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dkennedy
dkennedy, Attorney at Law
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 6005
Experience:  JD Degree, Social Service Experience, Child Support Officer
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With regards XXXXX XXXXX Code 598.21F 2(a), which states a.

Customer Question

With regards XXXXX XXXXX Code 598.21F 2(a), which states:

a. The court shall determine the cost of postsecondary
education based upon the cost of attending an in-state public
institution for a course of instruction leading to an undergraduate
degree and shall include the reasonable costs for only necessary
postsecondary education expenses.
What is the definition of reasonable costs for only necessary postsecondary education expenses? Does this include off-campus apartment expenses and vehicle? For example, I am okay with paying the necessary room/board/food plan when it is university provided, however, if the child decides to move off-campus, then I feel that expense should be the child's burden, along with any applicable transportation costs that may be incurred due to this move.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  dkennedy replied 2 years ago.

dkennedy :

Hi,

dkennedy :

I would be glad to help you with this.

Customer :

Great -thanks

Customer :

some additional information that may be of use is dissolution of marriage entered 27Oct1997

dkennedy :

Every college has a certain amount that they consider "the cost of attending" or some similar language. It includes room and board, and fees--whatever they consider the cost of going there. This is available in the registrar's office. In Iowa, you can check the U of I in Iowa City, Iowa State at Ames, or even UNI in Cedar Falls. They all have that info, although each can be a little different.

dkennedy :

Let's say your child wants to go to Drake in Des Moines. That is a much more expensive school, because it's private. The Iowa Code requires that all can be considered is the cost of one of the public colleges.

dkennedy :

So, as for the child moving off campus, that would not matter. The "cost of attending an in-state public institution" is the amount that matters. If the child decides to rent a condo for $1500 a month, that wouldn't matter. You only have to worry about that set amount.

dkennedy :

I know it's kind of an odd concept, but go ahead and ask any questions and we can chat about it further.

Customer :

That makes sense on the public versus private cost, and the "cost of attending" - that is where I was concerned. The wording of modification that the ex-spouse is trying to include does not cover either of those two issues. I just want to make sure that the agreement covers the cost as identified by the university only. What about the transportation aspect?

Customer :

It seems that if the student is living on campus, the transportation costs are minimal, so not sure that this is a necessary expense, however, the modification has transportation included.

Customer :

And if the wording is included, would this include cost of vehicle, plus gas, insurance, maintenance, etc?

Customer :

another question - in the modification, it states "so long as the child is between the ages of 18 and 23" - however, 598.1 definitions state that the age limitation is 18 to 22, thus 23 would not be included, correct? should this be modified?

dkennedy :

I don't think that is included. The cost of attending is under the assumption that the student is there on campus, living there, attending classes there, etc. If the student wants to go back and forth between home and school, that's on them.

dkennedy :

To the other question, age 23 would not be included. I have never seen an approved modification that lists the age of 23, but it would be adverse to the law.

Customer :

that is how I read it regarding the transportation - so this should not be accepted in the modification

Customer :

agree on age 23 - so this will also not be accepted in the modification

Customer :

one final question - regarding the cost and the wording for how the expenses are split - the modification is stating that each parent shall pay 1/3, however, the child has been approved for loans and grants that would cover more than 1/3 and is also working on-campus

dkennedy :

Customer :

seems that the amount the child is approved for should be considered and the amount the child is expected to earn as income should be considered before both parents are just ordered to pay the 1/3

dkennedy :

The loans and grants reduce the amount you would have to pay. However, not the job the child has.

Customer :

ok so the calculation should first consider the child's loans and grants and then what is remaining should be split between the two parents, correct?

dkennedy :

This area of family law is one of the most contested because it is so vague, and there are thousands of variables.

dkennedy :

Yes, that's the way it usually works.

Customer :

yes i have read several cases and that is why i am trying to get some clarification :)

dkennedy :

And, the recent cases pretty much say that the money is to be sent to the child, not the ex.

Customer :

currently the modification states"Once the cost is calculated, the petitioner and respondent shall each pay 1/3 within 30 days of receipt of costs"

dkennedy :

Here's the thoughts on that. Some parents want to send it straight to the college, but, the loans and grants probably pay the college tuition and fees. What the student often needs is money for paper, books, back pack, bus fare, shoes, snacks, copies, library fees, etc.

Customer :

that makes sense - the modification actually specifies that the parties shall deliver their respective payments directly to the institution, but it seems that the wording "shall each pay 1/3" needs to be modified

dkennedy :

That modification sounds a bit off, and not exactly according to the code, or with the cases. But, as I said, this area of family law is always being appealed, changed, challenged and so forth. It changes frequently.

dkennedy :

The bottom line to me is this: You should try to do your best to follow the law, and without getting "screwed" do your best for your child. After all, it's not about the "letter of the law" as much as the love for your child and willingness to help with a good education.

