The law in Illinois has long permitted a court to order one or both parents to contribute toward their child’s educational expenses, even after the child has turned 18 and graduated from high school. Prior to 2016, however, the statute was rather permissive, and granted the court wide discretion in creating orders for educational expense contributions. Thanks to changes that went into effect January 1, 2016, the law now contains more restrictive language regarding such awards and specific criteria for their termination.
The updated provisions allow the court to require one or both parents to assist the child with certain elements of preparing for post-high school education, even without entering an order for support. Specifically, one or both parents and the child may be compelled to complete federal financial aid forms and applications and to submit them in accordance with appropriate deadlines. Either or both parents may also be required to cover the costs of up to five college applications, two standardized college entrance exams, including the SAT or ACT, and one exam prep course.
Definition of Eligible Educational Expenses
Under the previous provisions in the law, the court was left to determine what constituted reasonable educational expenses on a case-by-case basis. Going forward, educational expense may include, but are not limited to:
- Actual costs of tuition and fees which, except for good cause shown, may not exceed those of a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
- Actual costs of room and board which, except for good cause shown, may not exceed the costs of double occupancy room, with a standard food plan, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
- Actual costs of medical care, including insurance and expenses;
- Reasonable living expenses, including utilities, food, and transportation; and
- The cost of books and other necessary supplies.
In order to be considered eligible expenses, the costs must be associated with a college, university, vocational training, technical school, or other occupational training program. The expenses must be incurred before the student turns 23 years old, which may be extended for good cause to age 25.
Criteria to Be Considered
To make a determination regarding support, the court must take into account:
- The financial resources and needs of each parent, including retirement savings;
- The standard of living the child would have experienced if the marriage had remained intact;
- The financial resources of the child, including available grants and scholarships; and
- The child’s academic performance.
When support for educational expenses is ordered, the paying parent may be required to make payments to the child, the other parent, the institution, or to an account established for the purpose. Parents providing support are also to be given access to the child’s educational records, transcripts and grade reports, unless such access would jeopardize the child’s safety.
Terminating an Order for Support
Provided that the child has not yet reached age 23—or 25 if good cause has been shown—ordered support is expected to continue until the education program is completed. Support will not be permitted to continue beyond the receipt of a bachelor’s degree. Payments may also be terminated if the child gets married or fails to maintain at least a “C” cumulative grade point average.
If you are currently struggling to help your child pay for college or other post-high school education and you believe his or her other parent should be doing more, contact an experienced St. Charles family law attorney. We will help you understand the law and explain your available options. Call 630-377-7770 today to schedule your free consultation with Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C..