For most parents who pay child support, their obligations end when the child graduates from high school or turns 19 years old. By that time, the child should be capable of obtaining employment and supporting him- or herself. Many young adults, however, choose to continue their education at a college, university, or trade school before entering the workforce. If you have been paying child support for a child who recently graduated from high school, the law in Illinois says you may be on the hook to help your child pay for college depending on the circumstances.
A Matter Between the Parents
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides that the issue of support for educational expenses is considered a financial matter of the parents’ divorce. This means that either parent can petition the court to ask for contributions from the other parent if the topic was not already addressed in the divorce judgment or an agreement between the parties. It is important to note that the law does not give the child standing to ask for assistance with educational expenses.
Considerations for Non-Minor Support
When deciding whether or not to order a parent to help with his or her child’s college expenses, the court will take into account a number of factors. By law, these factors include:
- Each parent’s income, resources, and needs, including savings for retirement;
- The standard of living the child would have expected if the parents’ marriage had not ended;
- The child’s financial resources, including scholarships, grants, and income; and
- The child’s academic performance.
Any college savings plan, such as a 529 plan, set up for the child is considered as part of the child’s financial resources.
According to the law, eligible educational expenses include the cost of tuition, books, fees, room and board, transportation, and living expenses. Except for good cause shown, expenses will be limited to those of a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
If the court determines that one or both parents should contribute to the child’s educational expenses, it is then up to the child to meet certain expectations. The child must maintain at least a cumulative “C” average or the order for support may be terminated. The parents’ obligation will also end if the child completes a bachelor’s degree program, gets married, or turns 23 years old. In certain instances, the court may extend the obligation until the child’s 25th birthday.
Get Legal Help Today
If your child will soon be graduating from high school and you have questions about your obligation to help pay for college, contact an experienced Wheaton family law attorney at Abear Law Offices. Call 630-904-3033 to schedule a free, confidential consultation at any one of our five convenient office locations.