With spring right around the corner and summer to follow soon after, school-aged children are beginning to look forward to a long break. For many high school seniors, it is also a time to start making preparations for college or other types of post-high school education. Of course, this also means figuring out a way to pay for it. If you are the parent of a college-bound student, you could be required by the court to contribute toward his or her educational expenses—but only in certain situations.
Married Parents Excluded
Over the last several years, there have been a number of examples to hit headlines of children suing their parents for help with paying for college-related expenses. Some of the cases involved college students and parents whose marriages were intact, while other cases included divorced parents. According to Illinois law, however, neither of these scenarios are likely in the state. First, only parents who are no longer together—including those who have divorced or never married—can be ordered to help with their child’s college expenses. Second—and perhaps more importantly—a student does not have the standing to ask the court for such assistance, at least not under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
When Can Support for College Costs Be Ordered?
The issue of paying for a child’s post-high school education is considered to be a financial one related to the parents’ divorce in most cases. This means that the court can allow proceedings to be opened if the matter has not already been settled by the parents in their divorce agreement. If a divorce agreement spells out each parent’s responsibilities for the child’s education, the parties must abide by terms of the agreement unless a modification is needed for legitimate reasons. If the divorce agreement is silent on the issue or specifies that it should be addressed when necessary, either spouse may petition the court to settle the matter when the child is ready to begin college.
In making a determination about ordering the parents to help, the court will look at a number of factors, including the financial situation of each parent and the child. The court must also consider whether the child could have reasonably expected his or her parents to help with college costs if they had remained together. Finally, the student’s academic performance must also be considered. Support for educational expenses is not likely to be ordered if the student has not demonstrated a reasonable commitment to academic pursuits in the past.
A Family Lawyer Can Offer Guidance
If your child will be attending college or a trade school next fall and you have questions about your potential financial responsibilities, contact a Will County family law attorney. Call 708-518-8200 for a free consultation at Kezy & Associates today.