College Expense Contributions for Divorced Families

College Expense Contributions for Divorced Families

With the sweeping changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, effective as of January 1, 2016, the new statues attempted to clarify many questions regarding how the courts will handle cases dealing with college expenses.  The changes are an attempt to create extensive and detailed provisions to bring clarity to the question of college expense obligations when the parties can’t agree on terms. 

Like the previous version of Illinois’ divorce law, either parent can petition the court to require the other parent to contribute to “educational expenses,” both before and after a child becomes a legal adult.  These laws also apply to parentage cases.

Prior to the 2016 changes, the court considered a number of factors when determining a parent’s obligation towards post-high school educational expenses:

  • The financial resources of all parties
  • The standard of living the enjoyed prior to the divorce
  • The financial resources of the child
  • The child’s academic performance and aptitude

The four factors above are still considered by the court but with the 2016 changes to the law, the first point is further clarified:

  • The current and future financial resources of all parties to meet their own needs, including but not limited to saving for retirement

Section 513(d) of the revised Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act defines what is and is not included as “educational expenses” and the court can dictate a parent’s obligation to contribute.  Unlike child support, the allocation is not determined by a formula or specified by the law, but is left to the discretion of the court.  A court typically employs common sense when making these determinations.  Additionally, under  Section 513(a) of the statue, any contributions sought in a petition must be for expenses “incurred no later than the student’s 23rd birthday, except for good cause shown, but in no event later than the child’s 25th birthday” unless there is an agreement to the contrary between the parties. 

Expenses and exclusions

“Education expenses” include:

  • The cost of the child’s post-secondary expenses, including tuition and fees, provided that the cost for tuition and fees does not exceed the amount of tuition and fees paid by the student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic year;
  • The actual costs of the child’s housing expenses, whether on-campus or off-campus, provided that the housing expenses do not exceed the cost for the same academic year of a double-occupancy student room, with a standard meal plan, in a residence hall operated by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
  • The actual costs of the child’s medical expenses, including medical insurance, and dental expenses;
  • The reasonable living expenses of the child during the academic year and periods of recess under certain circumstances; and
  • The cost of books and other supplies necessary to attend college

College expense contributions can be terminated if:

  • The child fails to maintain a “C” cumulative grade point average
  • The child receives a bachelor’s degree
  • The child marries

It is important to seek legal representation when dealing with an allocation of college expense issues because the laws are complicated. 

For a free consultation to discuss this issue or any other divorce, child support or family law issue you may be experiencing, email or call us at 815-600-8950


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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