Friday, August 25, 2006

Case Law Development: Calculation of Child Support in Joint Custody Arrangements

The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's award of child support in a case in which the parties had stipulated to "joint physical placement" and a "joint parenting plan" for their child.  Father argued that the child support award treated him as though he were not the custodial parent, when he was a joint custodian according to the agreement.  Under Iowa law, the child support obligation of parents who provide "joint physical care" of a child is calculated using the "offset method." "In the offset method each parent should be deemed the noncustodial parent on the guidelines chart for purposes of calculating the support each would owe the other. One child support obligation is offset against the other parent's child support obligation, rather than requiring a monthly exchange of child support payments."

However, the trial court had calculated support as though Mother had custody and Father had visitation.  The appellate court that, even though the parties had termed their arrangement "joint custody", they did not in fact have joint physical care as actual overnight time with father was "approximately one-third of nights and an average of approximately one-third of the hours of a year." Thus it was proper to calculate child support as though mother were primary custodian.

In re Marriage of Reeves, 2006 Iowa App. LEXIS 997 (August 23, 2006)
Opinion on web (last visited August 25, 2006 bgf)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2006/08/case_law_develo_19.html

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