Can You Extend Child Support to Cover College?

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Illinois Law on Child Support

Under Illinois law, parents have a duty to provide financial support for their child such that their physical, mental, and emotional health needs can be satisfied. Under Section 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), “the duty of support owed to a child includes the obligation to provide for the reasonable and necessary physical, mental and emotional health needs of the child.”

A parent’s duty to pay child support normally ends when a child reaches the age of majority, as section 505 of the IMDMA defines “child” to mean “any child under age 18.” Therefore, child support obligation typically ends before a child starts college. However, a court can order a parent’s towards the college expenses of a non-minor child.

Responsibility for College Expenses

Under Section 513 of the IMDMA, courts require parents to contribute towards the college education expenses of their children.

Section 513 defines “educational expenses” to include “the reasonable living expenses of the child during the academic year and periods of recess:

  • If the child is a resident student attending a post-secondary educational program; or
  • If the child is living with one party at that party’s home and attending a post-secondary educational program as a non-resident student, in which case the living expenses include an amount that pays for the reasonable cost of the child’s food, utilities, and transportation…”

Furthermore, courts are authorized to order a child’s parents to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and pay for the costs of up to five (5) college applications, two (2) standardized college entrance exams, and one (1) standardized test prep course.

Factors Affecting College Support

What things do courts look for when extending a child support obligation to cover college expenses? Section 513 lists factors that Illinois courts must consider when awarding child support for college. The statutory factors mainly relate to the parties’ financial capacity to pay.

Under Section 513, a court will determine a parent’s obligation to contribute towards a child’s college expenses taking the following into consideration:

  • Each party’s current and future financial resources and expenses, including retirement savings
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed but for their parents’ divorce
  • The child’s financial resources
  • The child’s academic performance

Therefore, courts should not order parents to pay more college expenses than they can afford. As a result, a child might not be able to attend their top pick for college, despite otherwise qualifying for admission, if it would be unaffordable in light of the parents’ financial circumstances.

Get Quality Representation at the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, PC

Child support is a significant issue in divorce cases. Furthermore, a child’s academic aspirations for post-secondary education may be an integral part of their future success as an adult. To fully understand the extent of your legal rights and obligations regarding contribution towards your child’s college expenses, you should call the Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, PC. Our team has valuable experience working with a wide range of family law issues, including the issue of contribution to college expenses.

Call our office at (312) 487-2795 to arrange a free case evaluation today.
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