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A divorced parent’s obligation to the child’s higher education

Divorce is never easy, especially when children are caught in the middle. It is a rollercoaster of decisions and uncertainties. Amidst all the chaos, one crucial aspect that requires careful consideration is the parents’ responsibility toward their child’s future education.

The obligation to contribute

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) requires both parents to contribute to their child’s college expenses. Even after the court finalizes their divorce, they must still ensure their child can pursue higher education. These changes took effect on January 1, 2016. It aims to provide financial support and stability for children of divorced parents.

Included educational expenses

The scope of educational expenses encompasses various elements. These expenses typically include, but are not limited to:

  • The actual costs of tuition and fees
  • Housing expenses, whether on or off-campus
  • Medical expenses
  • Reasonable living expenses during the academic year and breaks
  • Cost of books and other supplies

Additionally, the court may mandate that the parents provide the following:

  • Funds for college applications
  • Standardized entrance exams like the SAT or ACT
  • Even the cost of preparation courses for these exams

The parents and prospective college students may also be required to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Cap on expenses

Unless there is “good cause shown,” the actual costs of tuition and fees cannot exceed what a student pays at the University of Illinois (Urbana–Champaign) for the same academic year. The same goes for housing expenses. It cannot exceed how much a double-occupancy room with a standard meal plan would cost in a residence hall operated by the university. This is whether the residence is on or off-campus for the same academic year.

Exceptions to the rule

It is essential to note that this obligation has certain limitations. According to the law, the obligation to contribute terminates when:

  • The child turns 23, unless there is good cause to extend it further
  • The child fails to maintain a cumulative “C” grade point average
  • The child obtains a baccalaureate degree
  • The child gets married

However, the obligation ends entirely once the child reaches 25, regardless of the circumstances.

Higher education can be a significant financial burden. It is only fair for both parents to share this responsibility. By fulfilling their obligation to contribute to their child’s college expenses, divorced parents demonstrate their ongoing commitment to their child’s future success.

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