Divorce, College Expenses, and Private Tuition: What Are a Parent’s Responsibilities?

Divorce, College Expenses, and Private Tuition: What Are a Parent’s Responsibilities?

By: M. Scott Gordon

When you are getting divorced in the Chicago area and have children from the marriage who are nearing college, you should know that Illinois law says divorced parents can be required to pay for a child’s college expenses. Indeed, when the court deals with the distribution of marital property, it can award sums of money for the educational expenses of the child associated with a post-secondary education. Those college expenses include “the actual cost of the child’s post-secondary expenses, including tuition and fees, provided that the cost for tuition and fees does not 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.”

In other words, parents can be required to pay a student’s tuition and fees as long as they are not more than the costs associated with an in-state education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. But what happens when the child attends a more expensive private university? Or what happens when there are two children from the marriage, the parents agree to pay for a private school education for the first child and then cannot afford to do so for the second?

Obligations When a Child Attends a Private College or University

What college expenses are divorced parents required to cover if the child attends a private college or university with tuition and fees at much higher rates than those at the in-state University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign? Generally speaking, the court can only order college expenses up to the amount specified by the statute.

As such, the parents can be required to contribute to college expenses up to the amount that it would cost to send the child to the of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with in-state tuition, but the court cannot order the parents to pay more. To be clear, the child does not have to attend an in-state institution to be eligible for college expenses, but the law only requires parents to provide college expenses in that amount.

When Two Children Attend Colleges with Different Costs

How about a situation in which there are two or more children from the marriage? In this scenario, the first child attends an expensive private college or university, and the parents agree to contribute more than the statute requires, and the second child believes she, too, may be entitled to additional college expenses from her parents. This issue comes up in an article in MarketWatch, and it underscores that parents’ contributions to one child’s college expenses do not necessarily require the parents to contribute equally to the second child’s college expenses.

When there is more than one child, the court can order the parents to cover tuition, fees, and other costs listed in the statute according to an amount in line with those costs at the of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for both (or all children). In other words, the court can order colleges expenses for more than one child, but it cannot typically require parents to provide the same amount to a second child as they did for the first child when the costs exceed those of in-state tuition.

Seek Advice from a Chicago College Expenses Lawyer

Are you in the process of getting divorced and have questions about college expenses? A dedicated college expenses lawyer in Chicago can help. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC to learn more about the services we provide.