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Iowa Child Support Guidelines Update

On July 1, 2013, changes to Iowa’s Child Support Guidelines went into effect.  Pursuant to the federal Family Support Act of 1988 and Iowa Code section 598.21B, these guidelines are subject for review every four years.  After establishing a committee known as the 2012 Child Support Guidelines Review Committee (“Committee”), the Iowa Supreme Court then instructed the Committee to review the existing child support guidelines and “ensure that their application results in the determination of appropriate child support award amounts.”

The in-depth review the Committee conducted included: studying the history of Iowa’s child support guidelines; listening to the input of various sources, including the Iowa Child Support Advisory Committee (“CSAC”) they appointed as well as comments from district court judges and other interested groups, including the Iowa State Bar Association and Juvenile Law Section; and carefully considering and assessing all other relevant material.  In response to the findings, evaluations, key facts and overall input, the Committee provided the Iowa Supreme Court with numerous recommendations.  The Committee touched on many issues, including low-income noncustodial parents, imputing income, medical support, unreimbursed medical expenses, child care expenses, and the effect of a stepparent’s insurance, among several others.

Among the adopted changes, the most pertinent include:

  • The minimum support obligation was increased from $10 per one child to $30 per one child and $50 for two or more children;
  • The extraordinary visitation credit cannot reduce support below the minimum support obligations noted above;
  • The maximum amount of a combined monthly income was increased from $20,000 to $25,000;
  • Mandatory pension deductions were limited:
    • The deduction may not exceed the current Social Security and Medicare tax rate; and
    • The deduction is allowable for employees who do not pay into Social Security (i.e., civil servants, police, firefighters);
  • Mandatory Occupational License Fees are now allowable deductions when calculating the net monthly income.  However, these fees are allowable deductions, subject to the following:
    • They must be paid by the employee themselves, not the employer; and
    • They must not have been previously deducted on the employee’s tax returns;
  • Criteria used in determining whether a court should vary from the guidelines now includes child care expenses that have been necessitated by employment or education;
  • Voluntary unemployment and underemployment without just cause were added as factors a court may consider when imputing income.  If either factor or both factors are found, the court may calculate child support on a determination of earning capacity.  Earning capacity may be determined by the following:
    • Employment potential;
    • Probable earnings based on work history;
    • Occupational qualifications;
    • Prevailing job opportunities;
    • Earnings levels in the community;
    • Other relevant factors, such as education, capability of entering workforce, etc.;
  • When a parent is ordered to pay/provide health insurance, they will not be additionally ordered to pay cash medical support when they have obtained insurance coverage for the child;
  • In a joint physical care case only, parents will share the costs of uncovered medical expenses in proportion to their net incomes.  All other cases, including split or divided physical care will continue abiding by the 2009 guideline requiring the custodial parent pay the first $250 per year per child, not to exceed $800 per year for all children; and
  • If the child is provided health insurance coverage through a stepparent, the premium cost of said insurance will be added to the basic support obligation and prorated between the parents.  If either parent objects, a court will determine the issue based on equity or fairness among the parties and child.

In addition to some of the key highlights stated above, the child support tables, forms, schedules and grids were each replaced in their entirety.  This was necessary to ensure all of the various documents corresponded with the newly adopted guidelines.  The Committee recommended these changes to Chapter 9 of the Iowa Court Rules, which were then approved by the Iowa Supreme Court on May 9, 2013.

 

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