The Iowa Supreme Court issued an interesting opinion on Friday, April 27, 2012 regarding divorced parents’ responsibilities for post-secondary education subsidies under Iowa Code Section 598.21F (2011). The case presented required the Court to determine whether good cause exists for ordering a parent to pay a postsecondary education subsidy and, if so, in what amount? The Court ultimately affirmed the district court’s determination that good cause exists for payment of a postsecondary education subsidy, but reduced the amount awarded by the district court.

In order for a court in Iowa to order a postsecondary education subsidy, first the child must qualify. Pursuant to Iowa Code Section 598.21F, to qualify the child must be between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two and must have demonstrated a capacity to succeed in postsecondary education. If a child is eligible, the district court “may” order a postsecondary education subsidy if “good cause” is shown.


Upon a showing of good cause, the Code provides a process for determining the subsidy.  The process generally looks at the cost of attending an in-state public institution, determines the amount the child should reasonably be expected to contribute and looks at the child’s ability to earn income while in school. The court then deducts the child’s expected contribution from the cost of postsecondary education to arrive at a figure that represents the remaining cost that will be attributed to the divorced parents of the child. The Code; however, explicitly caps the amount apportioned to each parent at no more than thirty-three and one-third percent of the total cost of the child’s postsecondary education at a state institution.