You are getting ready to file for divorce. Your thoughts are all over the place, but you do have some very specific questions to which you need answers. Child support, for example, is one area in which you are not sure of how it works and what the state of Iowa says will be your responsibility.

Child support laws are supposed to be pretty basic and straightforward; however, there are a lot of little details that can make them down right confusing. Who has to pay child support and how much? What is covered and what is not? How do I pay and how long do I have to pay? All are good questions that need answering.

Who pays and how much?

Both parents are legally required to financially support their minor children, their children over 18 who are still in high school and their adult children with mental or physical disabilities who cannot support themselves. The non-custodial parent is likely to pay a larger sum of financial support than the custodial parent. To figure out who has to pay what, the court will look at a number of factors:

  • Both parent’s income level
  • Living arrangements
  • Child’s specific needs
  • Who is supplying health insurance

The court will also look at how many children are in need of support. The amount ordered is typically a percentage of your income. The more children you have, the higher percentage of income you’ll likely have to pay.

What does child support cover?

The purpose of child support is to pay for a child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing and child care. Other things, such as extracurricular actives and college expenses, may also be covered. These items, and any other extras, are things you’d have to fight for, though, as they are not considered basic needs.

How do I pay and how long do I have to pay?

If ordered to pay child support, payments must go to the Department of Human Services, not directly to the other parent. It is this way for a couple of reasons. First, this allows the state to keep tabs on who is and who is not paying their support obligations. Second, it leaves a paper trail which can prevent the receiving parent from claiming you are not making your payments.

A child support order typically ends when a child turns 18. However, as previously stated, you may have to pay for a longer period of time if the child is still in high school, needs help with college expenses or if the child has some type of disability and requires financial assistance. If you believe you’ve met your obligation, you can file to have the support order cancelled — you should not just stop making payments.

These are just a few basic questions you may have regarding child support. Your legal counsel will be able to go over this issue in more detail.