For a number of years, the state of Illinois has granted courts the authority to require one or both parents to contribute toward the post-secondary education expenses of their non-minor child. While many, if not most, child support orders are terminated once the child turns 18 and graduates high school, the law recognizes that a child’s need for support does not necessarily end with the initial order. Depending upon the situation, either or both parents can be required to help pay for college as well. Until now, however, the guidelines for such requirements were relatively vague, but recently-signed legislation is expected to help reduce inconsistencies in the system.
The applicable provisions in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act permit a court to order educational support for a child, “whether of minority or majority age.” The support may, technically, include high school if the child has turned 19, but is primarily aimed at helping with college or professional training expenses. Under the current law, the court must consider:
- The financial resources of each parent and of the child;
- The standard of living established prior to the parents’ divorce; and
- The child’s academic performance.
Based upon these considerations, the court may order one or both parents to contribute toward the child’s educational expenses, including tuition, room and board, books, fees, and transportation. The law provides no set guideline for calculating reasonable expenses, so awards are entirely discretionary. Support may continue until the child has attained a bachelor’s degree, possibly affected by the “academic performance” factor listed above.
As part of the family law reform bill passed this summer, new guidelines regarding non-minor support for educational expenses will take effect in January of 2016. The new law amends a number of provisions in the existing statute, ostensibly removing some of the more vague language. The changes begin with the creation of an age limitation, requiring that, in most cases, supported educational expenses must be incurred by the child before age 23, and in no case—for a non-disabled child—beyond his or her 25th birthday.
The new law also amends the circumstantial considerations as well, specifically permitting the court to consider the parents’ resources in relationship to being able to meet their own needs, including retirement. It, additionally, requires the court to use as a financial standard the tuition, room and board cost associated with an average student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Finally, the amendment also includes new provisions for the termination of non-minor support. The new law maintains the completion of a bachelor’s degree program as termination criteria, while adding several others. The court will have the authority to discontinue support if the child turns 23, fails to maintain at least a C average, or gets married.
Legal Guidance in St. Charles, Illinois
If you have been required to provide non-minor support for your child and have questions about your options, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. We understand the law and are equipped to help you meet your child’s needs while balancing your own. Schedule your free consultation by calling 630-377-7770 today.