High school graduates all over the state are preparing to head off to college, while thousands of younger students face uncertainty about how they’re going to afford university application fees, entrance exams, and tuition in the coming years.

Divorce is a complex and emotionally charged process that can have a significant impact on every aspect of your family life. Studies show children of divorced parents are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and other challenges. 

You can help put your child’s mind at ease by incorporating their post-secondary educational expenses into your divorce settlement or parenting plan

In this state, the law recognizes the importance of higher education and provides guidelines for divorcing parents — and the amount a parent can be ordered to pay cannot exceed the amount needed to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Let’s address the various factors involved in handling college expenses during a divorce and offer some practical tips for navigating this often intricate terrain.

Obligations and Expectations

While paying for your kid’s college tuition isn’t included in standard child support payments, Section 513 of the Illinois Domestic Relations Law, Educational expenses for a non-minor child, states that the court “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 educational expenses of any child,” possibly up until their 25th birthday.

“Educational expenses” is a relatively broad term that encompasses several items, such as tuition, books, room and board, transportation, utilities, medical and dental insurance, and other necessary costs. The amount that each parent must contribute is determined according to a variety of factors, including:

  • Family financial resources:

The court assesses the financial resources of both parents, considering their income, assets, and earning capacity. This evaluation helps determine each parent’s ability to contribute to educational costs. Your child may be required to contribute as well. 

  • Child’s academic performance:

Your child’s scholastic achievements also influence judgment. The court will consider whether the child is meeting their educational responsibilities and making reasonable progress toward a degree. Section 513(g) now allows parents to stop paying for school if the child fails to sustain a certain grade point average.

  • College choices:

The court may consider the child’s chosen college, university, apprentice program, or trade school when determining the expense obligation. Factors such as the school’s reputation, affordability, and the child’s career goals are taken into account. 

  • Parental agreement:

If parents can reach an agreement on college expenses, the court will likely honor it. However, it must be fair and reasonable to both parties and serve the child’s best interests. If parents or guardians cannot reach an agreement, mediation may be required.

Thinking Ahead

Planning for your child’s college expenses during a divorce can be frustrating and challenging. But as college tuition skyrockets, it’s vital to have a strategy for funding in place as soon as possible to effectively handle this important aspect of your child’s future.

Maintain open and honest communication with your ex-partner about expected expenses. Discuss the child’s educational aspirations and establish a shared understanding of their financial needs and realistic expectations for the future.

Seek professional guidance and consult with an experienced family law advocate who specializes in divorce and parental responsibility matters. They can provide expert advice and help you forge through the legal intricacies of post-secondary educational obligations.

Many families choose to utilize a 529 account, which is a tax-advantaged college savings plan that can be used to pay for a beneficiary’s qualified education expenses, such as tuition or books. The state of Illinois offers the Bright Start program, which offers income tax deductions of up to $10,000 per individual taxpayer.

Be sure to keep thorough records of all financial contributions you make toward your child’s college expenses. This documentation will be essential if any disputes arise in the future.

Most importantly, encourage your child to explore available financial aid opportunities and scholarships to offset their educational costs. This proactive approach can reduce the burden on both parents.

Find Your Way

Coming to an agreement about college expenses during a divorce requires careful consideration, an honest evaluation of your and your ex’s financial situation, and expert advice from a knowledgeable attorney who specializes in divorce and parental responsibility negotiations.

Prioritizing your child’s education and future should always be at the forefront of your decisions. By incorporating provisions related to college expenses in your initial divorce agreement, you can ensure their educational aspirations are supported, even in the midst of a divorce.

If you need professional guidance regarding divorce, pre-nuptial agreements, estate planning, or other life transitions, we’re on your side — contact us today to schedule a consultation!