How Judges Decide How Much Child Support a Parent Must Pay

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The incomes of both parents determine the amount of child support in Iowa.

  • Judges use a chart called the Iowa Schedule of Basic Support Obligations (Schedule) to figure the support amount.
  • Judges will order child support to be paid by the person not receiving physical custody of the children.
  • That person is called the noncustodial parent.
  • Look at the Schedule on the Iowa Child Support website.

The Schedule uses each parent's monthly adjusted net income. It also uses the number of children. Generally support will be based on the combined net monthly incomes of both parents.

  • Based on that combined income amount, a total amount of monthly child support is found on the Schedule.
  • You need to 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.
  • The resulting amount is the basic child support obligation.
  • The amount and affordability of health insurance may change the final amount owed.
  • There may be an extraordinary visitation credit for the noncustodial parent.
  • There is a variance possible for child care expenses of a custodial parent. 


A couple getting a divorce has one child who will be living with Mom.

  • Dad's net income is $2400 a month.
  • Mom's income is $600 a month.
  • The total parental net income is $3000 a month.
  • Using the Schedule, the total support amount is $686.
  • Dad's net income is 80% of the parental income.
  • Dad's support amount is $686 x .8= $549.
  • There may be an additional adjustment for health insurance or medical costs.

For low-income noncustodial parents, only the noncustodial parent's income is counted.

  • The Schedule says low income parents have incomes in the shaded part of the Schedule.
  • For example, if the noncustodial parent's adjusted net income is $1000 per month and there is one child, then the noncustodial parent's child support obligation is $111.

This Schedule will be applied in every case unless the judge finds it is unfair to use it. The judge must make a written finding as to why the Schedule is not being used.

When "joint physical care" is ordered, care is shared about equally between the parents. The judge decides the amount of support in a different way.

  • After figuring out each parent's share of support, you multiply that amount by 1.5 and then multiply that sum by 50%.
  • In the example above, the Dad's support amount was $549.
  • In a joint physical care situation, Dad's support amount would be $412 ($549 x1.5 x .5 = $412).
  • Mom's support amount would be $103 ($686  x .2 = $137 x 1.5 x .5 = $103).
  • The Schedule lets the parent with the greater support amount subtract the amount the other parent would owe them and only pay the difference.
  • In this situation, Dad would pay $309 to Mom ($412 -$103 = $309).

If you want to estimate how much child support might be in your case, you can use the Child Support Estimator on the Iowa Child Support website:


Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275. 
Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or 
apply online at
If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice. 
Last Review and Update: May 01, 2023
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