After Divorce, Who Pays for College?

The Law Offices of Van A. Schwab Oct. 15, 2019

When parents divorce, financial support for children may last long after their 18th birthdays. In 2016, Illinois passed a law allowing courts to order parents to contribute to college education expenses.

Learn more about how this statute works and explore the division of college expenses between divorcing spouses who have children.

Qualifying Educational Expenses

Under the law, the court can require parents to pay for college, university, professional school, or vocational training for children older than 18. The child can use these funds for tuition, fees, textbooks, housing expenses both on and off-campus, medical and dental expenses, and reasonable living expenses such as transportation and food.

Factors in Court Determination

The court considers five factors when deciding how much parents must contribute to education costs:

  • The child’s academic performance

  • His or her independent financial resources, such as a college savings plan started by parents in the child’s name

  • The financial resources of each parent

  • The standard of living the family enjoyed prior to the divorce

  • Whether parents have the financial resources to save for retirement

Limitations of Support

The court uses average living costs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the same academic year as a basis to determine reasonable expenses that parents should pay. The court will not order parents to pay expenses accrued after the child turns 23. However, the parents can agree to financially support a child in school until he or she turns 25.

The parents can discontinue financial support if the child earns less than a C average without a cause such as illness, gets married, or finishes his or her bachelor’s degree. The court does not consider pregnancy, enlisting in the military, or serving prison time eligible reasons to end support.

Before signing a divorce agreement, talk with your spouse about expectations for higher education for your children. Even if they are still young, planning for the future can prevent the potential for disagreements about financial support.