Skip to main content
Iowa Judicial Branch
Main Content

Child Support

Information on this web page is general in nature. Descriptions of laws and court procedures are abbreviated. This information is not intended as legal advice. If you do not understand this information or if you need legal advice you should see an attorney.

Iowa Law Overview

In Iowa, parents have a legal obligation to support their minor children. This obligation continues for a child who is between the ages of eighteen and nineteen years who is engaged full-time in completing high school graduation or equivalency requirements in a manner that is reasonably expected to result in completion of requirements prior to the person reaching nineteen years of age. The obligation may include support for a child of any age who is dependent on the parties because of physical or mental disability.  See Iowa Code section 598.1(9).

How is child support determined?

Iowa law requires that the amount of a parent's child support obligation be determined by applying uniform child support guidelines prescribed by the Iowa Supreme Court. The purpose of the Iowa Child Support Guidelines is to provide for the best interests of the children by recognizing the duty of both parents to provide adequate support for their children in proportion to their respective incomes. An order may vary from the guideline amount only if the court finds such adjustment necessary to provide for the needs of the children and to do justice between the parties under the special circumstances of individual cases.  See Iowa Code section 598.21(B).

Where can I find more information about the Iowa Child Support Guidelines? 

The Iowa Child Support Guidelines are contained in Chapter 9 of the Iowa Court Rules (PDF). The chapter contains all of the following:  Guidelines Rules, Medical Support Table, Adjusted Net Monthly Income Computation, Basic Method of Child Support Computation, the Joint (Equally Shared) Physical Care Method of Child Support Computation, the Iowa Schedule of Basic Support Obligations, and the Child Support Guidelines Worksheets.  Federal law requires the supreme court to review Iowa's Child Support Guidelines every four years to ensure that the Guidelines provide fair and accurate child support amounts.

Will I be required to provide medical support for my child? 

Yes.  Federal law requires states to address medical support in all child support orders, including requiring either parent to provide medical support.  Medical support includes the payment of medical, dental, prescription, and other health care expenses for a child.  Medical support can be either health insurance or cash medical support.  

Most medical support requirements can be found in Iowa Code section 252E.1A. The statute sets the standard for reasonable cost medical support at no more than 5% of a parent's gross income, but it also authorizes the supreme court to adopt a standard other than 5% in the child support guidelines. The supreme court adopted an alternate standard for low-income parents, which provides that reasonable cost medical support is either health insurance or cash medical payments that cost between zero and five percent of the parent's gross income.  

Where do I send child support payments? 

All child support payments must be sent to either the clerk of court office or the Child Support Recovery Unit collection centers of the Iowa Department of Human Services.   Do not send payments directly to the other parent. If you are in doubt as to the proper location for sending your payment, check your child support order.   See Iowa Code sections 598.22 and 252B.14.

If you have a question about a payment that is processed by the clerk of court office, you may check records online or go to the appropriate clerk of court office. Clerk of court offices do not provide case information over the telephone. If you have a question about a payment that is processed by the collections services center, you may contact the Child Support Recovery Unit’s 24-hour interactive voice response at 1-888/229-9223 (toll free) or visit the Child Support Recovery Unit website.

Am I responsible for paying for my child’s college education?

Iowa law provides that a court may order parents to pay certain college expenses of a child. This amount is referred to as a "post secondary subsidy." In determining whether to order this subsidy, the court shall consider the age of the child, the child's abilities, the child's financial resources, whether the child is self-sustaining, and the financial condition of each parent.  

The amount of a court-ordered post secondary subsidy is based upon: (1) the reasonable cost of attending an in-state public institution for a course of study leading to an undergraduate degree and reasonable costs for only necessary postsecondary education expenses; and (2) the child's financial resources including the availability of financial aid and the child's ability to work while attending school.   

After deducting the child's expected contribution, the court shall apportion the cost remaining among the parents. However, the amount paid by each parent shall not exceed 33 1/3 percent of the total cost of the post secondary education. The post secondary subsidy shall be paid to the child or the educational institution—not the custodial parent.  See Iowa Code section 598.21F.

How are child support orders enforced? 

Iowa law provides a number of measures for enforcing compliance with a child support order, including income withholding, garnishment, liens, and contempt of court.  If a parent has not complied with a support order, it is the responsibility of the other parent to initiate steps to enforce. You should consult with an attorney about appropriate action or contact the Child Support Recovery Unit at 1-888/229-9223 (toll free) or visit the Child Support Recovery Unit website. See Iowa Code section 598.23.

How are child support orders modified? 

Child support orders may be modified if the court finds that a substantial change of circumstances has occurred. A party must apply to the court for a modification of an order. When determining if there is a substantial change in circumstances, the court shall consider numerous factors, including:  changes in the employment, earning capacity, income, or resources of a party; receipt of an inheritance, pension or other gift; changes in medical expenses of a party; changes in number or needs of dependents of a party; changes in the residence of a party; or remarriage of a party.  See Iowa Code 598.21C.

© 2018 Iowa Judicial Branch. All Rights Reserved.