When parents in an intact family make a decision of whether or not they agree to pay for their child’s college expenses, the parents have the final word in making that determination. The parents decide if they’re going to contribute for their child’s college tuition and they also decide how much they’re willing to pay towards college. Or, the parents may decide that they’re not going to provide the child financial assistance when it comes to college at all. No court is going to intervene in making that decision for parents in an intact family. In stark contrast, when the same decision of whether to pay, or who is going to pay, for the child’s college expenses is applied to parents going through a divorce, the courts can have the final say and have expanded powers to make the ultimate decision.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act make it clear that it places a high value and importance on the ability of children in divorced families to get a college education. In fact, the IMDMA has its own section, § 513, that is notably separate from child support, devoted to ensuring that courts have the authority to intervene to protect the children. Specifically, courts may award sums of money out of the property and income of either or both parties or the estate of a deceased parent, as equity may require, for the support of the child or children of the parties who have attained majority. It is important to note that the statute does not require that the parties provide for the child’s college expenses; however it does allow the courts discretion in ordering a divorced parent to provide for their child’s college expenses.