Not all parents agree that they need to contribute to their children’s educational expenses past the high school level. Some parents believe having a child work in order to pay for college expenses builds character, and for other parents, it is an expense they cannot afford. When parents’ divorce, the question of whether or not they will contribute to their children’s college expenses may be decided by a judge. In Illinois, courts can order parents to contribute to their children’s educational expenses, including college expenses.
Illinois law provides that in some cases, after receiving a petition from one of the parties, a court may award funds from a couple’s property or income, to be used for a child’s higher education expenses. If a parent is deceased, the court may order expenses to be paid from the parent’s estate. Generally speaking the educational expenses a court may order are for an undergraduate education, or for trade school. A parent who wishes to challenge a petition for college-related expenses has to show the court good cause why the petition should not be granted. If one parent has financial hardships, for example high personal student loan debt, they may argue that they should not be responsible for the child’s college expenses.
Factors a Court Considers
There are factors a court can use to determine whether or not to order contributions for college educational expenses. These include:
- The parents’ present and future financial resources – including the parents’ retirement savings;
- The kind of life a child would have enjoyed had the parents not divorced; and
- The child’s financial resources and academic performance.
Parents can make agreements limiting the college expenses they have to pay, or limiting the length of time they have to pay them for, however, the law generally provides that parents may be ordered to provide support for educational expenses for children who are under 25 years old.
New Changes in the Law
As of January 1, 2016, new changes took effect to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, and those changes will affect what parents are ordered to pay for educational expenses and in some cases, how much they pay. Additionally, children will have to maintain certain academic standards. Some of these changes will affect:
- Tuition and fees – the law will limit the amount of tuition to be paid to what a student would pay for the same academic year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
- Room and board expenses – these expenses will be similarly limited to a comparable plan for the same academic year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
- Medical insurance and expenses – parents may be required to cover these expenses; and
- College applications and standardized testing fees – parents may now be required to cover these expenses.
Termination of the court order may happen in certain circumstances under the new changes, for example when a student does not maintain a “C” average academically, or gets married. However, an order cannot be terminated simply because a student gets arrested, joins the Army, or becomes pregnant, even if any of these actions may disappoint the parents.
Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney
If you are a parent considering or going through a divorce, you need a compassionate and experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process. Contact our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys to learn how we can be assistance to you throughout your case.