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How Is the Cost of College Tuition Handled in an Illinois Divorce?

Posted on in Child Support

Wheaton divorce attorneysThere is no doubt the price of a college education has skyrocketed in the past decade. Tuition at public and private universities can be a huge expense for a family. When parents decide to divorce, their financial situation changes. The thought of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for even one child’s post-high school education can be daunting. This is especially true for a spouse who was a stay-at-home parent and did not work outside the home during the marriage.

Most states allow parents who are divorcing to work out an agreement for college costs and payment details. According to Illinois divorce law, in some cases, the cost for child-related expenses such as college can be determined by a judge if a couple cannot come to an arrangement. Illinois is one of the few states where payment for college or vocational expenses can be ordered without an agreement between the parents.     

Who Can Be Ordered to Pay?

In Illinois, child support usually ends when a son or daughter turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. It generally stops at age 19 even if the child is still in high school. The support issues that were originally addressed under the child support law then fall under the “college expenses” portion of the law. The college cost law applies to “non-minor children” or those who are over 18 years old. 

Unlike “standard” child support, which is considered to be a right that belongs to the child, the issue of non-minor support for college expenses is considered to be financial question between divorced parents. If the parents’ divorce settlement includes an agreement regarding how the parents would split their children’s college expenses, the court is likely to enforce such a provision. Likewise, if the divorce decree explicitly states that the parents would not contribute toward their children’s college education, the court is likely to uphold that agreement as well. 

Many divorcing couples, however, do not address the issue of college costs in their divorce negotiations. In such cases, a parent who has decided to help his or her child pay for school could petition the court to order the other parent to help as well. 

What Are Considered College Expenses?

In making a decision, the court will consider each parent’s income and their financial resources, as well as their needs, including those associated with retirement. The children’s resources could also play a role if a student receives an academic or athletic scholarship or is eligible for grants.

Besides just the cost of tuition at the post-high school level, there are other expenses that need to be considered when determining who will pay for what. A college student may either live on campus or in an apartment off campus, so that means paying for dorm fees or rent. In addition, depending on the class or curriculum, an instructor may require the student to purchase books, supplies, or sign up for online courses.    

  • Tuition and fees
  • Room and board (housing fees)
  • Cost of books and supplies
  • Living expenses (toiletries, food) 
  • Medical insurance
  • Dental expenses

The current law typically limits the obligation to pay for post-high school educational expenses once a person’s son or daughter reaches the age of 23, receives a Bachelor’s degree, or gets married. Generally, an undergraduate degree takes four years to complete. The law also states that a contribution to these expenses ends if a child fails to maintain a cumulative C grade point average, except in the event of illness or other good reasons.

Contact an Oak Brook Divorce Attorney

Undergraduate and graduate degrees do not come cheaply these days. The immense cost of college can be overwhelming, especially if someone is on a single income. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, it is important to know what you are entitled to in terms of a settlement and your contribution to your child’s college education. You need to speak to a knowledgeable Naperville divorce lawyer who can help you navigate how the post-divorce expenses will be handled. Call Anderson and Associates, P.C. today at 630-653-9400 to schedule a free consultation. 

 

Sources: 

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=8300000&SeqEnd=10000000

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