Are College Expenses Automatically Mandated In Illinois Divorce?

Can divorced parents in Illinois be automatically mandated to pay for their child’s college expenses? Generally, yes. The divorce court often requires each parent to pay for part of the child’s college education. Find out more below about this important topic. Then, contact the Naperville child support lawyers at Keller Legal Services if you have child support or college expense questions.

Paying For College Expenses Is Covered in 750 ILCS 5/513

In Illinois, educational expenses for the children of divorced parents are covered in 750 ILCS 5/513. This statute states that the divorce court can award money out of the income and property of either spouse or the estate of a deceased parent for the child’s college expenses.

Further, pre-college expenses are covered in the statute. When your child applies to college, it may be beneficial for him to complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The divorce court can require both parents and the child to complete the aid form. Also, the court can mandate that the divorced parents offer money for as many as five college applications, exam fees for the SAT or ACT, and the cost of one SAT or ACT prep course.

What Are Educational Expenses?

Illinois state law requires parents to not just pay for college tuition. Parents must also pay for many college-related expenses, including food, books and supplies, medical supplies, and housing. However, if your college student lives at home, the educational costs you have to pay could vary considerably.

Note that the laws of Illinois do not just cover college or university expenses. You also may need to cover your child’s vocational or trade school expenses. If you have any questions about the college expenses you must pay, your Naperville child support attorney can answer them.

How Much Can You Be Required To Pay?

Parents in a divorce will need to pay for college expenses with their assets and income. The judge will review your overall financial condition when she determines what you will pay. The judge can also require the child to contribute financially to their education.

College tuition varies at every school, so the law states that you cannot be required to pay college expenses above those at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for that year. Therefore, if your child wants to attend a more expensive school and you do not want to pay more than the University of Illinois tuition, he will have to pay for the rest with student loans.

The court will consider the following factors to determine how much you must pay for college expenses:

  • Your present and future financial resources to meet your needs, including saving for retirement.
  • The standard of living your child would have had if you had stayed married.
  • The child’s financial resources.
  • The academic performance of the child.

If you stay married to your spouse, the state cannot require either parent to pay for their child’s college education. But if you are not married, the state can require it. This was challenged in court in 1978 as well as in 2018. Eventually, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that Section 513 requires parents who are not married to pay for the college expenses of their children.

State law also puts some restrictions on your child obtaining their education. First, the judge may require the child to finance some of their college expenses if they can afford it. Also, your child has to have at least a C average and complete college before they are 23. But this can be extended to age 25 for a good reason. Finally, if your child is married or obtains a bachelor’s degree, you do not have to pay for any more college expenses.

How Are College Education Payments Made?

The Illinois statute says that your payments towards the child’s college expenses may be ordered directly to the college, the child, or another arrangement. The law also allows for a trust or related account to be set up for taking out funds to pay college expenses. However, for many parents, the most logical arrangement may be to pay the college expenses directly to the university. That way, you can be confident that the money will be used appropriately for the child’s education.

The state allows for contempt and enforcement hearings if one parent is not complying with the court order to pay for the child’s college expenses. If the court determines that the parent’s actions are willful and unjustified, it may hold the parent in contempt.

College Expenses And Support Orders

Determining the amount of college support is a vital part of the process. Other details must be ironed out. The divorce court can order you to pay college expenses to the child, your ex-spouse, or directly to the university. In many cases, it finds the latter preferable; it ensures the financial support will be used for its intended purpose.

Furthermore, college expense support depends on both parents being able to access the child’s academic record. This way, their academic progress can be checked. The court order also can mandate that the child meet specific behavioral and educational requirements standards, or the support will be eliminated. Also, the law states that other than for special needs, college expense support ends once the child has their bachelor’s degree.

What If The Parents Were Never Married?

Parents of children who were not married also can apply to the divorce court for help with college costs from the other parent. The Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 states that the court can order child support if there is ‘clear and convincing evidence of parentage.’ While the law does not mention college expenses specifically, the Illinois Appellate Court case Rawles v. Hartman made that distinction unnecessary.

Contact A Naperville Child Support Lawyer Today

There are many things to consider in a divorce, including how to handle child support and college expenses for the children. A Naperville child support lawyer at Keller Legal Services can help you navigate these tricky waters. Please contact our Illinois child support attorneys today at 630-505-1515 for a complimentary consultation about your child support and college expenses concerns.