How Are College Expenses Typically Divided in a Divorce?

by Donato Pesce on Jul. 20, 2015

Divorce & Family Law Divorce & Family Law  Child Support 

Summary: For young adults across the United States, attending college is a milestone. It marks the end of one's adolescence and the beginning of one's adulthood, ending with a degree that will hopefully make him or her more marketable to potential employers. It can also bring a financial burden.

For young adults across the United States, attending college is a milestone. It marks the end of one's adolescence and the beginning of one's adulthood, ending with a degree that will hopefully make him or her more marketable to potential employers. It can also come with a huge, sometimes six-figure, debt load. In many families, parents help their children cover their college costs. Some families outright cover their children's college needs or partially pay for their tuition, room, board, and books while others help their children save money by providing free housing, food, and utilities while the young man or woman attends college locally. As a parent of a college-bound teen, you might be wondering about your financial responsibility to your child's post-secondary education. Under Section 5/513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, parents may have to help cover their children's college costs. The decision is at the judge's discretion and is made according to a series of factors that determine your child's need for financial assistance, his or her need for a college education and capability for success at this level, and both you and your former spouse's abilities to contribute to your child's college costs. Generally, the judge asks the following questions to determine a fair way to divide college costs among a student's parents.

What Can the Parents Afford to Pay?

The court may look at each parent's income and other assets to determine each party's ability to contribute toward a young adult's college costs. If either party is also making spousal support or child support payments, the court may consider this as well.

Another component that may be considered is the standard of living that the young man or woman would have enjoyed if his or her parents had not divorced. If the court determines that the divorce significantly affected the parents' ability to help their child pay for college, it may be more likely to require the parents to contribute to their child's college costs.

Will the Student Benefit from a College Education?

Generally, students with high grade point averages are more likely to be awarded parental college support than those with poor grades. In some cases, the judge may rule that the student can only receive financial support from the paying parent if he or she maintains a certain grade point average.

What Can the Student Contribute?

The court may also consider any grants or scholarships the student has received when determining an appropriate amount for his or her parents to contribute to his or her college costs. In some cases, the court may even require a student to seek all forms of financial aid possible or to maintain a job while he or she is in school.

The court may impose other requirements on the student as well to keep college costs down. Some examples of these requirements include:

  • Requiring the student to attend a community college or public university;
  • Requiring the student to attend a college in Illinois rather than out of state;
  • Requiring the parent to only pay for specific college costs, such as tuition or books; and
  • Requiring the student to make use of his or her own assets, such as income or inheritance, to cover college expenses.

Non-Minor Support

Support for college expenses is not the same as child support. When the child is over the age of 18, financial support for him or her is known as non-minor support. To receive non-minor support following a divorce, the parent seeking the support for their child must petition to the court to have their case reviewed and an appropriate amount of non-minor support awarded, if any is awarded at all.

DuPage County Divorce Attorneys

Facing college expenses can be trying for any family. A divorce can make this prospect even more difficult. For personalized, knowledgeable advice and guidance for all divorce-related issues, contact Pesce Law Group, P.C. today at 630-352-2240. During your initial legal consultation, a skilled DuPage County family law attorney at our firm will answer all of your questions and help you determine how to proceed with your specific legal issue. If you are considering ending your marriage, we can represent your case. Do not wait to begin working with our firm - contact us today to get started.

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