Under Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution Act, the court can require either or both parents to contribute to a child's educational expenses. This includes:
- The actual cost of the child's post-secondary expenses, including tuition and fees;
- The child's housing expenses, whether on-campus or off-campus,
- The child's medical expenses, including medical insurance and dental expenses;
- The reasonable living expenses of the child during the academic year and periods of recess; and
- The cost of books and other supplies necessary to attend college.
Additionally, the parents can be required to pay for up to 5 college applications, the cost of 2 standardized college entrance examinations, and the cost of one standardized college entrance examination preparatory course.
However, there is a "cap" as to the amount that parents can be required to pay for the child’s tuition and housing. In order to decrease controversy, the section was amended effective January 1, 2016, to cap the amount parents can be required to pay at the amount of tuition and fees paid by a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic year. Additionally, while housing can be either on or off campus, housing expenses may not exceed the cost of a double-occupancy student room with a standard meal plan in a residence hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic year.
In determining college contribution awards, the court should consider all relevant factors including:
- The present and future financial resources of both parties to meet their needs;
- The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved;
- The financial resources of the child; and
- The child's academic performance.
The award may also be modified considering the same factors.
The 2016 amendment also states that unless the parties agree otherwise, they are no longer required to pay for all educational expenses after the student's 23rd birthday, except for good cause shown, but in no event later than the child's 25th birthday. Parental contribution also terminates when the child either: fails to maintain a cumulative "C" grade point average, except in the event of illness or other good cause shown; receives a baccalaureate degree; or marries. A child entering the armed forces, going to jail, or becoming pregnant does not terminate parental contribution.
The child is required to sign any consent necessary in order for the educational institution to provide a supporting parent with access to the child's academic transcripts, records, and grade reports.
Additionally, while either parent can bring a case related to educational expenses, the child is not permitted to do so. If not previously determined, either parent can request the other parent to help contribute to the child's educational expenses. If the court orders a parent to pay, it is retroactive only to the date of filing a petition.
There has been a recent trend among the Courts to require parents to contribute to college educations. The First District upheld an order for the father to contribute to his son's educational expenses, even despite a deteriorated father-son relationship and the father not being informed or involved in his son's college application process, Hoffmeister v. Hoffmeister, 2016 IL App (1st) 150966-U.