College Expenses and Continued Child Support
Most divorced parents think of child support ending when the child in question turns 18 years old. Usually, this is the case. However, there are several situations in which a court may order more, and one of those is when dealing with college expenses. Illinois law differs somewhat from many other states’ in that while married parents may decline to contribute to their children’s college expenses, unmarried parents may be ordered as part of a divorce agreement to contribute according to their income level.
College expenses such as tuition, room and board, books and the like fall under a legal category Illinois calls non-minor support. It is also possible, but somewhat less common, that the court will hold some living expenses to fall into that category as well—costs such as bus or train passes and medical insurance. The key word in such determinations is “reasonable,” and the court has quite a bit of leeway in that regard.
While Illinois courts generally support children in wanting to attend college, they will not make unreasonable demands on parents to pay. Multiple factors will be taken into account in deciding how much each parent can and should pay, including the child’s academic performance and ability (or lack thereof) to support themselves, both parents’ current and future earning potential, and the parents’ retirement circumstances.
Illinois Law and Divorced Parents
If you or your spouse feel that you are paying too high a share of the college expenses, it is possible to change that. The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that either parent may file a petition and bring up the question of how much each spouse should be contributing, if anything. Sometimes college is provided for specifically in the language of a divorce decree, but sometimes it is not. The crux of the matter will usually lie in whether the matter has been “reserved” or it has simply been stated that both spouses “will contribute.”
If the matter is reserved, it means that it will only become an issue when it is officially made one in court. In other words, the issue will remain unaddressed until you or your spouse files a petition with the court to discuss who should be paying what. This matters because if a matter is reserved, your spouse has no obligation to contribute beyond what they were already paying. Compare this to the more amorphous “shall contribute” language, which simply establishes that both spouses must contribute to their children’s education, but not how much, or for which expenses specifically.
A Divorce Attorney Can Help
Parents tend to contribute to college expenses so that they can see their children succeed, but it can be challenging for divorced parents to decide how much each of them should be paying. If you have questions related to the payment of non-minor support for college expenses, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-232-9770 for a confidential consultation today.