If you use child care, you are likely familiar with how costly it is. According to the Iowa Governor’s Child Care Task Force, the average monthly cost of child care is $1,031, which is more expensive than housing costs for the average Iowa family. Because of how expensive child care is, you may be considering whether you can truly afford to pursue a divorce or move on from an unhealthy relationship. Although raising a child in a split household will undoubtedly result in changes to your financial position, the Iowa Supreme Court has recently revised the Iowa Child Support Guidelines to increase child support if the family has child care costs.
Generally, under Iowa law, when you establish a child custody order (whether through divorce or a custody action), child support will be awarded through the Iowa Child Support Guidelines based on the custodial arrangement. In calculating the standard amount of support, the Guidelines take into account the number of children subject to support, both parent’s incomes, the costs of the children’s health insurance, and several other factors, such as whether a parent is supporting a child from a different relationship. In a primary custody arrangement, the parent who is primarily raising the child will receive this monthly child support amount without any further financial contribution from the other parent. Unfortunately, because child care costs have spiraled out of control, many Iowa primary custodians were receiving less in child support than the actual total cost of child care. That is, after factoring in child care costs, the custodial parent had little or no additional support to contribute to diapers, formula, clothing, food, etc.
In recognition of the hardships imposed on primary custodians who receive standard child support, the Iowa Supreme Court revised the Iowa Child Support Guidelines. First, the Guidelines were revised to specifically remind Iowa courts that child care costs are not adequately factored into standard child support awards. Second, the Guidelines establish that child care costs indisputably constitute grounds for an upward variance to the child support amount. Third, the Guidelines state that an upward variance of child support, due to child care costs, should be “liberally granted.” Although the amount of upward support that is awarded will depend on several factors, such as the difference between the parent’s incomes, these changes are likely to provide the support needed for custodial parents to work full-time and clothe and feed their children.
If you are interested in learning more about how to modify your current child support award to take child care costs into consideration or how to ensure you receive this benefit going forward, feel free to contact Regan Wilson.
 The hardship of childcare costs is not as prevalent in shared (joint) physical care arrangements, because the parents will either equally split the child care costs or will be individually responsible for the child care costs incurred during each parent’s respective parenting time.
Regan Wilson is a Shareholder Attorney at Dickinson Law practicing primarily in family law and general civil litigation. For more information on her practice, click here.