Divorce and College Expenses for Children

Often during a divorce, the children of the separating parents are young and the thought of college is far in the future. However, if you are currently facing a divorce, you need to think about divorce and college expenses for children as one of the issues. Securing college expenses is an important part of relieving future stress and arguments.

 Illinois Law

Illinois is one of only 13 states where the court can order the parties to pay for college expenses. Most other states see a child as reaching majority at the age of 18, and therefore, after the age 18, the parents are not responsible for the expenses. Illinois has a specific statute which states that parents can be held responsible for college expenses incurred by the child.

Under this law, the parents can be ordered to pay not only the tuition for college, but also room and board, books, dues, transportation fees, registration costs, and medical expenses during college. However, the courts are partial to in-state colleges, and if your child chooses an expensive out-of-state college, you may only be liable for a part of the expenses.

Additionally, the law states that the parents are only responsible for college costs through obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Post-graduate work is not part of this law.

When to Decide Who Pays What Amount

The court can either decide at the time of the divorce which party pays what percentage, or, if your children are young at the time of divorce, the court can decide to reserve this decision until the time the child goes to college. However, be aware that the courts have recently ruled that if this reservation is in the divorce decree, the amount paid by each parent must be decided prior to the payment being due. Therefore, you cannot wait until your child is a senior in college and then return to court and ask the court to make your spouse repay you for expenses. You need to go to the court prior to your child attending college (during their junior or senior year of high school) and ask the court to decide at that time how much each parent will pay.

How the Court Decides

There are several factors that the judge will look at to decide how much each parent will pay for college. The factors are:

  1. The financial resources of each party;
  2. What the child’s standard of living would have been had the parents not divorced;
  3. The child’s financial resources;
  4. How the child performs academically; and
  5. Any other factors the court deems relevant.

There are many issues to consider during a divorce and college expenses is only one of them. However, it is an important issue that must be considered and could have dire financial consequences if it is not decided at the time of divorce. The experienced Illinois family law attorneys at any of the five Illinois offices of Abear Law Offices can give you guidance and support during your time of divorce. Please contact us to schedule a consultation.