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Illinois Child Support | College Contribution Updates for 2020

Updated on
October 27, 2020
Article written by
Attorney Christine Hunt

(Update from: https://www.oflaherty-law.com/learn-about-law/illinois-child-support-and-college-expenses-2017)

 

In this article we explain how Illinois courts handle the issue of college contribution including answering the following questions:

  • Can an Illinois Court order me to pay for college expenses for my child?
  • How will the Illinois Court decide whether or not to order college contribution?
  • How do I determine how much to pay in college expenses for my child in Illinois?
  • Do I have to pay for previously incurred college expenses from before I started paying for college contribution in Illinois?
  • What expenses are included in college contribution in Illinois?
  • What types of schools are included for college contribution in Illinois?
  • What is the maximum amount I can be ordered to pay towards my child’s college payments in Illinois?
  • Can an Illinois court modify the amount of college contribution?
  • Is there anything that can terminate my obligation to pay for college in Illinois?
  • What are examples that will not terminate my obligation to pay for college in Illinois?
  • Am I required to do anything in addition to paying college expenses for my child in Illinois?
  • If I’m paying for college based on an Illinois court order, do I get to see all of my child’s college records?
  • What happens if my child prevents me from seeing their grades in an Illinois child support case?
  • How does a 529 education account affect college contribution payments in Illinois?
  • Who can I make my Illinois court ordered payments to?
  • Can my child sue me for college contribution in Illinois?

 

This article gives an in-depth explanation of college contribution, what it means, what expenses can be ordered to be paid, and how much a parent can be ordered to pay for college contribution. College contribution is a form of child support to be paid for a child who is no longer a minor child.

 

Can an Illinois Court order me to pay for college expenses for my child?

 

If the parents of a child are divorced/ divorcing or were never married, the court can order one or both parents to contribute to the child’s college expenses. The court does not have the authority to order a couple that has an intact marriage to pay for their child’s college expenses.

 

How will the Illinois Court decide whether or not to order college contribution?

 

When deciding whether to order one, both, or neither of the parents to contribute to the college expenses of the child, the court will consider a number of factors including:

  1. The present and future financial resources of both parties.
  2. The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the relationship stayed intact.
  3. The financial resources of the child.
  4. The child’s academic performance.

 

How do I determine how much to pay in college expenses for my child in Illinois?

 

 

When the court decides if it will order either of both parties to contribute to the child’s college expenses, the court will consider the property and income of each of the parties. College expenses can be paid for either by property or income of either or both of the parties. If a parent who is court ordered to contribute to their child’s college expenses does not wish to utilize their income or property to pay for their child’s college, the parent can take out a student loan on behalf of the child. Options for parent loans include private loans or federal loans through the parent PLUS loan program.

 

Do I have to pay for previously incurred college expenses from before I started paying for college contribution in Illinois?

 

 

If you were never previously ordered to contribute to college expenses, you can only be ordered to contribute to expenses retroactive to the date the petition was filed. For example, if your divorce judgment says, “College expenses pursuant to 513 are hereby reserved.” If, for example, if your child is a Senior and your ex files a Petition for Contribution to College expenses, you can only be required to contribute to expenses for your child’s senior year. If however, your divorce judgment says, “Father to pay for 60% of college expenses and Mother to pay for 40% of college expenses” and your spouse files a Petition to Enforce the College Contribution in your child’s Senior year, you will be responsible for college expenses for not only Senior year, but also Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior year. The right to enforce a prior obligation to pay may be enforced either before or after the obligation is incurred.

 

What expenses are included in college contribution in Illinois?

 

 

“College expenses” are much more expansive than one might think. College expenses of course includes tuition and fees and housing (on campus or off campus), but it also can include these additional expenses:

  • 5 college application fees
  • 2 standardized college entrance examinations
  • 1 standardized college entrance examination preparatory course
  • Medical expenses including insurance, dental expenses, expenses not covered by insurance
  • The reasonable living expenses of the child
  • Books and other necessary supplies.

