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Who Pays for College Expenses If Parents Are Unmarried or Divorced?

Posted on in Family Law

Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney child support

For high school seniors, the beginning of spring means that graduation is just around the corner. Many high schoolers are already preparing for college next fall. If you are a parent of a school-aged child, you may have concerns about how you will finance your child’s college education. You may have questions such as, “Am I required to pay child support after my child turns 18?” or “Which parent pays for university costs?”

Paying for College as a Divorced or Unmarried Parent

If you are a divorced or unmarried parent in Illinois, it is important to know the law regarding college-related costs. Many parents assume that their child support obligation ends once their child turns 18 and graduates high school. This is generally the case. However, parents may be required to contribute to their child’s post-secondary education. Unlike typical child support, there is not a statutory formula for calculating the amount that a parent must contribute to post-secondary expenses. However, there is a cap on the amount that a parent may be required to contribute to college costs. Parents cannot be required to pay more than what it would cost for their child to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

University Costs May Be Divided Between the Parents and the Child

In many cases, the amount that parents will contribute to their child’s college education is specified in the parents’ marital settlement agreement or parenting plan. Courts typically uphold these agreements unless there has been a substantial change in circumstances that necessitates a modification.

If the parents have not addressed college costs in a prior agreement, the way that the costs are divided depend on many different factors, including:

  • Each parent’s financial circumstances, such as their income, earning capacity, and retirement needs.

  • The child’s financial resources including scholarships, grants, student loans, and work-study programs.

  • The child’s academic performance.

  • The standard of living that the child would have experienced if the marriage were still intact.

The cost of college tuition, housing, textbooks, and other fees may be divided between the parents and the child.

The Constitutionality of Non-Minor Child Support for College Expenses

The law requiring parents to contribute to their child’s college expenses has been the subject of great scrutiny in Illinois. Many believe that it is unfair for divorced or unmarried parents to be held to a different standard than married parents are. The law was challenged by a father in 2018 and a DuPage County judge agreed that the law was unconstitutional. However, the Illinois Supreme Court overruled the circuit court’s decision. As of March 2021, parents in Illinois may be required by law to contribute to their child’s college education.

Contact an Arlington Heights, IL Child Support Lawyer

A parent’s obligation to financially support their child does not always end once the child turns 18. For help with non-minor child support concerns, disputes about college expenses, and other family law matters, contact A. Traub & Associates. Call our office today at 847-749-4182 to schedule a confidential consultation with our knowledgeable Arlington Heights, IL family law attorney.  




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