- Verifying Paternity
- Consequences of Not Paying Child Support
- Modifying Child Support Payments
- Child Support and Taxes
- When Does Child Support End in Iowa?
Who Must Pay Child Support in Iowa?
Both parents must financially support their children, whether married, unmarried, separated or divorced, unless custody terms state otherwise. Typically, the noncustodial parent will make payments to the custodial parent to offset living expenses.
Iowa law accounts for shared custody in the child support formula used to calculate payment amounts. In cases where custody is shared, the amount of child support paid by the paying parent will be reduced according to the amount of time they have custody of the child.
How is Child Support Determined in Iowa?
The Iowa Supreme Court developed Child Support Guidelines for child support and medical support orders.
Both parents must support their minor children, so both parents’ net monthly incomes are used to set the appropriate amount. Stepparent and public assistance payments do not count as part of the monthly income.
Some items can be deducted from the net incomes, such as federal and state income tax, required pension plans, union dues, and whether a parent has a legal responsibility to support other children. Other items, such as car payments, housing costs, credit union payments, charitable deductions, savings, and voluntary pension plans are not allowed as deductions.
After establishing net incomes, the number of children is also considered to set the child support amount.
The court will use the Iowa Schedule of Basic Support Obligations (Schedule) chart to figure the support amount.
To arrive at a correct amount, figure out the portion of the combined income of both parents that is from the noncustodial parent. Multiply the Schedule amount by the noncustodial parent’s share of the total parental income to give you the basic child support obligation.
The amount and affordability of health insurance may change the final amount owed, and there may be an extraordinary visitation credit for the noncustodial parent. In some cases, the amount will vary due to the childcare expenses of a custodial parent.
If you prefer, you can estimate how much child support may be due in your case by using the Iowa Child Support Estimator tool.
What is the Purpose of Child Support?
Child support is the ongoing monetary expenditures and payments to cover a child’s living and medical expenses. It is a recurring payment by a parent for a minor child when that parent does not have full custody. In some cases, support may be extended indefinitely, such as when a child has ongoing health or medical needs.
The goal is to protect the child’s welfare with an agreement fair to both parents. This agreement can be reached by the parents or determined by the courts.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Child Support
Which Agency Handles Child Support Matters in Iowa?
The Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU), under the direction of the Iowa Department of Human Services, oversees child support matters in the state.
It provides several services, including:
- Establishing and enforcing child and medical support orders,
- processing support payments
- Locating parents and their employers or other income sources
- Establishing paternity
- Suspending and reinstating support orders
- Modifying support orders
- Registering other states’ orders for enforcement or modification in Iowa
- Sending and receiving referrals for services to and from other states
- Enforcing support orders
To find the nearest CRSU office, go here.
The DHS website also has a locator tool you can use as well.
You can also call an automated information line at 1-888-229-9223 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
How Do I Ask for Child Support?
Complete the Application for Services form found online on the DHS website’s Forms page to start the process.
You may also request an application from your local office. Return the application to the Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) office closest to you.
To find the mailing address of the office closest to you, visit the Offices page, where you will enter your address and be directed to the nearest office location, along with the mailing address
Does Alimony Affect Child Support?
Spousal support and child support payments are treated separately in Iowa. However, they can influence each other because the closer the income both parents are to each other, the smaller any awarded child support payments will be.
This is important because spousal support payments can directly affect child support since they are considered part of a recipient’s income. However, it’s important to note that alimony payments are not deducted from the overall payor’s income.
Alimony payments can be modified or eliminated if either spouse’s income changes, possibly due to changing jobs, increased medical expenses, or inheritance. If these changes drastically affect a recipient’s or payee’s income, child support payments can also fluctuate.
Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Alimony
Is Health Insurance Considered a Part of Child Support?
According to Iowa Code 252E, medical support is separate from the court-ordered amount of child support. It may be in the form of health care coverage or cash medical support, which is the payment of a specific dollar amount to use for medical expenses.
A parent may be required to provide medical support for their children and may be required to obtain health insurance coverage if it is available at a reasonable cost, such as through an employer’s group health insurance policy or another group plan.
The CRSU will enforce this provision by sending a National Medical Support Notice (NMSN) to the payor’s employer to enforce the court-ordered health care coverage. The employer must follow the requirements in the notice. and notify the CRSU if a plan is not available and the reason it is not available, or if the child is enrolled and supplies details of the plan.
Once the children are enrolled, the employer must withhold premiums, provide coverage information, and notify the CRSU of a termination or change in health benefit plan coverage.
Either parent can request genetic testing. However, Iowa’s Child Support Recovery Unit (CSRU) can only perform genetic testing when the paternity of the child has not yet been legally established.
