Child Support and College Expenses

If you pay child support in Illinois, you are probably looking forward to the day that your child turns 18 or graduates from high school. Most likely, you recognize the need for your support obligation, but once your child is no longer a minor high school student, there certainly other things you could do with the money. Before making any plans for long-term investments or major purchases, you should be aware that the state of Illinois permits the courts to order continued support for college expenses, even if your child is over 18.

Non-Minor Support for College Expenses

An application for educational expenses can be made before the court before or after your child reaches the age of majority, which in Illinois is 18 years old. It is also possible that language in your divorce decree may open the door for college expense support as well. For example, if your divorce agreement states, no matter how old your child was at the time, that “both parents shall contribute to post-secondary educational expenses,” such a provision is likely to be enforced.

Educational expenses potentially eligible for non-minor support include, but are not limited to:

  • Registration and application costs;
  • Tuition, dues, and fees;
  • Room and board;
  • Transportation;
  • Books and materials;
  • Medical costs, including insurance; and
  • Living expenses, both during school and on breaks.

Circumstantial Considerations

When your child or the other parent applies for support for college expenses, Illinois requires the court to consider all relevant factors. Statutorily, these considerations include the financial resources of both parents and the child, the standard of living your child might have expected if not for your divorce, and your child’s academic performance. In practice, the court will generally take into account other concerns as well, including:

  • Public or private status of the school;
  • In-state or out-of-state location and tuition of the school;
  • Appropriateness of the school for your child’s educational or professional goals; and
  • The likelihood of your child’s success at achieving an undergraduate degree.

College Expense Support Orders

Determining that support is appropriate is a large part of the process, but other details must still be established. The court may order support be paid to your child, the other parent, or directly to the institution, and many find the latter to be the most attractive option, as it virtually guarantees proper application of financial support. Additionally, support is also contingent on both parents having access to your child’s academic record so that progress can be appropriately monitored. The order entered by the court may also require your child to continue to meet certain academic and behavioral standards or risk termination of support. Finally, the law specifies that, except in special needs cases, support for college expense automatically ends and may not be continued once your child has earned a bachelor’s degree.

If you would like to know more about child support for college expenses, contact an experienced family law attorney in Orland Park. We will meet with you, answer your questions, and help you understand your options under the law. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.