Iowa Child Support & Overnight Calculations

Iowa child support is based on the number of overnight visits

Iowa uses overnights, or where the children sleep, as the basis for figuring shared custody timeshare percentages in its child support formula. Overnight totals then convert to a percentage.

Besides income, overnight percentages are a key part of the Iowa child support formula. Your overnights directly affect your child support, whether you pay or receive.

Most overnight totals are estimates (and thus incorrect)

Iowa attorneys and judges often rely on overnight estimates, even if they are incorrect, because counting overnights is tedious and time consuming. Divorcing parents often rely on these estimates as well.

Using estimates means your overnight totals are wrong when compared to your actual parenting time schedule. This means your child support amount will not be fair or exact.

How to calculate overnights instead of relying on estimates

To calculate overnights, the easiest and most accurate way is to use software. Without software, you're forced to count each night for a whole year, which is error-prone when you include alternating holidays, summer break, and any changes to the schedule throughout the year.

The leading overnight calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Overnights Now

Using software, you can also tweak your schedule to see how even little changes affect your total overnights, and you can see how your overnights change each year due to holidays and other events.

You can also track what actually happens, and show how many overnights you've actually received for any period of time. Historical information is a powerful tool when you request a child support modification or when you request more parenting time.

Fast facts on child custody and child support in Iowa

Child support formulas in Iowa are tied to sole or joint physical custody status.

Iowa sole physical custody: The children reside with and are supervised by the residential parent, while the other parent is entitled to overnight visitations. In Iowa, the number of overnights with the non-residential parent translates to a child support credit, possibly reducing the amount paid.

Iowa joint physical custody: Each parent has significant periods of physical custody, which allows them frequent and continuing contact with their children. Parenting time is split approximately 50/50, and there is no parenting time credit that affects child support.

Iowa child support formula and parenting time percentage

The parenting time percentage credit only figures into a sole physical custody case. A joint custody case is figured using a different formula, without offering a credit.

Sole custody formula: Iowa family courts use a multi-tiered percentage table for parenting time credit toward child support for the non-residential parent:

  • 0% child support credit: 0 to 127 overnights by the non-residential parent per year
  • 15% child support credit: 128 to 147 overnights per year
  • 20% child support credit: 148 to 166 overnights per year
  • 25% child support credit: 167 to approximately 182 overnights per year

As the parenting time percentage increases, the amount of child support decreases.

Joint custody formula: Iowa family courts use a worksheet with a formula that outlines a joint physical care method, which assigns a child support amount based on each parent's income. The net difference is calculated and paid by the higher earning parent to the lower earning parent. Parenting time does not factor into the formula.

Examples of overnight percentages affecting Iowa child support

Consider the hypothetical sole custody case of Robert and Mary. Robert earns $4,000 per month, while Mary earns $2,400 per month. They have two children.

See how the child support amounts change in these sole custody examples:

  • Scenario #1: Robert, the non-residential parent, is scheduled to host the children between 128 and 147 overnights per year, for a 15 percent parenting time adjustment. He pays $801 in child support to Mary.
  • Scenario #2: If Robert increases his overnights to 148 to 166 per year, for a 20 percent parenting time adjustment, his child support amount lowers to $754 per month.
  • Scenario #3: If Robert increases his overnights to 167 or more per year, for a 25 percent parenting time adjustment, his child support amount lowers to $707 per month.

If the custody was reversed, and Robert had sole physical custody of the children, Mary would pay a percentage of child support based on her income to Robert. She could qualify for parenting time credits, depending on how many overnights she had with the children.

Examples of the joint custody formula in Iowa child support

Look at a joint custody scenario for a hypothetical child support case in Iowa. Robert earns $4,000 per month, while Mary earns $2,400 per month. They have two children.

See how the child support amount changes in these joint custody examples:

  • Scenario #1: Robert and Mary agree to an approximate 50/50 split. Because Robert earns more than Mary, he is required to pay her $198 per month to equalize what it costs to support their children in each home.
  • Scenario #2: If Mary got a new job with equal pay to Robert, the net difference between the two earners would be $0, and neither parent would pay anything to the other.
  • Scenario #3: If Mary became the higher earner due to a raise, new job, or Robert's sudden unemployment, a recalculation would show that she should pay the net difference in child support to Robert.
Other factors in the Iowa child support formula

Iowa's child support formula uses the following information to calculate your monthly amounts for shared custody child support:

  • Overnights: Unlike some states, Iowa does not factor in daytime visitations into a child support formula—only overnights. Overnights are included in the formula as a parenting time credit.
  • Eligible children: Qualifying children must be under age 18, or age 19 if completing high school or general education equivalency requirements full time. Support ends upon graduation.
  • Gross earnings: Gross earnings are established based on tax records and current pay stubs. Iowa law requires the use of both parents' incomes from the equivalent of one full-time job to determine a child support amount.
  • Specific deductions: There are some deductions allowed by Iowa family courts that allow an adjustment of the income, including health insurance premiums for the children, support for other children and child care expenses, for example.
How accurate child support helps your children

Paying accurate child support helps your children in several ways, primarily because it ensures their financial needs are met.

Here are some other reasons why accurate overnight numbers help you, the other parent and your children:

  • It provides a fair way to determine your child support amounts
  • It guarantees the child support amount reflects each parent's responsibilities
  • It allows for modifications if your actual time and scheduled time are different
  • It is compliant with Iowa law

Your financial obligations to your children don't end with divorce, so whether you are paying or receiving child support, you owe it to your children to pay or receive the proper amount.

Top 5 things to remember about Iowa child support and overnights

To ensure you are paying or receiving the right amount of child support in Iowa, remember these 5 things:

  1. The Iowa Supreme Court adopted new child support guidelines in July 1, 2009. The new guidelines outline an income shares formula similar to many other states.
  2. Iowa family courts figure parenting time percentages based on overnights, with 128 to 147 equaling 15 percent; 148 to 166 equaling 20 percent; and 167 on up equaling 25 percent.
  3. Iowa parenting time percentages only count overnight visits. Child visitation during the day or into the evening does not affect total parenting time percentages.
  4. Joint physical custody child support formulas do not include parenting time credits. Instead, each parent's income is analyzed and the net difference is paid by the higher earning parent.
  5. In sole custody cases, the non-residential parent generally pays child support to the residential parent, regardless of income totals. Joint custody cases generally find the higher earner paying child support to the lower earner.

Use the Custody X Change software to accurately calculate the total overnights for the Iowa child support formula.


The leading overnight calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Time

The leading overnight calculation software, Custody X Change, can calculate your overnights to see if they were estimated incorrectly.

Calculate Your Overnights Now