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Iowa Child Support and College Expenses

Article written by Illinois & Iowa Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
November 22, 2019

In this article, we explain Iowa child support and college expenses.  We answer the questions “do I have to pay for college expenses in Iowa?”, “how is ‘good cause’ determined by the court?”, “how is the amount of a ‘post-secondary education subsidy’ calculated in Iowa?”, and “how much do I have to pay for college expenses in Iowa?”.  We also answer “can my child’s ‘post-secondary education subsidy’ be terminated?”, “where do I send my ‘post-secondary education subsidy’ payments in Iowa?”, “what if I have been repudiated by my child?”, “what if my child goes to an out-of-state or private school?”, and “what if my child is too young to think about college?”

Do I Have to Pay for College Expenses in Iowa?

Iowa Law allows for either parent or the child to request a “post-secondary education subsidy” to help with certain college expenses.  The judge is authorized to issue a college support order if “good cause” is shown after considering the parents’ financial resources and the needs of the child.  Parents can also agree to pay for a portion or all of a child’s college expenses and present a written agreement to the Court for approval.

How is “Good Cause” Determined by the Court?

The Court considers the age of the child, the ability of the child to receive post-secondary education, the child’s financial resources, whether the child is self-sustaining, and the financial condition of each parent when determining if “good cause” exists for a “post-secondary education subsidy” for any child of divorcing or divorced parents who is between the ages of 17 and 23.

How is the Amount of a “Post-secondary Education Subsidy” Calculated in Iowa?

Once “good cause” is established, the Court will determine the cost of post-secondary education based upon the cost of attending an in-state public institution for a course of study leading to an undergraduate degree.  This amount is known as a “post-secondary education subsidy.”  Typically, the cost of undergraduate studies is the average price of tuition, room, board, books, supplies, mandatory dues, and student health costs.  The Court will also take into consideration the child’s expected contribution, which is determined by the child’s financial resources, the availability of financial aid (scholarships, grants, student loans), and the ability of the child to work and earn income while attending school.

How Much Do I Have to Pay for College Expenses in Iowa?

Before the amount each parent is required to pay is determined, the child’s expected contribution is subtracted from the amount of in-state collegiate expenses calculated by the court.  The amount required for each parent to pay for a child’s college expenses cannot exceed 33.3 percent of the total cost of post-secondary education.  This means the child will be responsible for the remaining amount.

Can My Child’s “Post-secondary Education Subsidy” Be Terminated?

Yes.  In order to maintain eligibility while attending college between the ages of 17 and 23, the child must be enrolled in post-secondary education full-time and maintain a cumulative grade point average in the median range or above during the first calendar year.  Report cards are to be forwarded to each parent within ten days of the completion of the academic session and receipt of the reports.

Where Do I Send My “Post-secondary Education Subsidy” Payments in Iowa?

The “post-secondary education subsidy” is payable to the child, the educational institution, or both.  The “post-secondary education subsidy” is not payable to the custodial parent.

What if I Have Been Repudiated By My Child?

Repudiation means that a child has either publicly disowned or denounced the parent, refuses to acknowledge the parent, or acts in a similar manner.  In these cases, a “post-secondary education subsidy” will not be awarded to the child.

What if My Child Goes to an Out-of-State or Private School?

The process of calculation for a “post-secondary education subsidy” remains the same, regardless of whether or not the child stays in-state or chooses to enroll in a private university.

What if My Child is too Young to Think About College?

Decisions about post-secondary education can be addressed as the child approaches the age of seventeen.  Each parent and the child have the right to request a “post-secondary education subsidy,” even if the divorce was finalized many years before higher forms of education could be considered.  If there is an agreement about post-secondary education between parents at the time of divorce, consult with an attorney about how to proceed.

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How is “Good Cause” Determined by the Court?

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