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Iowa child support, custody, visitation, and wage garnishment rules

Use this Iowa child support law to learn about your child support rights and responsibilites.

How is Iowa child support determined?

In Iowa, either or both parents could receive a court order to provide child support for the child. The factors the courts consider are:

  • the child’s need for close contact with both parents
  • the recognition of joint parental responsibilities for the child
  • the specifics of each individual case

There are specific Iowa Child Support Guidelines, designed to be in the best interests of the child, that the courts use to determine the correct amount of child support. These will be followed, unless there is an agreement by the parents as to an amount of child support considered fair and reasonable by the court. This amount could also be adjust for fairness or special needs of the child.

The following percentages of the net income of the paying parent are what the Iowa child support guidelines are based on:

  • 1 child 20%
  • 2 children 25%
  • 3 children 30%
  • 4 children 35%
  • 5 children 40%
  • 6 children 45%

At what age does child support payments end?

Generally, the obligation ends when the child reaches 18 years of age or the child graduates from high school, whichever occurs later. A child will also automatically be ineligible for child support if that child marries, is removed from disability status by a court order, or the child dies.

Iowa's custody guidelines:

Yes. Usually parents are able to reach an agreement about the custody, child support and visitation concerning their children. If they cannot, then the courts will decide these issues for them.

Joint or sole custody may be awarded based on the best interests of the child and in an effort to encourage the parents to shared the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. Joint custody may be awarded if one of the parents requests it, and it’s in the best interests of the child. The
courts consider:

  • the ability of the parents to make joint decisions
  • the ability of the parents to encourage the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other parent
  • how close the parents live to one another and how this relates to the practical considerations of where the child will live
  • the fitness and suitability of each parent
  • the preference of the child, if of appropriate age
  • the wishes of the parents
  • whether both parents have actively taken care of the child during the marriage and since the separation
  • whether the child will suffer psychologically, emotionally or developmentally due to lack of contact with both parents
  • the safety of the child
  • whether one or both parents agree to joint custody

Iowa's medical insurance guidelines:

Generally, the decision as to which parent is going to provide medical insurance coverage for the child and how medical bills will be paid is set out in the marital settlement agreement. Usually, if a reasonable medical insurance plan is available through one of the parent’s employment, they are required to cover their child on it.

How permanent are the provisions for Iowa child support and custody ?

Court orders providing for support and custody of children are subject to change or modification to reflect significant changes in income, and/or living arrangements of the children.

While all orders concerning the children are modifiable in the future, we encourage you to not enter into an agreement based on the idea that it can always be changed or modified later.

Wage garnishment for child support payments:

Yes. Iowa, like most states, has a provision for withholding child support directly from the earnings of the parent who has been ordered to provide support. It is withheld much like income tax is withheld from
earnings payments.

This way of paying and receiving child support is generally easier for both parties and considered a very dependable solution. The way it typically works is, once the support is withheld, it is then sent to the state agency authorized to receive and disburse payments. Once it has been verified that the support was paid, it is then sent to the parent designated to receive the support.

If a non-custodial parent can show that they are providing more than 50 percent of the support for dependents not included in the court order from a second marriage, and is not in arrears, no more than 50% of their disposable income can be attached if they cannot pay the full court-ordered amount of both orders.

That number goes to 55% if the non-custodial parent is in arrears, 60 percent for a person only providing support to dependents under the current order, and 65% for a person who is in arrears and paying only on the current order.

How does joint custody work?

The current trend is to encourage parents to work together for the best interests of their children. Joint custody is now widely recognized by parents, courts and state legislatures as the preferred parenting plan for divorcing parents. The specific considerations the Iowa court examines in determining an award of joint custody are listed above in the
custody section.

Specifically, joint custody is a form of custody of minor children that requires both parents to share the responsibilities of the children, and for both parents to approve all major decisions related to the children.

While joint custody is a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and major decisions affecting the children, it rarely works out to be a 50-50 sharing of time with the children. Usually one parent is named as the primary joint custodian and the other parent is granted visitation. The primary joint custodian typically retains the decision making power to determine the child’s primary residence and school and to designate things such as the child’s primary physician.

How Iowa determines child visitation:

Generally, parents are free to visit with their children at all times that are mutually agreed to by both parents. However, when parents cannot agree, the standard visitation schedule accepted most everywhere in the
nation is:

  • every other weekend
  • four to six (4-6) weeks during the summer
  • alternating holidays
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