Divorce and College Expenses

August 23, 2017

By Associate Attorney Marek Dymon

As many recent high school graduates are eagerly waiting to begin college, many parents are nervous about all the accompanying expenses. For divorced parents, such a concern may even be a bigger issue with the uncertainty about who has to pay for the college expenses and the extent of those obligations. Support for a child after a divorce does not necessarily end when a child reaches the age of 18. Under Illinois law, both parents may be required to contribute to the costs of their child’s education after high school. For many parents contemplating divorce, college expenses for the children are typically not the first order of concern. College expenses tend to be a concern only as the children approach the end of high school. However, it is essential that college expenses be taken into account at the time of divorce, even if the children are only attending grammar school. Frequently, many delay filing for college expenses until tuition is due. By waiting until the last minute, one party may get stuck with the entire bill.

In Illinois, the court may, in its discretion, order parents to contribute to their child’s college expenses. As of January 1, 2016, there were changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”). One of the major changes was to Section 513, which concerns college expenses in Illinois. Section 513 now may require both parents to contribute to the postsecondary educational expenses of their children according to certain factors. Educational expenses can include, but are not limited to tuition and fees, housing expenses, supplies, and other reasonable living expenses (e.g. food, utilities, and transportation). The court can also require the parents to provide funds to cover college applications, standardized college entrance examinations, and a standardized college entrance examination preparatory course. Although Illinois law does not make it mandatory that parents contribute toward college expenses, it became routine for judges to order parents to do so.