Under Iowa law, both parents have a duty to provide adequate support for their children in proportion to their respective incomes. The Iowa Supreme Court has adopted uniform child support calculations that are used when calculating a parent’s child support obligation. One of the most common questions that arise in family law matters is “How much will I have to pay in child support?” or “How much will I get in child support?”
Attorneys are equipped with a special program that calculates child support. It can be difficult to provide estimated child support amounts on the spot due to the several factors considered in the calculation and the particular numbers that are needed. The common factors considered in calculating child support are the following:
1. Income. Both parties’ incomes are included in the child support calculation. However, income figures are not always white and black, especially if one’s income fluctuates due to changes in employment or one of the parties is a business owner. Income is generally estimated or averaged using paystubs or tax returns from previous years. If a parent is not working, but has the ability to, the Court may impute an income on the parent as if he/she was working.
Many questions arise whether certain sources of income, such as disability benefits, overtime, or annual bonuses are considered income. This is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. If a parent remarries, the stepparent’s income is not included for child support calculation purposes.
2. Number of Children. The number of children eligible for child support will affect the child support obligation. The number of children means only the children born between the parties. It does not include a party’s child(ren) outside of the marriage or relationship. If one or both of the parties have children outside of the marriage or relationship, that party will likely receive a credit in the child support calculation.
3. Custody. The custody arrangement between the parties can have a significant effect on the child support obligation. For instance, if one parent has primary care of the child(ren), meaning the child(ren) live with him/her a majority of the time, the other parent will likely pay more child support. However, if the parents have shared physical care, meaning they equally parent the child(ren), the child support obligation will be less.
4. Taxes. The parties will generally alternate claiming a child on taxes, or if there is more than one child, they will each claim one. Regardless, the child support obligation is affected depending how each party files taxes and how the children are claimed on taxes.
5. Health Insurance. The cost of health insurance for only the child(ren) is also considered in the child support calculation. If the payee provides insurance for the children, the payor’s obligation is generally higher. If the payor provides the health insurance, his/her obligation is generally lower.
6. Other Credits/Deductions. There are other credits and/or deductions to the calculation that may be applicable to your case. Such may include extraordinary visitation credit and childcare expenses.
It is important to note that child support is not calculated considering a party’s assets, debts, or other liabilities. For example, while a payor may have monthly expenses, such as mortgage and/or a car payment, the guidelines do not take such obligations into consideration.