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New Divorce Laws May Impact Your Child’s College Education

On January 1, 2016, changes that impact college expenses for non-minor children were made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Changes to Section 513 of this act may alter current obligations of divorced parents with children in college. Recent changes and the impact they have on parents’ financial obligations can be explained by Illinois lawyers for divorce.

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act

In Illinois, child support terminates when a child reaches 18 years of age, or upon High School graduation, whichever comes later. It also terminates when a child turns 19, even if the child is still in High School. Under current changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, all of the support issues that were previously addressed under “child support” laws are now addressed under “college expenses” laws.

Under Illinois law, judges have the power to allocate educational expenses for children whose parents are divorced. By law, “educational expenses” include school tuition and fees, on-or-off campus housing, books and supplies, and medical and dental expenses, including insurance. Educational expenses can also be allocated during school breaks. If the child (student) lives with a parent while attending college, the court will consider the child’s living expenses and allocate educational expenses between the parents and child.

Section 513 Revisions

Under Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act (IMDMA), the law states that both parents must contribute to the post-secondary educational expenses of their children. The law considers factors that determine how much each parent, and the student, must contribute. Lawyers for divorce in Illinois can clarify recent revisions to Section 513 that define parental obligations. Section 513 includes the following revisions:

  • Section 513(a) – Terminates parental obligations for educational expenses at age 23, unless “good cause” is shown for continuing the obligations. It also provides for the contribution obligation to end at age 25, regardless of the circumstances.
  • Section 513(b) – Includes the costs for two standardized college entrance exams, one standardized college prep course entrance exam, and five college applications. These expenses were not previously covered in the statute.
  • Section 513(d) – Includes expenses for tuition and fees, housing, meal plans, books and supplies, and medical and dental expenses, including insurance. The law factors in “reasonable living expenses.”
  • Section 513(f) – Requires the child to sign necessary consent papers that grant supporting parents access to the child’s academic records and school transcripts. If the child does not sign, a supporting parent’s obligations may be modified or terminated. If a child’s safety is jeopardized by providing access to information, an exception may be granted.
  • Section 513(g) – Provides for termination of parental obligations for college expenses if the child does not maintain a cumulative grade point average of “C or above,” unless poor grades are the result of serious illness. It also provides termination provisions if the child gets married or receives a bachelor’s degree.
  • Section 513(h) – States that a 529 college savings plan or other college savings plan is considered to be the child’s resource, rather than the parents’ resource. This eliminates room for parental financial disagreements that are commonly seen by lawyers for divorce.
  • Section 513(j) – Directs the court to consider present and future financial resources of both parents to meet their needs, including, but not limited to, retirement savings.

Parental Impact of Section 513 Revisions

A divorce often impacts job requirements, financial obligations, and living arrangements for parents and children. When parents divorce, lifestyle changes and finances may cause disagreements over the type of college education a parent should be obligated to provide. Prior to recent IMDMA changes, there were no regulations on the type of college a child should attend, and the sky was the limit. Parents were left to decide between a local community college, a state school, a private school, or an Ivy League school with steep tuition costs. Although recent revisions don’t dictate a type of school, they do cap the costs at the equivalent of a University of Illinois education.

Although parents and children are free to choose a college of their choice, recent revisions will help to eliminate many parental arguments over college expenses, often witnessed by Illinois lawyers for divorce. When parents can’t come to an agreement on a college due to college expenses, University of Illinois benchmarks will be used to set the maximums for tuition, housing, meals, and fees.

Recent changes to Section 513 of the IMDMA are intended to bring clarity to parental obligations for college expenses. During divorce, Illinois courts and lawyers for divorce often see parental arguments over financial obligations involving children. When parents can not reach an agreement on child support issues, including college expenses, the results are often costly and lengthy litigation.

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He helps clients resolve issues relating to family law, including divorce, parenting time and parental responsibilities, paternity, and child support. As a skilled real estate attorney as well, Scott also provides advice and legal representation to clients who are purchasing or selling residential or commercial property in Illinois. 

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