In Iowa, paternity is established:
The most common genetic testing sample is done through swab collections from the mother, alleged father, and child. The genetic testing vendor will file the results with the clerk of court. If the probability of paternity is 95% or higher, it creates a presumption that the alleged father is the biological father.
Either parent can challenge the results by filing a written notice with the district court within 20 days from the date CSRU issued the test results to the parties.
Consequences of Not Paying Child Support
The CRSU has several possible enforcement tools to ensure that parents comply with support orders. These include:
- Income withholding
- Offsets of federal and state tax refunds
- Offsets of payments owed to federal and state vendors who do business with government agencies
- Administrative levies of accounts at financial institutions
- License sanctions
- Reporting to credit agencies
- Referrals to the U.S. Attorney for felony prosecution
- Contempt of court actions
- Garnishment actions
- Placing liens against real estate
- Enforcing medical support orders through a payor’s employer
- Receiving and disbursing child and medical support payments
CSRU also has projects and grants to increase and enhance the involvement of parents with their children and improve child support processes. Some of these include an employment grant to help payors find work, facilitating access and visitation, and participating in other parental activities.
Modifying Child Support Payments
Iowa’s Child Support Recovery Unit can change support amounts and medical support provisions. When you ask to change an order, the amount of support can go up, down, or stay the same.
Modifying an order will not address visitation and custody issues. They are treated separately.
The person asking for the modification may have to pay for the costs of serving the forms on the other parent or other fees charged by other states for completing the process. Service fees in Iowa are typically $55 or more for each person served. Service in another state often costs $100 or more.
There are no set timeframes for how long a modification will take. In some cases, it could be several months, depending upon how difficult it is to locate a necessary party and verify income or assets. It may take longer to complete the process if another state is involved. This may be the case if the order was entered in another state or if one of the parents lives in another state.
Here are the ways a modification can take place:
Review and Adjustment. The CSRU will ask the court to approve a change in the support amount if the difference between the old and the new child support amount is more than 20%.
If it’s less than 20% and medical support provisions need to be added to the order, the CSRU will ask the court to add dependent health care coverage provisions and adjust the child support amount.
You can request a review if you’re ordered to pay or entitled to receive support, and the current support amount ends more than 12 months from the date that CRSU gets your request. It has been more than 24 months since your order was entered, changed, or deemed inappropriate for adjustment, whichever occurred last.
Administrative Modification. This process is used when the Review and Adjustment process can’t be used. Some reasons why this might be the case include:
It is less than 24 months since your order was entered, changed, or determined not appropriate for adjustment, and either parent’s net income (after taxes) has changed by 50% or more.
A child should be added to the current support order and:
- the child’s parents are the same as the other children in the order, and
- the child’s paternity is legally established (such as through marriage, adoption, court order, or paternity affidavit.)
- set child support at zero
- did not set a cash amount of support and stated a reason, which no longer exists, or
- is for medical support only.
There was an error in the child support amount and/or medical support provisions when the order was prepared or filed.
The noncustodial parent was a minor, so child support was reduced or waived. The noncustodial parent is no longer a minor, is no longer in school, or was required to attend parenting classes but did not do so.
Cost-of-Living Alteration (COLA). To request a COLA, both parents must agree in writing and accept service of the documents by regular mail. For a COLA, you do not provide financial information. Instead, the new amount is calculated based on the consumer price index (CPI).
Child Support and Taxes
Child support payments are neither deductible by the payer nor taxable to the recipient. Don’t include child support payments received when you calculate your gross income.
However, you may be able to claim the child as a dependent. Generally, the custodial parent is treated as one who provided more than half of the child’s support. In some cases, the noncustodial parent may be treated as the parent who provided more than half of the child’s support.
Many agreements include a provision that each parent declares half the children as dependents when there is an even number of children. The parents alternate years claiming the child for an odd number of children. In this situation, parents may need to submit Form 8332, Release/Revocation of Release of Claim to Exemption for Child by Custodial Parent, or a substantially similar statement.
When Does Child Support End in Iowa?
In most cases, parents must pay child support until a child turns 18. In some cases, payments may be cut short or suspended if a child becomes emancipated. However, support may extend past 18 if the child is still in high school full time or has a physical or mental disability requiring continued support.
The CRSU also provides services to help end a child support obligation in a process known as Suspension.
Suspension can take place when:
- One or more of the children are living with both parents who have reconciled and are living together in the same household (Reconciliation), or
- One or more of the children are living in the same home with the parent ordered to pay support (Change in Residency), or
- One or more children live with a caretaker who does not want CSRU services (Caretaker).
To end support, parents must first ask the CRSU to suspend it. In most cases, parents must agree in writing to end support by asking for Suspension. Suspension does not change the amount of past-due support.