A Question From Divorced Parents: Who Pays For College?

Children do not stay young forever, and it may only seem like seconds between your child going to kindergarten and applying for colleges. No matter how slowly you wish time would move, the moment eventually arrives for college tours, personal essays, and then of course, tuition payments. For divorced or unmarried parents, when their children turn 18 the question of finances shifts from child support to college payments. But who is required to pay for college?

New Illinois Law

Starting January 1, 2016, Illinois redefines the family law provisions pertaining to college expenses in the case of divorced or unmarried parents. The previous law left too much ambiguity around the expenses and length of time parents were obligated to contribute to their children’s education. This led to a great deal of family arguments and litigation.

Both Parents are Responsible

Under both the old and new law, both parents can be held responsible for college expenses for their minor or adult child. Not every parent readily agrees to these expenditures, which is why any parent has the right to petition the court to require to the other individual to contribute.

A judge will attempt to allocate the child’s college expenses equally between the parents. College expenses are better defined in the new law and include but are not limited to tuition, fees, room and board with a meal plan or off-campus housing, books, other school supplies, medical insurance, medical expenses, and dental expenses.

State law compares reasonable expenses to those incurred by a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For instance, parents are responsible for tuition and fees provided that the college’s tuition and fees are not greater than those at U of I for the same academic year.

While child support in Illinois is determined by formulas, it is up to the judge’s discretion to determine how much each parent—and the child —should put into the child’s education.

What About Financial Aid?

Depending on the parents’ finances, the court may not obligate the parents to personally pay the entirety of college expenses. The court may advise the parents and child to apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which will enable the parents or child to receive federal parent or student loans. Additionally, the child can apply for private scholarships and grants.

An End to Parental Obligations

The court cannot order a parent to contribute to a child’s education forever. Support generally ends when the child turns 23 years old. However, if there are factors that demonstrate good cause as to why the education should continue and payments remain fair, contributions can be ordered until the child is 25.

Contact a Naperville Family Law Attorney

If you are worried about how you are going to pay for your child’s college expenses, and you want the other parent to contribute, contact an experienced family attorney today. The skilled DuPage County family law attorneys at our firm can explain your legal options and help you come up with a sound financial plan for your child’s education.