Your high school student has likely received his or her college acceptance letters for regular admission. In divorce, post- divorce, or parentage cases in Illinois, the Court can order parents to assist their children with their college expenses. In previous posts, we have mentioned that there was a update to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). The section covering college contributions was included in these updates.
One of the most significant updates to the College Contribution law is that the court cannot order parents to pay tuition and fees that would be higher than the tuition and fees at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic year. That’s nothing to sneeze about, as the estimated tuition and fees for the 2016-2017 academic year are $30,638- $35,642.
It is also worth mentioning that the child (“Student”) cannot file their own court-action for college contribution unless there is a death or legal disability of one of the parents who would have had the right to file.
Students who don’t take their academics seriously might lose out. Courts can only order parents to pay for college if the student maintains a cumulative “C” grade-point average (GPA). There are exceptions to this rule. An example of an exception might be if the student missed too many days of school because of an illness and ended up with a low GPA. But if the student spent the semester partying instead of attending class, they could be on their own affording college expenses.
Students who take the 5-year route to graduation may still get help from their parents paying for college, but unless there is a good reason, the Court cannot order college expenses incurred after the student’s 23rd birthday. If the Court finds that there is a good reason, the court can extend it to the student’s 25th birthday but no later.
The Court can order that both parents and the child complete the Free Application for Student Aid (“FAFSA”) and other financial aid forms. The Court can also require the parents to contribute funds for the cost of college applications, two standardized college entrance examinations, including preparatory courses.
In addition to the expenses directly related to the college expenses, the Court can also order the parents to contribute to the actual costs of medical and dental expenses, including medical and dental insurance, and to the reasonable living expenses of the student during the academic year and in periods of recess.
Parents will be happy to hear that the new law specifically allows the Court to consider the parents’ future financial needs, including saving for retirement, when determining each parent’s financial contribution to college expenses. The changes to the law will allow for the court to balance a child’s needs for support in their college years and a parent’s need to provide for their own current expenses and their future needs.
If you have a child that is going to college soon and you don’t have an agreement with your Ex about how you will pay for college expenses, set up a free consultation to discuss your options.