Child Support and Paying for College Expenses
Divorced parents rightly assume that their obligation to pay child support ends when the child reaches the age of 18 or graduates from high school. Financially supporting a child until he/she is legally able to engage in full time employment makes sense from a practical and legal perspective; however, many children go on to attend college and obtain a degree, causing them to incur the sky-high cost of a college education in America.
Unless a child receives a full scholarship that covers tuition, room, board, books and other expenses, the financial assistance of their parents is often necessary to help pay for their college education. Paying for college is a struggle for many parents, and divorced parents face the added pressure of juggling this cost while maintaining separate households.
While educational expenses for primary-level instruction are included in child support formulas, college expenses are not. If a parent wants to ensure that the other party helps cover the costs of a child’s college education, they will need to file a petition requesting contribution toward college expenses.
Requesting Support for College Expenses
The road to college for most high schoolers starts well before their senior year, and it includes college tours, entrance exam prep courses, entrance exams, and college application fees. Depending on the ambition of the student, this process can start well before most students receive final acceptance and know what type of financial aid they will receive.
Typically, both parents generally accept that they will contribute to their child’s college education. If non-minor support is ordered, both parents are required to contribute, but the overall amount and the specific costs a parent is willing to bear can create conflict. Under Illinois law, parents may be required to share the following expenses, even if additional support for college is not ordered cost of:
- Up to five college applications.
- Two standardized college entrance exams.
- One entrance exam prep course.
If a contribution toward college expenses is ordered, the money provided typically covers tuition (up to the annual cost of the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana), housing, books/supplies, medical expenses, and living expenses during the school year and during breaks.
Note that the timing of the petition for college expenses is important, because a petition is only retroactively enforceable to the date it was filed. Thus, any expense incurred before that time would not be shared, so filing before a college is chosen is usually the best course of action. Further, a parent’s obligation to contribute support terminates if the child’s grade point average falls below a C, the child marries, or the child obtains a bachelor’s degree. Importantly, the child cannot directly file his/her own motion for college expenses unless a parent is deceased or legally disabled.
What Courts Evaluate
While divorced parents are required to provide child support for their minor children, decisions about whether they will be required to pay non-minor support are often left up to a judge’s discretion. The main factors a judge considers in these cases include the:
- Financial situation of each parent.
- Standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage was intact.
- Child’s own financial resources.
- Child’s academic performance.
Additional considerations courts often include are the:
- Cost of the intended school, as well as the quality of academics and extracurricular activities offered.
- Child’s goals, and how well the school meets those goals.
- Availability of public schools of similar quality.
Contact a Hoffman Estates Divorce Lawyer
Paying for your child’s college expenses is a huge burden, but it is one you should not have to bear alone. If you have questions or concerns about your ex-spouse contributing to your child’s college expenses, talk to passionate Rolling Meadows family law attorney Nicholas W. Richardson about your options. Contact us at 847.873.6741 for a free initial consultation.