New Illinois Family Law in 2016: Contribution to College Expenses
Support of a child after a divorce or custody judgment does not necessarily end when a child reaches the age of 18. Under Illinois law, both parents may be required to contribute to the costs of their child’s education after high school. The new statute in 2016 adds specific limitations on how much each parent must contribute to these expenses, and for how long they will be required to do so.
What Kind of Educational Expenses Are Covered
The court can require that parents contribute to college, vocational, professional or other training after graduation from high school, and also any period during which the child is sill attending high school after age 19. “Educational expenses” can include, but is not limited to:
- Tuition and fees
- Housing expenses, whether on campus or off campus
- Medical expenses, including medical insurance and dental expenses
- Books and other supplies necessary to attend college
- Reasonable living expenses of the child during the academic year and during breaks. This applies whether the child is living on campus or off campus. If the child is living with a parent, living expenses can include the reasonable costs of food, utilities, and transportation.
The Amount Each Parent Must Contribute
Under the statute as written prior to 2016, the court would consider the following factors when determining how much each parent must contribute to a child’s post-high school educational expenses:
- The financial resources of both parents
- The standard of living that the child would have enjoyed if the parents had not divorced
- The financial resources of the child
- The child’s academic performance
The new 2016 statute still includes the above four factors, and further clarifies the first factor, as follows:
- The present and future financial resources of both parties to meet their needs, including, but not limited to, savings for retirement.
This means that the court will not only consider the income or assets of each parent, but also their needs for supporting themselves in the future, including the need to save for retirement. Additionally, if the parents had set up a college savings plan prior to the divorce, this will be considered a “financial resource of the child.”
Cut-Off Date Based on the Child’s Age
The court has also set cut-off dates for how far into the future both parents must contribute to these expenses. Parents will only be required to contribute to those expenses incurred prior to the child’s 23rd birthday. The cut-off date can be set further into the future if both parties agree, or if good cause is shown. In any event, parents will not be responsible for expenses incurred after the child’s 25th birthday.
Cap on Certain Expenses
The new statute also places a cap on certain expenses. Costs for tuition, fees, housing expenses, and meals cannot exceed what a student would pay at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic school year.
Support Can End Early
Both parents’ obligation to contribute to these expenses can terminate if any of the following occur:
- The child fails to maintain a “C” average in school, unless illness or other good cause is shown
- The child attains the age of 23
- The child completes a bachelor’s degree
- The child marries
The court will not end support if the child enlists in the armed forces, is incarcerated, or becomes pregnant.
Costs for Applying to Schools
Both parents may be required to pay for the costs of up to 5 college applications, 2 standardized college entrance exams, and one prep course for a standardized college entrance exam. The court may also require that both parents and the child complete and submit an application for Federal Student Aid.
Who Can File for Support
A child will not be allowed to file a petition with the court asking that a parent contribute to expenses. Only a parent may file. If a parent becomes legally disabled or dies, then the child may be able to file a petition.
Why the Changes?
The limitations on the duration and amount of expenses have been clarified in an attempt to reduce litigation. Prior to the 2016 statute, parents would have to dispute these matters in court. With the new statute, the awards for contribution requirements can be determined more easily. Illinois courts also found it necessary to consider both parents’ need to save for retirement when determining how much they should contribute to these expenses.
Our family law attorneys assist clients throughout Will County, Dupage County, and Kendall County in matters regarding contribution towards educational expenses, divorce, custody, visitation, and other areas of family law. Call today to schedule an initial consultation: (815) 207-9570 or (815) 409-8858.
The information on this site is not legal advice. Retain an attorney licensed in the state which has jurisdiction over your matter before taking any action which affects your legal issues, legal marital status or custody arrangements, and follow the advice of your retained lawyer.