With the cost of college rising and more people attending every year, a common question divorcing parents have is whether a child’s college expenses can be factored into divorce agreements. In Illinois, section 513 of the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides the answer. That section provides that judges may award “non-minor support” in the case of a child’s educational expenses in some circumstances. The law provides guidelines on what factors judges should take into consideration when they decide whether to award support, what the support may cover, and what rights are afforded to the parents in exchange for this support.
Factors Judges Consider
Judges in family court have a wide range of discretion in awarding this sort of support. The law specifically calls out several factors to which they should look in order to determine if the case merits the support, including:
- The financial resources of both parents;
- The standard of living that the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
- The financial resources of the child; and
- The child’s academic performance.
However, the law clarifies that this list is not exclusive and that the judge should take into account “all relevant factors that appear reasonable and necessary.” Furthermore, judges need not make these determinations at the time of a divorce. Instead, they can choose to see how the children’s academics and parents’ finances develop over the years before assigning support.
Expenses Support Can Cover
In addition to providing guidance about the criteria judges should examine for the purpose of assigning support, the law also provides a list of possible expenses that the support should cover, including:
- Room and board;
- Dues and fees;
- Application fees;
- Medical and dental expenses; and
- Living expenses.
Once again, the law explains that this list is supposed to provide examples, and other costs may be included. Additionally, the court can also award support for expenses during breaks from school.
This wide variety of different potential expenses also gives rise to the practical issue of how parents actually pay the support. The court has the authority to order payment to the student directly, to either parent, or to the student’s school. The judge can also have the parents set up a trust or other special account to facilitate payment.
The drafters of the legislation were also conscious of the fact that all these expenses place an extra burden on a parent. To account for this the law does provide an extra right to a non-custodial parent who is required to pay non-minor support. The child is required to sign the consent forms necessary to give the parent access to the student’s records and grade reports.
If you have concerns about issues related to child support or other divorce proceedings, find a DuPage County divorce lawyer today and put their experience to work for you.