A Deeper Look at How New Illinois Laws Affect Paying for College
A college education is virtually a requirement for a successful career in the twenty-first century, and a divorce does not excuse parents from making every effort to ensure their children receive quality higher education. Illinois law has long provided courts with the authority to require both parents to contribute to the post-secondary educational expenses of their children, and amendments to Section 513 of the newly overhauled Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act outline even more clearly how divorced parents may be ordered to do so.
How and When Divorced Parents Pay for College
The first thing the new law on college expenses clarifies is how long parents may be required to contribute to college expenses, previously a point of contention in many cases. The IMDMA now requires parents, when subject to such an order, to contribute to educational expenses until their child’s twenty-third birthday unless “good cause” can be shown otherwise. The law does not define exactly what “good cause” means in this context, but also goes on to clarify that there is absolutely no obligation to provide for educational expenses under any circumstances once the child turns 25.
Other new parts of the law also allow for the early termination of the parent’s responsibility to contribute toward college expenses. As one might expect, there is no requirement to keep paying for college expenses once the child has completed a bachelor’s degree, but the law now also terminates the obligation of the parents if the child marries while still in school. In addition, Section 513(g) also requires students to maintain a “C” average for their parents to contribute toward their schooling expenses, though this requirement may be waived in cases of serious illness or other showing of good cause.
How Much Is Reasonable?
As the costs of a college education can vary widely between institutions like a community college and a four-year private university, several cases had previously made their way through the courts attempting to limit what parents pay toward college expenses. The new law settles this matter by restricting the costs of tuition that the parents must contribute toward at no more than the tuition and housing rates of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for that academic year. However, the statute also provides that a court may go above this cap with “good cause.”
The IMDMA also makes clear how much parents are to contribute toward application expenses. Section 513(b) now states that the parents of the child must provide money for no more than five college applications and two standardized tests such as the SAT or the ACT. In addition, if necessary, the parents must contribute to one pre-course for a standardized test. Previously, these fees were not mentioned in the IMDMA.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
If you are involved in a divorce case and unsure about how you and your soon-to-be former spouse will pay for the college expenses of your children, experienced legal counsel can provide assistance. Our team will help you navigate Illinois’ new family laws to ensure your interests are protected and the needs of your children are properly are properly met. Contact our compassionate DuPage County family law attorneys today for a consultation.