Tom Murphy

Hopkins & Huebner

Adel Office

College Expenses Following Divorce

The Iowa Code (Section 598.21F) provides that divorced parents may be required to pay for part of their children's education. There is no similar requirement regarding children whose parents are married to each other.

The Iowa legislature decided that children of divorced parents are at a disadvantage in going to and finishing college. Therefore, the legislature passed a law that provides divorced parents must pay an amount which "shall not exceed thirty-three and one-third percent of the total cost of post-secondary education" for their children.

The total cost of "post-secondary education" is based upon the cost of attending one of Iowa's three state universities, and includes tuition, room, books and board.

Divorced parents do not automatically pay a third of expenses. To determine the amount, courts look at the child's age, ability to achieve, and financial situation. Each parent's finances are also considered. The Court will review whether the child has financial assistance, and whether the child will be able to work during college.

There are limitations in the statute. If a child has disowned or refused to acknowledge a parent, that parent might not have to pay for the child's expenses. The child must maintain a grade point average in the median range or above during the first calendar year (not the same as a school year) of college, and promptly forward grades to his or her parents. In other words, the first full semester of college may determine whether or not parents continue to pay for their children's education.

The law has been upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court, even though it requires divorced parents to do something it does not require married parents to do. Parents may also agree at the time of their divorce to pay more than a third of their children's education expenses.

When divorcing, it is very important to be familiar with the terms of Iowa Code section 59.21F. This article is not all-inclusive. An attorney will help guide you through the nuances of the statute and ensure that if you are divorcing with young children, you can begin planning for the children's college education expenses.