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College Expenses and Divorce: Who is Responsible?

Glen Ellyn, Illinois Divorce Attorneys

College Expenses and DivorceToday, a significant portion of young adults choose to attend college after they graduate from high school. In fact, because so many young adults and their families expect college to be the step that follows high school, college has become an ingrained part of American young adulthood. A college degree can lead to many opportunities for employment and further education for its holder, but it comes with a hefty price tag. According to, on average, one year at a private four-year college in the United States costs $32,405 and one year at a public four-year college costs around $9,410. For students who choose to live on campus, the average price of attendance is even higher. This is no small sum for most Illinois families. Although many parents want to help their children pursue higher education and may put forth some money for this, it is not uncommon for students to rely on scholarships and student loans to cover their educational expenses.

Previously, Illinois parents were not required by law to help with their children's educational expenses, but individual courts could require that such support be included in divorce settlements, depending on a family's circumstances. In 2016, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was revised to clarify the state's laws regarding a divorced parent's obligation to help his or her child with college costs.

Recent Changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act

Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act discusses the allocation of money to cover post-secondary education costs for adult children of a divorcing couple. Under the revised law, monetary amounts may be allocated from each parent's income and assets for a grown child's college education if they are petitioned for before the student's 23rd birthday or if relevant circumstances prevent this, until the student's 25th birthday. In other words, either parent or the student him or herself may file a petition to have the court draft an agreement for the divorced couple to contribute financially to the student's post-secondary education. Neither parent is required to continue paying for their child's college expenses after the child's 25th birthday.

It is important to also note that this is not simply a court-approved “blank check” to the student. In subsection (b), the court may require the parents and the student to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine the student's eligibility to receive financial aid from the federal government or from his or her institution of choice.

The section also discusses which college-related expenses parents may be required to cover. These expenses include:

  • Up to five college applications;
  • Up to two standardized college entrance exams, such as the SAT;
  • One standardized college entrance exam prep course;
  • Tuition and fees for college courses;
  • Housing expenses, which can be either on- or off-campus accommodations; and
  • The student's medical expenses, such as medical insurance.

There are also limits in place regarding how much money a parent may be required to pay for his or her adult child's college education. The costs of attendance can vary wildly from institution to institution, and because of this many students opt to complete their first two years of college at local community colleges to keep their costs down.

Work with an Experienced DuPage County Family Law Firm

Determining who will pay for college and how can be a contentious topic between divorcing parents and their college-bound children. If you are currently going through a divorce or considering filing for one in the near future, speak with an experienced Glen Ellyn family lawyer about your obligation to help your son or daughter with his or her college expenses. To learn more, schedule your free 30 minute legal consultation with our qualified team at Mulyk Laho Law, LLC today. Call 630-852-1100 or fill out our online contact form.

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The law offices of Mulyk Laho Law, LLC
45 S. Park Blvd., Suite 230, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
Phone: (630) 852-1100
Fax: (630) 852-1128