A college campus view, child support

Twenty-two out of the 33 hottest career fields require college degrees, and determining who will pay for college expenses is frequently hotly litigated in Illinois child support cases. Judges consider a number of different factors when they are determining how to divide college tuition and associated expenses between parents. These factors are outlined in the state’s family law code, and it is important for parents to understand what the courts may consider when judges make the decisions for them. A child support attorney in Chicago might advise his or her client about the likelihood that college tuition and expenses will be included in a child support order.

Statutory Factors

Illinois law outlines several factors that judges consider when determining how to allocate the costs of a child’s college education between the child’s parents. The factors include the following:

  • How well the child has done in school
  • The financial resources of the child
  • Both parents’ present and future financial resources and their ability to pay for their own living expenses and to save for retirement
  • What standard of living the child would have enjoyed if his or her parents had stayed together

Judges may not always order that a parent pays for college tuition and expenses. They will instead consider the overall financial picture of all of the parties involved along with some other key issues.

The Chosen College

Parents are able to provide lists of the schools that their children have applied to. When a child has decided on a school, the parent can update the court. Courts are much likelier to order tuition as a part of child support if the child chooses an in-state school rather than one that is out of state and that costs more. Similarly, courts are more likely to order additional child support for college expenses if the child plans to attend a public university rather than a more expensive private university. Illinois law limits a parents contributions to the cost of attendance at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign unless there is a very compelling for wanting to attend a more expensive, private school. For example, if the chosen school offers a program that is not offered by a less-expensive school, then a court may order that a parent pays for the child’s tuition.

Educational Expenses

In Illinois, educational expenses include more than just the college’s tuition. Room and board, fees, textbooks, personal expenses, dental and health insurance, vision insurance and transportation expenses may all be considered to be a part of a child’s educational costs. A child support attorney in Chicago may help his or her client with determining the total costs associated with the child’s attendance at a particular school.

Financial Resources of the Parents and Child

In general, courts tend to order the parent who is paying child support to continue making child support payments for the child after the child has reached age 18 as long as the child is attending college. The courts look at the financial resources of both parents in order to determine what percentage of the child’s expenses each should be responsible for. The court may consider property and other assets in addition to income that a parent has when deciding the amount to order.

Children are also expected to contribute towards their own college educations when they choose expensive schools. Some courts have held that tuition and expenses that are beyond what would be expected at an in-state school may be the responsibility of the child. Others have held that children should not be forced to go into debt. Section 529 educational savings plans are considered to be part of the child’s educational resources. A child support attorney in Chicago may help with calculating the resources of the parties.

Age and Other Requirements

The law states that a child support order for college expenses may last until the child reaches age 23. If there are extraordinary circumstances that are shown, the court may order that the payments continue until the child reaches age 25. If the additional child support for college tuition and expenses is ordered, it will terminate if the child’s cumulative grade point average falls below a C average. It will also end if the child marries or receives his or her baccalaureate degree.

Both parents will be required to sign consent forms allowing each other to have access to the child’s educational records, including transcripts and grade reports from the college. If a parent refuses to sign the consent, the order may be modified or terminated. The court may order that the payments are made as the court sees fit, including to the child, the other parent, to the school or to a designated account.

Deciding who will pay for college may be difficult. A child support attorney in Chicago might help his or her client to litigate the matter.