Although a child of married parents has no legal basis to have a court order that his or her parents pay for college education, our Supreme Court has ruled that divorced or unmarried parents of children may be ordered to assist a child with educational expenses. Although most people assume that this applies only to post high school educational expenses, section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states clearly that a court has the authority to “make provision for educational expenses” not only for college or other professional training “after graduation from high school, but also to any period during which the child of the parties is still attending high school, even though he or she attained the age of 18. The educational expenses may include, but shall not be limited to, room, board, dues, tuition, transportation, books, fees, registration and application cost, medical expenses including medical insurance, dental expenses, and living expenses during the school year and periods of recess, which sums may be ordered payable to the child, to either, or to the educational institution.”
Our courts have great flexibility in awarding payments under Section 513, and it often comes as a shock to a parent that he or she can be “on the hook” for these obligations. However, as with most family law related issues, it is important to have an attorney who can make sure that each party’s responsibilities, and that of the child (presently an adult), are properly reviewed and shown to the court. Section 513 states that the court must review (1) the financial resources of both parties; (2) the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not have been dissolved; (3) the financial resources of the child; and (4) the child’s academic performance.
In a recent matter that was handled by our law office, a parent sought to have the other parent pay 100% of the college tuition, fees, books, and private apartment housing of the 21-year-old child. In reading the petitioning parent’s motion, you would not know that the student had failed more classes than he had passed, had refused to work, even during periods when he was a part-time student or during the summer when he would not go to school, and that the petitioning parent had increased his or her own standard of living substantially since the time of the divorce.
Good attorneys who practice in this area of law know that they will often need to “dig deep” into the facts to protect their client and to make sure that all parties are “paying their fair share.”
A Family Lawyer for your best interests
If you are looking for more information about college expenses decisions, email Chicago Family Law Attorney M. Scott Gordon at 312.360.0250 or 847.329.0101 .