How Judges Decide How Much Child Support a Parent Must Pay

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The incomes of both parents decide 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 (noncustodial parent). Look at the Schedule on the Iowa Child Support website.

The Schedule uses each parents' monthly 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 amount that the noncustodial parent's income is of the combined income of both parents. Multiply the Schedule amount by the noncustodial parent's share of the total parental income. The resulting amount is the child support that the noncustodial parent owes.


A couple getting a divorce has one child who will be living with Mom. Dad's net income is $1600 a month. Mom's income is $400 a month. The total parental net income is $2000 a month. Using the Schedule, the total support amount is $490. Dad's net income is 80% of the parental income. Dad's support amount is $490 x .8= $392. 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 $95.

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 where care is shared about equally, 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 $392. In a joint physical care situation, Dad's support amount would be $294 ($392 x1.5 x .5=$294). Mom's support amount would be $60 ($400 x .2= $80 x 1.5 x .5=$60). 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 $234 to Mom ($294-$60=$234).

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

Last Review and Update: May 29, 2019

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