You Could Be on the Hook for College Expenses
If you currently pay child support, you are probably operating under the assumption that your obligation will be complete when your child turns 18 and graduates from high school. In most cases, you would be correct. The child support laws in Illinois generally require a parent—usually the one without primary residential custody—to pay support until the child is no longer a minor and has earned a high school diploma. You may be surprised to learn, however, that your obligation may continue, depending on your family’s specific circumstances, as your child pursues an undergraduate degree. Illinois, for some time, has recognized the right of a child to seek support from either or both parents for help with educational expenses, and, earlier this year, some cleanup language was added to the law that will take effect in January.
Not Usually Part of the Divorce
Although divorcing parents may be able to reach an agreement on paying for college during the course of the marital dissolution, many do not even think of it. With so many issues of more currently-pressing importance, it is easy to understand why that may be the case. The law in Illinois, however, leaves the door open for any party—either spouse or the child—to revisit the subject later, even after the child has already turned 18 and started college.
Types of Eligible Expenses
Since non-minor support for educational expenses is primarily meant to help with funding the child’s ability to pursue a degree or certification, the courts generally expect that awarded support will go toward tuition, books, fees, room and board, and other reasonable costs associated with college. The law, however, does not explicitly limit educational expenses to those incurred at the institution alone. Instead, educational expenses may also include medical insurance or care, transportation, utilities, food, and other necessary supplies.
Beginning in 2016, the law regarding non-minor support will reflect a few changes passed earlier this year. The first change sets a basic financial standard for educational expenses, requiring courts to base calculations for support on the expenses that would be incurred by an average student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, regardless of where the child is actually attending school. The second change provides that educational expenses are generally eligible for support until the child obtains a bachelor’s degree or turns 23, but in no case will they extend beyond age 25. Finally, the amendments explicitly require a student to maintain at least a “C” average or risk the support being terminated.
As the child you may are supporting approaches the end of high school, you are likely to have questions about the law and the possibility of your continued obligations. Contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney today to get the answers you need from a team who understands your concerns.