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If your adult child is going through a divorce, and you have set up a college account for your grandchild, do not give your child's spouse a free ride on college expenses. Protect your grandchild’s college funds.
Under Illinois law, if there is a divorce, your child and his or her spouse are both obligated to contribute toward the university, college or vocational school expenses of their children. (See 750 ILCS 5/513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.)
If you create a college account for your grandchild and there is a divorce between your child and his or her spouse, that account may be designated by the divorce judge to be used first for payment of the grandchild's college expenses, before the your son-in-law or daughter-in-law's obligation to pay for college expenses kicks in. In fact, your child’s soon to be ex-spouse may get a free ride if you have put enough funds into your grandchild's account, which you created, to fully pay for college.
Recently, we had a case where the grandmother, who was a former schoolteacher, took most of her savings and opened a college account for her granddaughter, whom she loved dearly. Although the father made $100,000 plus per year, the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage provided that until the grandmother’s funds were used up, the father did not have to contribute a dime toward his child’s college expenses.
We became involved once hired by the mother when she found out that the father had convinced the daughter to go to a college in Florida, where he lived, instead of a better college (where there was no beach).
Thereafter, the granddaughter, who had always been on good terms with her mother and grandmother, promptly moved to Florida where she could be closer to her father. And nonetheless, her college expenses were paid fully by her grandmother. Had we represented the mother in her original divorce, we would never have advised the grandmother to put her savings in a college fund in the granddaughter’s complete control.
Tip: Do not create an outright gift to your grandchild for college monies.
As a loving and caring grandparent, you of course want to put money into your grandchild's account. But if you do without retaining control, your son?in?law or daughter?in?law may escape any financial responsibility for your grandchild's college expenses in an Illinois divorce. Instead, even if divorce is not on the horizon, put college money for your grandchild in a trust drafted by a lawyer to make you trustee. Then you will have control over when and how the money may be paid for your grandchild's college expenses. You will be happier in the end and so will your child and grandchild.
Our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys at Martoccio & Martoccio have years of experience assisting parents and grandparents with the planning of college for their grandchildren's expenses. College planning is critical to the future of your grandchildren when a divorce may become a reality for your child. You should know that it takes a real understanding of how divorce law intersects with good college planning and how it applies to your grandchildren. We can give you that advice. Contact us today.