Customer :

lets say that the child's loans and grants cover 60% of cost of attendance, then parents would split the remaining 40% and either send payment to institution if there is a balance remaining, or to the child to cover the costs of the items you mention above - what would you recommend for the response? so the ex-spouse 's attorney has made the modifications mentioned above and sent it for acceptance, however, I am not in agreement with the wording, so am trying to determine what response should be sent back

Customer :

absolutely agree

dkennedy :

Let me ask you this--is your child going to college in the very near future, or is this just a modification to cover the situation in the years to come?

Customer :

I am actually the new wife of the petitioner, and his son is already attending UNI, we are currently paying 1/3 of the expenses from the university, however, the ex-spouse is requesting modifications as we discussed and I just want to make sure that we are doing the right thing for the child, but also covering ourselves. The child is just starting his second year

Customer :

i know the code states that the subsidy should not exceed 1/3 for each parent, but with the wording in the modification it is requiring 1/3 each instead of deducting the approved loans and grants first and then splitting the cost

dkennedy :

Why the modification?

dkennedy :

Let me do a little research and get back to you.

Customer :

Not sure - she stated that is was just to clarify

Customer :

ok thanks

dkennedy :

I looked at a few recent cases, and there is some differences on whether student loans should count, but, in my opinion, if your husband is paying 1/3 of the cost of whatever is left after grants and so forth, I do not see a reason for a modification and I would definitely say not to sign up for all that extra stuff unless he consults with an attorney who can actually look it over. It sounds as if it is just a ploy to try to get more money.

dkennedy :

When a lawyer is writing something up, there could be a few words in the document that can just be devastating and not "caught" by the person initially reading it.

Customer :

he is paying 1/3 of all costs, not after grants and loans, so right now, the total expense is split 1/3 each

dkennedy :

That sounds more than reasonable to me, and exactly what is required by the law.

dkennedy :

I do not see any judge approving these extra things if the parties do not agree.

Customer :

agree on the wording really having a major impact

Customer :

we will reject the modifications, unfortunately he has a lawyer but the lawyer does not offer any advice other than to sign it, he and I both agree that the wording seemed to be off so that is when I started doing some research

dkennedy :

One word or phrase can make a huge difference. And, if he is paying 1/3, there has to be some underlying reason why they are asking for a modification. "Just to clarify" sounds fishy to me.

dkennedy :

Is this a lawyer that concentrates on family law?

Customer :

do you think we should have the wording adjusted so that the expenses subtract the child's contribution and the remaining is split between parents, not to exceed the 33%? right now it states each shall pay 1/3

dkennedy :

You could, but you don't really need to, because the Iowa Supreme Court has already decided that.

dkennedy :

I would just get out of any modification. It just does not appear that there is any need for one.

dkennedy :

He needs to get a different lawyer if you both feel that something is wrong and you are not getting any good advice.

Customer :

agree on the fishy part - not sure if his lawyer concentrates on family law, it is the same lawyer he used for his divorce back in '97 and he lived in a smaller community so it may have been the case where that was the only lawyer available at the time, we now live in AZ but his ex and child are still in Bettendorf.

dkennedy :

Is there actually a petition filed, to go to court again? Or is this just a request for them both to agree to a modification

Customer :

a petition is filed and they are now requesting a modification

dkennedy :

A modification can only be obtained if there is a substantial change in circumstances, not anticipated at the time of the divorce. I don't see any substantial change in anything. It sounds like the whole thing ought to be dismissed.

dkennedy :

What do they say is the "substantial change"?

Customer :

not seeing anything called out - with the exception that the child recently graduated thus the child support payments terminated in June 2010 and he started his postsecondary in that fall, the modification request has been on going for several months - specifically around the postsecondary education support

Customer :

so timeline is divorce decree in Oct 1997, joint order for modification in Oct 2003 to update the custody versus visitation - husband moved out of state so ex wanted updated agreement, and then now modifications for postsecondary are being requested

dkennedy :

As I said, I don't think it is necessary. Your husband is doing all he should and more. I would not agree to anything, and he needs to either get the attorney on board or get someone else. This could end up costing quite a bit more than he anticipated if he signs the wrong thing. I don't know what the child is majoring in, but think about medical school or law school.

Customer :

yes i agree, he is majoring in general education

dkennedy :

Well, I hope I have shed some light on this situation. I know it is so inexact it is frustrating. But, I think the ex is out of line and he should not sign without better legal advice.

dkennedy :

Good luck to you both!

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