By this time next week, classes will be underway at colleges and universities throughout Illinois and across the country. If you are a parent with a college-aged child, there is a good chance that you have spent the last several years budgeting and preparing for the cost of sending your child to school. Divorced parents may face additional challenges as they could be ordered by the court to contribute to their child’s college expenses. As a divorced parent subject to such an order, it is important for you to realize that your child is expected to comply with certain expectations in order for your ordered contributions to continue.
Your Child’s Resources
An order for support to help with college expenses will always take into account the income, resources, and needs of both parents, including their savings for retirement. The law also requires the court to consider the resources of your child as well. Statutorily, IRS-recognized college savings accounts under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code are considered to be resources belonging to your child. Other such resources may include but are not limited to scholarships, grants, and other endowments intended to offset the cost of a post-high school education.
Your Child’s Age
It is not reasonable to expect parents to continue paying for their child’s college expenses forever. Therefore, the law presumes that such orders will be limited to students who choose to attend a college, university, or vocational trade school immediately upon graduation from high school. In most cases, your requirement to provide assistance terminates when your child turns 23, though the court may grant an exception up to age 25 for good cause shown.
Your Child’s Academic Performance
How well your child performs in school has always been a factor in determining your responsibility for providing support for his or her college expenses. Recent updates to the law, however, have set much clearer guidelines compared to previous versions of the statute. The court can terminate a college expense support order if your child fails to maintain a grade point average equivalent to at least a “C” or better. On the opposite end of the spectrum, your requirement is also terminated if and when your child receives a bachelor’s degree, subject to the age limits mentioned above.
Your Child’s Personal Decisions
A college-aged child is faced with countless choices regarding the direction of his or her life. Certain decisions, however, could impact your continued support for his or her education. By law, if your child gets married, the court’s authority to require you to provide assistance is terminated. Your obligation may remain even if your child joins the military, gets pregnant, or becomes incarcerated, though each could have an impact on your child’s academic performance.
Contact an Attorney
If you have a child heading off to college this week and you have questions about your responsibilities for helping with expenses, contact an experienced Kane County family law attorney. Call 630-377-7770 to discuss your options and how to protect your rights. Schedule your free initial consultation today.