 

What types of schools are included for college contribution in Illinois?

 

“College” contribution is not just limited to a traditional 2-year or 4-year college or university. It can also include vocational training, professional training, and trade schools.

 

What is the maximum amount I can be ordered to pay towards my child’s college payments in Illinois?

 

There are a number of limitations on how much can be ordered for college contribution including:

  1. Except for good cause shown, all college expenses must be incurred no later than the child’s 23rd birthday. Under no circumstances can contribution be required later than the child’s 25th birthday.
  2. The cost for tuition and fees cannot exceed the amount of in-state tuition and fees paid by a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic year.
  3. Housing expenses cannot exceed the cost for the same academic year of a double-occupancy student room, with a standard meal plan, in a residence hall operated by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  4. College contribution is limited to undergraduate degrees. Contribution cannot be ordered for professional or postgraduate degrees (i.e.- Masters, PhD, JD, etc.).

 

Can an Illinois court modify the amount of college contribution?

 

Yes, college contribution is modifiable if there is a substantial change in circumstances. A “substantial change in circumstances” can include a change in employment for you or your ex, change in salary for you or your ex, birth of additional children, disability, increase in expenses, etc. The court can also modify or terminate your obligation to contribute to college expenses if your child fails to submit the necessary consents to allow you to view your child’s grades.

 

Is there anything that can terminate my obligation to pay for college in Illinois? 

 

Your obligation to pay for college can end if:

  1. The child fails to maintain a cumulative "C" grade point average, except in the event of illness or other good cause shown.
  2. The child attains the age of 23.
  3. The child receives a baccalaureate degree.
  4. The child marries.

 

What are examples that will not terminate my obligation to pay for college in Illinois?

 

Your obligation to pay for college will not end solely based upon:

  1. A child's enlisting in the armed forces.
  2. A child being incarcerated.
  3. A child becoming pregnant.

 

Am I required to do anything in addition to paying college expenses for my child in Illinois?

 

The court can require both parties and the child to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and any other financial aid forms. The court can also specifically require either or both parents and the child to submit those financial aid forms on or before the submission deadline. The court can also require a parent or child to sign any consents required for the parents to gain access to the child’s academic transcripts, records, and grade reports.

 

If I’m paying for college based on an Illinois court order, do I get to see all of my child’s college records?

 

A parent contributing to college expenses may access the child's academic transcripts, records, and grade reports. The parent is not entitled to receive any non-academic records. A child may however willingly provide other non-academic records to a parent, but it is voluntary.

Unless the court specifically finds that the child's safety would be jeopardized, each party is entitled to know the name of the educational institution the child attends.

 

Based on Illinois law, what if my child won’t provide me with the consent to see his/her grades?

Failure to execute the required consent may be a basis for a modification or termination of college contribution.

 

How does a 529 education account affect college contribution payments in Illinois?

 

A 529 educational account (or other college savings plan) established prior to the divorce is to be considered by the court to be a resource of the child. If the 529 educational account (or other college savings plan) was created by one parent after the date of the divorce, it will be considered a contribution from that party.

 

Who can I make my Illinois court ordered payments to?

 

The court can order that payment are made:

  1. To the child
  2. To either party
  3. To the educational institution directly.
  4. To the educational institution through a special account or trust.

 

Can my child sue me for college contribution in Illinois?

 

No. Your child is not entitled to file a Petition for Contribution to College Expenses. Only one of the parties may file a Petition for Contribution to College Expenses. Only if one parent dies or is legally disabled, might the child be able file a Petition for Contribution to College Expenses.

Illinois Child Support | College Contribution Updates for 2020
Author

Attorney Christine Hunt

Christine has experience in family law including divorce, parentage, parenting time, parental allocation, child support, domestic violence, and post decree matters as well as estate planning and business law.

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