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Can I Be Ordered to Pay College Expenses as Part of My Illinois Divorce?In Illinois, child support stops once the child turns 18 or when they have graduated high school – whichever happens later. Under Illinois divorce law, the court may order a parent to help pay for a child’s college expenses after child support has ended if the child is planning to continue their education. Although child support is required to be paid even for parents who never got married, Illinois does not require college expense payments to be made. If your child is planning to go to college, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney to file a petition for college expense payments to be granted to your child since it will not automatically go into effect.

College Expenses

A support order can include several expenses related to college, such as:

  • Registration and application fees
  • Tuition
  • Room and board (on or off campus)
  • Educational fees
  • Medical and dental insurance
  • Books
  • Travel to and from school
  • Additional expenses

If the court grants college expenses to be paid, child support continues under the Illinois “college expenses” law that applies to non-minor children. 

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How are College Expenses Handled During a Divorce?College is not cheap. Since the 1980s, college tuition costs have risen more than 200 percent for public universities across the country, making covering the expense of higher education more difficult than ever. Because of this, young adults are living with their parents longer than any generation prior to them. For parents getting a divorce, paying for their children’s college education can be a point of contention during the divorce negotiations. Fortunately, Illinois law has included provisions in the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) on how post-secondary education expenses are distributed between parents.

Covering the Costs

The IMDMA allows courts to allocate costs to either or both parents based on a variety of factors. The judge can order that property allocated to either spouse during the asset division process be used to pay for post-secondary education, either now or when the time comes. Child support payments can also be extended beyond when the child turns 18 for the purpose of paying for college. A variety of things can be included in college costs, as long as the costs are accrued before the child’s 23rd birthday, or in some cases, the child’s 25th birthday. These costs can include:

  • A prep course for a standardized college entrance exam
  • Two standardized college entrance exam fees
  • Fees for up to five college applications
  • Tuition and fees
  • Housing expenses and meal plans
  • Medical insurance and dental expenses
  • Reasonable living expenses for the child
  • Books and supplies 

Who Pays for What?

As mentioned before, either parent or both parents can be held responsible for paying for the costs related to the child’s college education. If the parents cannot come to an agreement as to how these costs will be covered, it will be up to the judge to decide for them. The judge will make his or her decision based on a variety of factors, including:

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