Most parents want their children to attend college. Many parents want to be able to pay for this. They save, they exercise financial discipline, and work hard to make this a reality. When a couple separates or divorces, these plans can become untenable or unpredictable. This is because divorce can be very expensive, which can change everyone’s financial plans. Further, parents who are divorcing are understandably distracted during this difficult time and college expenses may not be the first thing on their minds.
Last year, new legislation came into effect that addresses this specific scenario. Entitled “Educational Expenses for a Non-Minor Child”, the Illinois legislature created provisions for the court to enter specific orders related to the college expenses. Specifically, it begins:
The court may award sums of money out of the property and income of either or both parties or the estate of a deceased parent, as equity may require, for the educational expenses of any child of the parties.
Note that this is separate and distinct from traditional child support, which terminates upon a child’s eighteenth birthday or high school graduation. Further, parties are free to agree to this non-minor support.
This award was created to promote certainty and stability to a non-minor’s college expenses when parents divorce. These education expenses include tuition and fees, housing expenses, medical and dental insurance and expenses, and living expenses. Interestingly, the tuition and fees are capped at the in-state tuition rate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In addition, parents can be ordered to pay for a specified number of college entrance exams, a prep course, and college applications.
These court-ordered expenses are not to last beyond the non-minor’s 23rd birthday, but can be extended to the age of 25, or extended by agreement of the parents. As for logistics of the payments, the court has broad discretion to direct payments to the child, from one parent to the other, directly to the college, or through a designated education account or trust.
The law also provides for a measure of accountability for the child. Specifically, the court can order the non-minor to sign consent for his or her college transcripts to be available to a paying party. Also, the obligation terminates if the non-minor fails to maintain a “C” grade average.
A Tax Attorney Can Help You
Divorces can be times of great emotional turmoil and unpredictability. A family lawyer can help you get on track toward your future and keep you focused on your goals. I have practiced family law for over twenty years and will provide you with compassionate, thorough legal representation. Call The Law Offices of Robert S. Thomas at 847-392-5893 for a consultation or visit our website today.