Both parents have an obligation to financially support their minor children after divorce according to their ability to do so. Each state has laws in place that address this support. While child support typically terminates when the child reaches the age of majority, Iowa has recognized the positive impact that a college education can have on a child's future. In response, state law allows either parent or the child to ask the court to issue a post-secondary support order requiring one or both parents to help with certain educational expenses.
Overview of PSES
When parents are divorced, Iowa law authorizes judges to issue a college support order when "good cause" is shown after considering the parents' financial resources and the child's needs. This is known as the post-secondary education subsidy -- and payments may be paid to the child or educational institution for use in meeting "necessary" expenses. These expenses can include tuition, room, board and other mandatory dues such as lab and computer fees and student health costs. Further, although parents can always agree to cover additional expenses, fraternity or sorority fees are considered optional and are not incorporated into the obligation.
The PSES support amount is based on the estimated cost of in-state, public, undergraduate schooling only. This is true even if the child ultimately decides to enroll at a more prestigious and expensive university. The court may consider the total cost, and then make deductions according to amounts the child can be expected to contribute by working or through other sources, such as scholarships, loans or grants. The remaining balance is then divided between the parents at the court's discretion, with the maximum contribution by either parent capped at one-third of the total obligation. If a parent directly furnishes a portion of the expenses, this amount is credited against her obligation. For example, if the child lives at your home and commutes to class, your portion of the obligation would be reduced by the amount of the room and board expense.
The PSES only covers a child until she reaches age 23. To maintain eligibility during this time period, the child must be enrolled full-time and have grades that are at least on par with the median grade point average. The child is required to furnish each parent with a copy of her grades within 10 days of receipt. If it is determined that the child's performance does not meet the criteria, the court may withdraw the obligation.
In Iowa, the PSES does not apply in cases of repudiation. Repudiation means that the child has either publicly disowned the parent, or has otherwise refused to acknowledge the parent. The rationale behind this exception is that by rejecting the relationship, the child has accepted that losing financial support may be a consequence of this action. However, it is important to note that repudiation constitutes something more than the parent and child disagreeing over lifestyle or career choices, or maintaining only limited contact.