Legal Articles

Eddie Fishman | Hopkins & Huebner, P.C. | Adel OfficeChild Custody and Child Support

By Eddie Fishman | Hopkins & Huebner, P.C. | Adel Office

How Child Support is Determined in Iowa

Child support is the amount that one parent must pay the other parent for the support of a child. Child support is determined through the child support guidelines. The guidelines consider the parties’ income, physical care arrangement for the child, health insurance costs, and other factors to calculate the amount of child support owed. The amount calculated is presumptively correct but can be adjusted if the amount determined would be unjust or inappropriate. 

Physical care means the right and responsibility to maintain a home for the minor child and provide for the routine care of the child. Joint physical care can be awarded to both parents. Alternatively, one parent can be the primary caretaker, and the other parent awarded visitation rights. Parents that are awarded joint physical care or are the primary caretaker have the responsibility to maintain a residence for the child and provide routine care for the child.
The Offset Method

The type of care awarded can affect the amount of expenses a parent incurs for a child. Generally, speaking, the more visitation awarded to a parent, the lower the monthly child support cost. Also, joint physical care will either further reduce the amount of monthly child support required by the guidelines or allow the parent to be paid child support by the other parent. Child support for a parent with joint physical care is determined under the “offset method.” The offset method calculates the amount each party would be required to pay if they were a noncustodial parent and then base the child support upon the difference between those two amounts.


Sometimes a parent with joint physical custody can incur more expenses than a party awarded solely visitation. The child support paid by a parent awarded visitation will cover the normal and reasonable costs of supporting the child. Reasonable costs include costs of clothes, school supplies, and recreation activities. Since child support is intended to cover these reasonable costs, Iowa Courts have refused to require a parent awarded visitation to pay additional amounts for normal and reasonable costs, such as extracurricular activities. Conversely, a parent with joint physical custody will still have to maintain a home for the child, provide routine care for the child, and can be ordered to pay for half of the expenses for normal and reasonable costs for the child, such as extracurricular activities.  
If you have questions regarding custody and the child expenses, you should contact a trusted attorney to figure out what arrangement is best for you.