In a previous post on this blog, we talked a little bit about the authority of the courts in Illinois to order either or both parents—subsequent to a divorce or separation—to contribute toward the educational expenses of their child. As with most elements of a divorce, if the couple previously agreed to split the costs, or they expressly agreed that they would not be helping the child pay for post-high school education, the court will typically allow the agreement to stand. If, however, there was no existing agreement on the subject, or if one parent is not abiding by the agreed-upon terms, the court may need to consider the case.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act requires the court to take into account a number of considerations when deciding whether to order contributions toward a child’s educational expenses. These factors include:
- The current and anticipated financial resources of each parent balanced with each parent’s current and anticipated needs, including retirement;
- The standard of living created during the marriage, or other reasonable expectations of the child;
- The child’s financial resources, including eligibility for grants and scholarships; and
- The academic performance of the child.
These concerns, of course, can be extremely complex, often making the decision a difficult one for the court.
Eligible Educational Expenses
While the family’s financial situation is certainly a major part of the overall decision, the actual incurred or expected educational expenses must be considered as well. According to the law, eligible expenses include tuition, room and board, books, fees, supplies, and medical care, including insurance. With few exceptions, tuition, fees, and room and board are limited to those of an average student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. If the child will be attending a post-high school education program while living at the home of either parent, the court may include reasonable living expenses, such as food, transportation and utilities, in place of considerations for room and board.
The law also requires these expenses to be incurred by the student prior to his or her 23rd birthday. With good cause shown, the window of opportunity may be extended to the student’s 25th birthday, but no further.
The final post in this series will address the rights of each parent once an order for educational expense has been entered. It will also discuss the grounds for discontinuing ordered contributions.
Contact a Family Law Professional
If you are a divorced parent struggling to assist your child with his or her educational expenses, contact an experienced St. Charles family law attorney. We will review your case and help you understand your options under the law. Call Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., at 630-377-7770 to schedule your free confidential consultation today.