Who Pays For College Expenses In A Divorce Settlement?

Who Pays For College Expenses In A Divorce Settlement?

By: Gordon & Perlut, LLC

Divorce and College Expenses

When you are planning for a divorce and you are thinking about child support payments, you should know that Illinois uses an “income shares” model to determine child support obligations. What this means is that the court looks at both parents’ incomes to determine the total child support obligation, and then assigns a portion of that obligation to each of the parents based on their individual incomes and other factors. Yet even when most parents understand how the child support system works, they might not realize that Illinois courts can also require parents to pay for certain college education expenses for an adult child. If the court makes a decision about the division of marital property and child support, it can also make a decision about education expenses.

Yet even if the parties enter into a divorce settlement and reach an agreement about all financial issues, the parties will need to pay attention to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) and how it handles college education expenses. While the parties ultimately may reach a divorce settlement that does not include college expenses for the children from the marriage, the fact that the IMDMA allows the court to award these expenses provides a parent who is seeking college expenses to negotiate for them in a divorce settlement.

When a Parent Wants College Education Expenses As Part of the Divorce Settlement

If one parent wants college education expenses as part of the divorce settlement, that parent can rely on the language of the IMDMA, which states that “the court may award sums of money out of the property and income of either or both parties or the estate of a deceased parent, as equity may require, for the educational expenses of any child of the parties.”

A parent who is negotiating for the other parent to pay the child’s college education expenses can refer to the particular sums the IMDMA sees parents as potentially responsible for paying. The statute defines educational expenses as including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Tuition and fees, if tuition and fees do 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”
  • Housing expenses costs, if they do not cost more than a double-occupancy student room, along with a standard meal plan, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Medical expenses, including medical insurance and dental expenses
  • Living expenses during the academic year and during academic recesses; and
  • Books and supplies the child needs to attend college

When Parents Do Not Seek College Expenses in a Settlement?

If spouses enter a divorce settlement in which they negotiate the terms through family mediation, for example, neither parent ultimately may be responsible for contributing to a non-minor child’s college expenses.

Contact Our Chicago Divorce Attorneys

If you have questions about negotiating an Illinois divorce settlement, or how Illinois law handles college expenses in a divorce case, our Chicago divorce lawyers can help. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC to learn more about how we can assist you.