College Expenses: Who is Responsible?

Kane County Family Law Attorneys

Kane County divorce lawyerBy the spring of their senior year, most high school students know if they will attend college the following fall and if so, where. Planning for college can be stressful for every member of the family, from the prospective student making sure he or she meets all admission requirements and deadlines to parents figuring out how their child will afford college.

College is expensive, and many families begin saving for this expense years in advance and approach it with multiple funding sources, including scholarships, loans, the student working an on-campus job while attending college, and the parents paying some expenses out of pocket. In a family where the student's parents are still together, determining how to fund the student's education can be difficult. When the student's parents are divorced, determining how to pay for college can be even more difficult. Unless a couple specifically included plans for their child's college expenses in their child support or divorce agreement, coming to a fair determination can be challenging. Work with an experienced Kane County divorce attorney to determine the options available to you and your family.

Are the Parents Responsible for their Child's Post-Secondary Education Costs?

You might be asking why a parent should be required to pay for his or her child's college costs at all. After all, people attend college as adults – many people feel that as an adult, the student should secure his or her own funding, either by obtaining a loan or working while attending school.

But most young adults are still dependent on their parents for financial support when they graduate from high school. The court recognizes it and in Illinois, the court has the right to determine an appropriate amount for a parent to contribute to his or her child's college-related expenses during these years. This is known as non-minor support.

How is this Amount Determined?

There is no specific formula for determining non-minor support. Instead, an appropriate amount is determined by examining the student's financial needs, his or her other sources of income such as a scholarship or a part-time job, and whether the student appears to be capable of thriving in college, as indicated by his or her grade point average. The amount of money the student would have reasonably received from his or her parents if they were still married may also be considered in making this determination.

The school that the student chooses to attend does not have any bearing on whether the court determines that his or her parent must contribute to his or her expenses or how much they must contribute. The law allows students to seek financial aid from their parents for university-level courses as well as for vocational education. Parents do not have the right to tell their adult children that they cannot attend a specific school, but they also cannot be asked to contribute more than they can afford to contribute.

If your son or daughter is considering attending college within the next few years, now is the time to talk realistically with him or her about the expenses that accompany post-secondary education. Talk about in-state schools and community colleges, which can give a student a great start to his or her college career without leaving him or her in debt. Although you can be required to contribute to your child's college expenses, do not assume you are powerless in this decision. Make your concerns and desires known far in advance of your child's senior year – planning for college is a process that should involve both parents as well as the student.

College Expenses are Not Child Support

Many individuals mistakenly assume that a parent paying for his or her child's college costs is an extension of the child support that parent paid. This is not true. In Illinois, child support is terminated when an adolescent turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is sooner. If the adolescent turns 19 while still in high school, child support for him or her ends on that birthday. The only exception to this rule is when a young adult has special needs that prevent him or her from becoming self-sufficient.

Work with a St. Charles Family Law Firm

Goostree Law Group, a team of experienced Kane County family attorneys with offices in Wheaton and St. Charles, can advise you on a myriad of divorce and family law issues. Our team of dedicated Illinois divorce attorneys can answer your questions and provide you with the qualified representation you need to protect your rights and lead you to the best legal outcome. Contact Goostree Law Group at 630-584-4800 to schedule a free initial consultation today.

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