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Child Support and Private School Costs

Child Support and Private School Costs

By M. Scott Gordon

For parents who are considering divorce in Chicago, there are many questions related to child support and childcare that you should discuss with an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer. While Illinois law sets guidelines for determining child support payments, the judge can make a decision to provide a different amount of support if the circumstances warrant it. What will a court do if your child attends an expensive private school? Who pays the cost of tuition? And will those costs impact a child support calculation?

Considering the High Costs of Private School Tuition in the Chicago area

For example, if your kids are in grades 5-12 at the Latin School of Chicago, the tuition cost is $32,535 for the 2016-17 school year. Other private schools in the area cost nearly as much, with the tuition at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools at $30,750 per year for grades 6-8 and $32,106 for grades 9-12. When we take a closer look at the way in which child support is calculated, those payments do not leave much room for the tuition of private schools.

Under 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(1), the guidelines for child support say that these payments should be calculated this way:

  • 1 child = 20 percent of the supporting parent’s net income;
  • 2 children = 28 percent of the supporting parent’s net income;
  • 3 children = 32 percent of the supporting parent’s net income;
  • 4 children = 40 percent of the supporting parent’s net income;
  • 5 children = 45 percent of the supporting parent’s net income; and
  • 6 children or more = 50 percent of the supporting parent’s net income.

To better understand what these payments actually look like in practice, consider a family with one child in which the supporting parent has a yearly net income of $80,000. According to the guidelines, the supporting parent would pay child support of $16,000 per year (20 percent of $80,000). If the child’s private school tuition is already nearly double that amount, the child support guidelines clearly cannot account for tuition costs.

What if the supporting parent’s income is sufficiently more? For example, what if the supporting parent has a net annual income of $150,000? Still, the guidelines would say that the annual payment for child support would be 20 percent of $150,000, which equals only $30,000. Even in that scenario, the child support payment would not be enough to cover the cost of tuition at one of the schools mentioned above.

Deviating from the Guidelines to Pay for Private Schools

Specifically, 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(2) specifies that the court shall use the guidelines “unless the court finds that a deviation from the guidelines is appropriate after considering the best interest of the child in light of the evidence.” To decide whether a deviation from the guidelines is appropriate, the court can look at a number of factors, including:

  • Financial resources and needs of the child;
  • Financial resources and needs of the parents;
  • Standard of living the child would have enjoyed but for the divorce;
  • Physical, mental, and emotional needs of the child; and
  • Educational needs of the child.

Additionally, the statute specifically states that the court can deviate from the guidelines and require one or both parents to contribute to reasonable education expenses. One important question: did your family already send your child to private school before the divorce?  Or is this a change one party wants to make after the divorce is filed?  Depending on your family’s situation and expectations about private school education, the court may indeed decide that your spouse should be responsible for paying tuition costs in addition to other child support payments. If you have questions, an experienced child support lawyer in Chicago can assist you. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates for more information.