Child Support – What Does it Cover?

By : J.D. Hartung

In Iowa, child support is calculated pursuant to the Iowa Supreme Court’s Child Support Guidelines which can be found here.

The stated purpose of the 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.  While the guidelines cannot take into account the specific facts of individual cases, they will normally provide reasonable support.”  (See Rule 9.3).

However, the Guidelines DO NOT specify the child related expenses they are intended to cover. Accordingly, we are left to advise clients on a case-by-case basis as to what constitutes a “reasonable” expense that was intended to be covered by their monthly Guideline Child Support.

As a general rule, monthly child support DOES cover a proportionate share of the child’s food, clothing and shelter expenses at the other parent’s residence.   It is also reasonable to assume that child support covers the child’s reasonable and necessary public school expenses:  registration, lunch tickets, school related extra-curricular activities, etc.

It is also fair to assume that monthly child support DOES NOT cover private school tuition, select sports & activities, private lessons, summer camps, special school trips / travel, prom dresses & tuxedos, electronic devices, cell phones, cars, etc.

As a rule of thumb, we typically advise clients that it is reasonable to assume that if the expense can be considered a basic necessity (food, clothing, shelter, medicine, public education, etc.) – it is most likely provided for in Guideline child support amount. However, if it is a discretionary expense that a Court would or cannot “order” a parent to provide (i.e. private tuition, cell phone, automobile, etc.) then parents first need to discuss and agree upon whether such an expense should be incurred – and how much each parent is willing to contribute towards such expense(s).

Despite the “uniform” Guidelines, the calculation of monthly child support can also be very nuanced – involving multiple considerations including but not limited to income (or income capacity), tax implications, health care costs, number of dependent children, day care expenses, etc.

For more information about how your Child Support should be calculated or what it should pay for – the attorneys at Hartung Schroeder are available to assist.


J.D. is a co-founder and partner at the law firm of Hartung and Schroeder. He started the firm with friend and colleague, Brad Schroeder, after working in both boutique and large, multi-state firms. He saw first-hand that a small firm brings definite advantages to clients. Experienced in general litigation, he serves a wide range of clients including those seeking legal counsel for business, family law issues and personal injury. You can read more about him or get in touch here.