College Contribution

college buildingMany parents in domestic relations court do not know that they can potentially be required to pay for college for their child(ren).

When deciding the issue of extended or continued child support, the Court is allowed to order the payment towards college expenses; however it is not required to do so. In re Marriage of Hillebrand, 258 Ill.App.3d 835, 840-41 (1994). There is no “absolute right” to a college education. In re Marriage of Spear, 244 Ill.App.3d 626, 630 (1993). When deciding whether to require contribution towards post-secondary education, the court must consider the following four factors: (1) the financial resources of both parents; (2) the standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the relationship had not dissolved; (3) the child’s financial resources; and (4) the child’s academic performance. 750 ILCS 5/513(b). However the court will also look at: the cost of the school, the programs offered at the school, the child’s scholastic aptitude, how the school meets the child’s goals, the benefits the child will receive from attending the school, and whether the parents need to pay for a private school when there are public schools available that are just as good. People ex rel. Sussen v. Keller, 382 Ill.App.3d 872, 878-79 (2008); Spear, 244 Ill.App.3d at 630.

In a recent Court case in Cook County, the Judge found that a father was able to and had no defensible reason not to contribute to the daughter’s already incurred college expenses and ordered him to contribute $110,638 as well as interest accrued on her student loans (Divorce Digest Volume 6, Issue 9, November, 2015).

 

In many of my cases that have children in a divorce, there is a clause in the Marital Settlement agreement, requiring each parent to pay towards the child(ren)’s college expenses after weighing the four factors listed above.  This is a highly debatable subject because if the parties had remained married and decided to not contribute towards their child’s secondary education, there would be no recourse of action for the child to take against the parents, forcing them to pay.

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