College tuition expenses are a top concern for many parents. When parents divorce, the divorce decree will address all matters related to the dissolution of the marriage, including property division and child support.

Under Illinois law, the judge presiding over the divorce has the power to allocate college expenses – including room and board, tuition, books, and other expenses – between the divorced parents. Most divorce judgments and settlement agreements address college expenses vaguely so that they can be addressed when the time arises. Other parents choose to allocate college expense obligations at the outset.

Regardless of whether the allocation of college expenses is made at the time the divorce is finalized or when the child is ready for college, at some point the issue will need to be addressed if the divorced parents’ child(ren) goes to college.

College expenses are a type of child support. Unlike child support, however, the allocation of college expenses is not dictated by formula. Rather, college expense allocation is left up to the discretion of the judge, who will consider several factors, including

  • the income and assets of both parents,
  • the financial resources available to the child,
  • the child’s academic performance,
  • the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents not divorced,
  • the income of a second spouse
  • the expenses of a second family, and
  • the payment or receipt of spousal maintenance

Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows a divorced parent to compel the other to contribute to their child’s post-high school education expenses. Although the law does not mandate that divorced parents contribute to their child’s college expenses, it has become customary for Illinois judges to order parents to pay for their child’s college expenses as they are able.  In this respect, divorced parents are at a disadvantage to married parents since there are no similar obligations on married parents to pay for any portion of their child’s college education even if they are financially able to do so.

Shortly after Section 513 was enacted in the Illinois Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality in Kujawinski v. Kujawinski, 71 Ill.2d 563, 376 N.E.2d 1382 (Ill. 1978), based on a finding that the obligation of divorced parents to contribute to the support of their children’s college education was reasonably related to a legitimate legislative purpose of “mitigat[ing] the potential harm to the spouses and their children caused by the process of legal dissolution of marriage.”

Illinois courts have begun ordering divorced parents to procure student loans and/or personally guarantee their child’s student loans.The current law effective January 1, 2017, a divorcing parent cannot be ordered to pay for college expenses in excess of the cost of in state tuition & fees at Illinois at Champaign, Urbana.

The issues surrounding college education expenses, ability to pay, and financial resources is a complex assessment, with several legal nuances. Accordingly, it is highly recommended that you consult with a skilled Illinois divorced attorney if you have a child and are divorcing or if you are already divorced and your child is preparing to attend college.

The Illinois divorce attorneys at Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC can help divorcing and divorced parents through complex legal issues that surround college expenses as well as child support and parenting time & responsibilities – including issues related to college educational expenses.  For more information on Illinois college expense laws, contact our office at (847) 253-8800 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled Illinois child support attorneys.

Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, Litigation and general Business Law services.  Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law, Collaborative Divorce & Mediation.

This article constitutes attorney advertising. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.


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