IN RE THE MARRIAGE OF LYNN MARIE LARSEN AND ROGER WAYNE LARSEN Upon the Petition of LYNN MARIE LARSEN, Appellee, And Concerning ROGER WAYNE LARSEN, Appellant.
review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Michael J.
father requests further review of a court of appeals decision
affirming award of a postsecondary education subsidy.
M. Carr of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for
S. Facio of Newbrough Law Firm, L.L.P., Ames, for appellee.
case, we consider Lynn and Roger Larsen's parental
responsibility for postsecondary education for their daughter
following the dissolution of their marriage. As part of the
dissolution proceedings, the parties entered into a partial
stipulation regarding financial contributions toward their
daughter's postsecondary education. When their daughter
began to attend college at Iowa State University (Iowa
State), they could not agree on the proper amount owed by
each parent to support her education. On Lynn's motion
and after an evidentiary hearing, the district court entered
an order requiring the parents to each pay $6629.73 toward
their daughter's education for the 2016-2017 school year.
challenges the amount of postsecondary education subsidy the
court ordered. Roger claims the court improperly calculated
the reasonable costs for only necessary expenses by failing
to consider actual costs and by improperly including sorority
dues and a cash allowance. With respect to the daughter's
available resources, Roger argues the court failed to include
the full amount of scholarships awarded, failed to include
available but unaccepted unsubsidized student loans, and
failed to include an amount for income that could be
generated by the daughter from part-time employment during
the school year and summer employment.
transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of
appeals affirmed. We granted further review. For the reasons
expressed below, we vacate the decision of the court of
appeals, reverse the judgment of the district court, and
Factual and Procedural Background.
and Lynn Larsen married in 1995 and divorced in 2015. They
have three children, including a daughter named H.M., who was
born in October of 1997. H.M. enrolled in Iowa State for the
2016-2017 school year. Lynn earns approximately $77, 000 a
year from her job at Iowa State, while Roger earns
approximately $110, 000 per year from his job with the Iowa
Department of Transportation and from his service in the
the course of their marriage, Lynn and Roger set aside funds
for each of their three children for educational expenses in
§ 529 accounts. See I.R.C. § 529 (2012)
(establishing tax-free educational accounts for college
expenses). The balance for H.M. was $63, 107.24 on March 31,
of the dissolution proceedings, Lynn and Roger entered a
partial stipulation. Of importance, the partial stipulation
stated in the event any of the three children attended a
course of study or training beyond high school as
contemplated by Iowa Code section 598.21F (2015), each of the
parents must contribute to the applicable costs. The partial
stipulation further stated the § 529 accounts for each
child must first be used to discharge Lynn's and
Roger's respective shares of their postsecondary
education subsidy contributions. They "acknowledge[d]
these accounts are for the children and will not be used for
any other purposes or withheld from any of the
children." The partial stipulation stated Lynn and Roger
could not avoid the obligation to provide a postsecondary
education subsidy based upon claims of alienation or
estrangement. The district court incorporated the partial
stipulation into the divorce decree.
following year after the dissolution, H.M. began her
education at Iowa State. H.M. contemplates a five-year course
of study at Iowa State in architecture. Lynn filed an
application for a hearing to determine the postsecondary
education subsidy owed by each party.
August 22, 2016 hearing, Lynn offered testimony and presented
exhibits. Lynn provided an Iowa State financial award
document that shows $20, 000 as the estimated cost of
attendance for the 2016-2017 school year. This document
projected $8219 in tuition and fees, $8356 in housing and
meals, $995 in books and supplies, and $2430 in anticipated
personal expenses. Lynn also provided a shopping sheet by
Iowa State that shows $19, 750 as the estimated cost of
attendance for the same school year. Lynn also offered a
U-bill that reflects the actual cost of attendance for fall
presented evidence H.M. had joined a sorority for the 2016-
2017 school year. Lynn testified H.M. had been offered a
part-time, five-hours-per-week job at minimum wage.
also offered testimony and presented exhibits. He testified
he and H.M. are estranged. Roger provided exhibits showing
H.M. has $2119.11 in her bank account and an outstanding loan
of about $15, 000 on her automobile. From the total cost of
attendance, Roger subtracted scholarships and loans available
to H.M., $6000 in H.M.'s potential income from part-time
employment during the school year and summer employment, $750
in child support, and $2119.11 in H.M.'s bank account.
result of Roger's calculations, neither Lynn nor Roger
would be obligated to pay a postsecondary education subsidy
for H.M. Roger testified the parental contribution should be
zero because his calculations showed there would be a
surplus. He did not include sorority dues and a cash
allowance in his calculations. He believes H.M. can self-fund
her education as he has done toward his own education.
posttrial motions urging corrections and expanded rulings,
the court ultimately determined in an amended order that $19,
889.20 was the cost of attendance at Iowa State for the
2016-2017 school year. The court included $1920 in sorority
dues to the total cost of attendance. From $19, 889.20, the
court subtracted $5520 in scholarships. The court then
divided the remaining balance of $14, 369.20 in half for a
$7184.60 contribution from each parent. Because
this amount was more than one-third of the total cost of
attendance, the court reduced the required contribution of
each parent to $6629.73.
appealed the court's amended order. We transferred the
case to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed.
Roger applied for further review, which we granted.
Scope of Review.
of marriage are tried in equity and appellate review is de
novo. In re Marriage of Vaughan, 812 N.W.2d 688, 692
(Iowa 2012). On appeal, we give weight to the fact findings
of the trial court but are not bound by them. In re
Marriage of Olson, 705 N.W.2d 312, 313 (Iowa 2005).