The price of a college education these days can exceed six figures for a four-year degree. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees in 2017–2018 was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for in-state students at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state students at public universities. Those figures are for one year, and they do not include post-graduate degrees. Considering the expense of a college education, it is essential for parents who are getting a divorce to understand their options when determining who will pay for these costs.
Illinois Divorce Laws
The law states that parents may be required to contribute to the education of the child “as equity may require,” which means a fair division of the expenses. In the majority of divorces, the two parties create a written settlement agreement. This agreement typically, but not always, states how the parents will contribute toward their child’s educational costs. In many cases, the major considerations are:
the parents’ incomes
the parents’ financial resources
the child’s resources (such as financial aid, student loans, or college savings accounts)
According to Illinois law, a court can order a parent to help pay for a child’s college education in a divorce. Illinois is one of the few states in which payment of college expenses can be required without an agreement between the parents. The courts refer to these costs as “post-high school educational expenses,” because they are not limited to colleges or universities. Parents may also be required to help pay for trade or vocational schools for occupations such as electricians, plumbers, construction workers, beauticians, and more.
Other restrictions include the following: The child must keep at least a “C” grade average. Payments will end after a child’s 23rd birthday (or their 25th, if there is a good reason such as a delay due to military service) or if they get married. Obligations will be terminated when the child receives their bachelor’s degree.
It is possible to put a clause in a divorce agreement that allows the parents to determine who will pay for college at a later date. However, an obligation may or may not be retroactive. A retroactive obligation means a parent may be required to pay for costs that were incurred prior to when any petition for payment toward the child’s college expenses is filed.
What Are Considered “College Expenses”?
Unlike child support, the parents’ contribution to college expenses In the state of Illinois is not determined by a formula in the law; it is up to the judge’s discretion. However, Illinois law sets the factors the court should consider when determining who pays what. It also limits the parents’ obligations for some college expenses. Beyond the statutory limits, courts also consider that a parent should not be required to pay more than he or she can afford. The law defines “educational expenses” as including, but not limited to, the following:
tuition and fees
housing (on- or off-campus)
medical insurance and expenses
books and other supplies
Contact a Wheaton Divorce and College Expenses Lawyer
Paying for college is a significant expense even for a two-income family. If you are getting divorced, the thought of financing a college education can be very intimidating. Every situation is unique, but it is important to know your legal options for dividing your children’s college costs. The Andrew Cores Family Law Group can help you understand how to address these and other financial matters during your divorce and ensure that your child has the support they need while protecting your own financial stability. A knowledgeable DuPage County child support attorney can help guide you through the divorce process. To schedule a complimentary initial consultation, call our office today at 630-871-1002.