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Kane County child support attorneysMost 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.

Non-Minor Support

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.

Kane County child support lawyerWhen a court enters a Uniform Order of Child Support, the obligation to pay support exists until a fixed point in time, usually when a child reaches 18 years of age. However, there are other points at which an obligation may be terminated, either by law, court order, or mutual agreement. It is critical to know what those points may be.

Common Events That End Child Support Obligations

The most common event, as one might imagine, is that the child in question reaches the age of 18, which is considered the age of majority in Illinois and all but a handful of U.S. states. The rationale is simply that no child support may be owed for someone who is no longer a child. However, it is possible that the custodial parent may petition the court to extend the support obligation until the child has either graduated high school or has turned 19 years old. Graduating high school is considered a formative event, and if a child has not yet completed it, their custodial parent may require a few more months or years of support.

Kane County family law attorneyAs the high school graduation season draws to a close, prospective college freshmen are looking ahead toward the beginning of a new adventure. Over the past several decades, however, rising tuition costs and tighter household budgets have made paying for post-high school education more difficult than ever. More and more students are turning to their parents for help with college expenses, though many couples lack the financial ability to assist their children. Some can afford to help, but make the decision not to do so. When this happens, does a college-bound student have any recourse under the law?

Non-Minor Support for College Expenses

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) does contain a provision that could allow the court to require divorced parents to contribute toward their child’s college expenses, even after the child has reached adulthood. The existence of such a law seems to create a double standard: a child whose parents are divorced can get help, but a child whose parents are still together cannot. The reality, however, is not quite that simple.

college expenses, divorce negotiations, FAFSA, 529 plan, college savings plan, college savings, divorce agreement, Geneva family law attorney, child custody, marital debt, school expensesThere are several items to negotiate during a divorce and because of this, it is easy to overlook issues that can later turn out to be essential ones. Many divorcing couples with young children do not consider the issue of college expenses and tuition because it seems years away. However, with each passing year, high school graduation dates move closer to reality.

Regardless of the age of your children, make sure you discuss how college expenses will be divided and shared between both you and your ex, and that it is specifically spelled out in the divorce agreement. Otherwise, one parent could end up footing the majority, if not all, of the expense. And it is not just tuition that needs to be agreed on. Remember to also include other expenses such as fees, books, supplies, housing, transportation, and any other expenses incurred by college students.

Whether married or divorced, school-related funds should be placed in a proper account in order to ensure those funds will still be there when the child enters college. A 529 plan is a savings plan that is used strictly for education, and whose earnings are not subject to federal taxes. If college funds are not put in a 529 plan and a married couple splits up, those funds become part of the marital estate and money that was supposed to be for your child’s education could instead be used to pay of marital debt or legal fees.

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