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When Courts “Reserve” College Expenses Until Later

When Courts “Reserve” College Expenses Until Later

By: M. Scott Gordon

When you get divorced in Chicago and have children from your marriage, it is important to know that the court can allocate college expenses in addition to child support. While child support no longer applies when a child becomes a legal adult or graduates from high school (whichever comes later), Illinois law recognizes that parents also have an obligation to help their children with college expenses or educational expenses. Planning for a child’s college education can be difficult even when parents remain married and share household costs. When parents get divorced and need to reassess their own finances, paying for college can become even more complicated.

We want to consider what happens when a court reserves college expenses until later. In other words, what happens when a court does not allocate specific college expenses at the time of the divorce but clarifies that it will allocate those expenses later on? This is most typical in situations where there are young children from the marriage and it does not make sense to allocate college expenses immediately. We will take a closer look at what it means for divorcing parents when courts reserve college expenses.

What Types of Colleges Expenses Should Parents Plan to Pay?

To consider the implications of a court reserving college expenses, it is important to have an understanding of what college expenses can include according to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Under Illinois law (750 ILCS 5/513), a court can tell divorced parents that they are responsible for helping a child to pay, for instance, for tuition and fees for college, on- or off-campus housing, health insurance, books for classes, and other necessary supplies.

Parents are not required to pay for private school tuition. Instead, the statute clarifies that college expenses should be allocated in line with those associated with attendance at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Yet the ultimate amount of college expenses ultimately is up to the court’s discretion. There is no specific amount that is listed in the statute. Instead, each family’s situation is considered on a case-by-case basis.

What It Means When Courts Reserve College Expenses

When parents make the decision to get divorced, they should anticipate having to contribute to their children’s college expenses. However, the court does not need to allocate the specific amount at the time of the divorce, especially if the children will not be headed to college for quite some time. In such cases, the court can reserve college expenses until later. In order for both parents to contribute to college expenses it is important to petition the court to allocate those expenses as soon as it becomes practical.

In a case that went to the Illinois Supreme Court, In re the Marriage of Petersen (2011), the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that one spouse cannot petition the court to allocate expenses that have already been paid. Instead, the court can allocate expenses that are to be paid in the future.

Contact a Chicago College Expenses Lawyer

If you have a divorce decree that contains a reservation clause or reservation provision, you should speak with an experienced Chicago college expenses attorney as soon as possible to learn more about when to petition the court to allocate college expenses. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates for more information.