New Law Places Limits on Support for College Expenses

If you are currently paying child support pursuant to a court order, you probably expect that your obligations will be complete when your child turns 18 and/or graduates high school. While such an expectation is certainly reasonable, and even accurate in most cases, the state of Illinois may require you to continue providing support beyond age 18 for the purposes of assisting with educational expenses. The law has permitted non-minor support for college costs for a number of years, but a recent update to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act will provide more specific clarification for parents beginning in 2016.

Definition of Educational Expenses

Regardless of whether support is awarded, the court may order both parents and the child to complete federal and other financial aid applications. The court can also require either or both parents to pay for up to five college applications, two standardized exams like the SAT or ACT, and the cost of one exam preparation class. When considering an award for support, the court is expected to account for tuition, fees, room and board, utilities, medical insurance and other reasonable living expenses. Except for good cause shown, the new law limits educational expenses to those that would be expected by an average student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Appropriateness of Support

In making the determination to order support, the court must consider a number of criteria, including:

  • The current and future financial resources and needs of each parent, including retirement savings;
  • The standard of living the child could have reasonably expected if the parents had stayed or been married;
  • The financial resources, including grants, scholarships, and loans, available to the child; and
  • The child’s academic performance.

If support is determined to be necessary, the court can order payments to be made directly to either parent, the child, the institution directly, or into an account established for the purpose. Any parent ordered to provide support will be granted access to the child’s educational records unless doing so would present an unreasonable danger to the child.

Termination of Support

The new law also provides specific reasons for which an order of support for college expenses may be terminated. Support will be permitted to continue until and unless the child:

  • Gets married;
  • Turns 23 years old. With good cause, the age limit can be extended to age 25;
  • Fails to maintain a “C” average; or
  • Completes a baccalaureate program.

Professional Representation for Your Support Case

If you have questions about your potential obligations for assisting your child with college expenses, contact an experienced Orland Park family law attorney. We will review your case and assist you throughout every step of the process. Call 708-518-8200 today to schedule your free consultation.