A court must look to several factors in order to properly divide the expenses of caring for a child between divorced parents. Since 2009, Iowa has used a version of the Income Shares Model to calculate child support amounts. This model is based on the principle that each parent should pay an equal share of the total obligation in proportion to their income.
Overview of Support Models
There are three child support models used as a basis for calculating support amounts in the United States. While some states adopt variations to the models, the calculations generally follow the Income Shares Model, the Percentage of Income Model or the Melson Formula. The Income Shares Model operates according to the principle that each parent has a duty to support the child, and that the amount of support should be in proportion each parent's income. In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court adopted guidelines based on this model.
In computing child support amounts in Iowa, a judge first calculates the adjusted net monthly incomes based on the gross incomes of both parents. If a parent receives public assistance, that money is not considered part of gross income for this calculation. To arrive at the net income, the law requires that certain deductions be taken, including taxes paid, medical support paid and qualified child care expenses. These amounts will either reduce or raise the obligation and include health insurance premiums for the child, which is prorated between the parents relative to who actually pays the premium. Medical bills more than $250 per child and not covered by insurance will also affect the support amount.
After calculating net income for both parents, the court will determine the actual support to be paid, based on either the Basic Method of Child Support Computation grid or the Joint (Equally Shared) Physical Method of Child Support grid. The first model applies when one parent is awarded sole physical custody and the latter applies if the parents share physical custody. In computing the support amount, Iowa courts take into account the total number of children as well as the number of overnight stays, in addition to each parent's net income. The offset amount is then awarded to the parent with the lower percentage of income to ensure that each parent pays the same share. These factors will then correspond to an obligation amount on the grid.
It is important to note that courts in Iowa are allowed to adjust support amounts due from the non-custodial a parent if his income is below the poverty threshold. This is to make sure that he can continue to cover his own basic living necessities in addition to child support. A judge also may deviate from the guidelines if needed to prevent a substantial injustice, or if necessary to provide for the needs of the child.