Your Child’s Rights to Support for College Expenses

With high school graduation season right around the corner, many students and their families will soon be faced with the challenges of paying for college. The rising costs of a college education have been making headlines for years now, with the average tuition more than 15 times what is was just 35 years ago. A quality education, however, is no less important, and, in fact, may be even more critical for young people today that in previous generations. A large number of university-bound students rely heavily on grants, scholarships, and loans to help cover tuition and other college expenses, while others turn to their parents for assistance. But what if the student’s parents are unwilling or unable to provide financial assistance? Can they be forced to do so by the court?

Who Is Asking?

As with most areas of the law, the answers to such questions depend very heavily on the individual circumstances of the case in question. Regarding college expenses, one of the most important factors involves who, exactly, is asking for help. Illinois law does provide that one or both parents can be required to contribute to the college expenses of their shared child, but only when requested by either party as an extension or in relation to a divorce settlement. The same law expressly prohibits the child from petitioning the court to require his or her parents to help pay for school.

What’s the Difference?

It may seem that the distinction between a parent and the child asking for assistance is rather arbitrary, but there is a substantial difference. The law was intended to address the financial situation between the parents subsequent to a divorce, not between divorced parents and their adult children. In practice, if the parents had agreed, prior to divorce, that they intended to help their children with college expenses, the court has the authority to enforce that agreement. Similarly, if there was no agreement between the parents regarding splitting college costs, but one parent decides to help the child and requests the other parent’s assistance, the court may take up the case and make a determination.

Such discretion does not extend to the financial relationship between parents and their child. Thus, if the parents—married or divorced—both decide that they are not willing or able to contribute to college expenses for the child, the child has no standing to request court intervention.

Have More Questions?

If you are a divorced parent of a child heading to college in the fall, it is important to understand your rights and potential responsibilities. Contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney today to schedule a free, confidential consultation. A member of our team will meet with you to discuss your situation and help you find the answers you need. Call Kezy & Associates at 708-518-8200 for an appointment.