Can I be compelled to pay for college expenses?

Pursuant to Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”), it allows a divorced parent to compel the other to contribute to their children’s school educational expenses. Additionally, you can also be compelled to pay for educational expenses for the children as well, which include travel to and from college, room and board, books, fees, and more.

However, there is something to be said for the fact that a parent can be forced to contribute to their children’s college expenses because of their divorce, but non divorced parents cannot be compelled to do the same.

The history Section 513 shows us that soon after its enactment in 1977, Illinois has found that this Section is constitutional, although many have made valid arguments that it is not. For example, in Kujawinski v. Kujawinski, the Illinois Supreme Court held that such a statute was constitutional because the obligation upon divorced parents to contribute to the support of their children’s college educational expenses was reasonably related to a legitimate legislative purpose. Specifically, the court explained that divorce has a major economic and personal impact on those involved and one of the purposes of the IMDMA is to “mitigate the potential harm to the spouses and their children caused by the process of legal dissolution of marriage.” Kujawinski v. Kujawinski, 71 Ill.2d 563, 376 N.E.2d 1382 (Ill. 1978).

Another interesting tid bit, is the fact that although your divorce proceeding does not involve your children per say, by that I mean, it is a legal document that is binding between you and your spouse, your children have what is called standing to enforce Section 513. What does this mean, it means depending on the circumstances, your children can come into court and sue you for not paying their college expenses. In Orr v. Orr, the sole issue on appeal was whether a child of divorced parents had standing to enforce a provision in her parents’ Judgment for Divorce that obligates the father to provide for the child’s educational expenses. The Court in Orr found yes. Further, that the record provided them with enough evidence from which to conclude that child relied upon the benefits of the settlement agreement by enrolling in college. Orr v. Orr, 228 Ill. App.3d 234.

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