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House bills propose changes to child support laws

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

A pair of bipartisan bills offered this week in the Iowa House seek to make substantial changes to the way Iowa Code deals with child support matters.

House File 429, offered by state Reps. Deborah Berry (D-Waterloo) and Walt Rogers (R-Cedar Falls), would allow the diversion of a portion of a non-custodial parent’s child support obligation to a savings account held for the child. The diversion would have to be made by court order, under the following circumstances:

  • the custodial and noncustodial parents agree to the diversion;
  • the net monthly household income of the custodial parent equals at least 110 percent of the monthly allowable living expenses for the area in which the custodial parent resides; and
  • the portion of the child support obligation to be diverted does not exceed 3 percent of the total child support obligation amount.

Under the provisions of HF 429, access to and use of the funds by the child are to be restricted as specifically provided in the order to meet his or her needs, and unless an exception applies, the child is to only have access to the funds when he or she is older enough to enroll into an institution of higher learning, and may only be used for higher education costs.

The bill states that unused funds may be used for any purpose after the child reaches the age of 25.

“[T]he court may provide in the order for alternative access to and use of the funds in the savings account by the child or may modify the order and allow alternative access to and use of such funds other than as provided in the bill once the child reaches 18 years of age or is emancipated, if the court determines the child has excessive medical expenses or other circumstances deemed by the court to be appropriate for access to and use of the funds in the savings account,” the bill’s explanatory statement says.

House File 491 is also offered by Berry and Rogers, and it would direct the Iowa Department of Human Services to replicate Polk County’s Reliable Employment and Child support Help program. It requires the program use community colleges and local workforce services to provide employment-oriented services, responsible parenting classes, case management and enhanced child support services to unemployed non-custodial parents who are behind or at risk of falling behind on their child support obligations.

The bill’s explanatory statement says: “The REACH program was initiated through a federal Office of Child Support Enforcement national child support non-custodial parent employment demonstration projects grant. The purpose of the grant is to give child support enforcement programs the ability to help non-custodial parents overcome employment barriers, to help noncustodial parents strengthen relationships with their children, and to help noncustodial parents pay their child support consistently.

The pilot program was implemented in Des Moines in October of 2013. It included the Iowa Child Support Recovery Unit, Des Moines Area Community College, and the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa, Dads with a Purpose, United Way of Central Iowa, and the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

The incentives for participation in the program would include reinstatement of any sanctioned license, and bypassing the administrative levy for one year.