Can an Illinois Parent be Forced to Pay for College Expenses?

illinois college expenses divorce lawyerThe short answer is yes. Illinois is in the minority of 13 states where parents can be ordered to contribute to the educational expenses of their child until the child obtains a bachelors degree. Usually, the divorced parents marital settlement provides that the parents pay some or all of the college expenses of their child.

Even if the marital settlement agreement is silent about a contribution by the parents, a divorced parent has the right to file a petition on behalf of a child asking for college contribution expenses from the other parent by statute.

By the way, such a Petition for college contribution should be filed in advance of college. The court generally cannot order college expenses for a semester of college after the child has completed that semester even if the martial settlement reserves the issue of college expenses. Best to consult a lawyer since the rules are not simple.

A parents obligation to contribute toward educational expenses in Illinois extends to not only to college expenses but includes expenses for university, trade school or vocational school as well as a child's medical insurance and dental expenses while attending school. This is limited however to a four-year undergraduate degree or it's equivalent.

If I never married the mother of my child, can still I be forced to contribute toward my child's college or educational expenses?

If you live in the Second District Appellate District which includes Boone, Carroll, DeKalb, DuPage, Jo Daviess, Kane, Kendall, Lake, Lee, McHenry, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago Counties there is a case that provides that the college expenses contribution should apply to paternity proceedings.  See:  Rawles v. Hartman527 N.E.2d 680. If you live in any other Illinois County the Answer is maybe. You should therefore try to have a section of a Parenting Agreement or Parenting Order that provides for child support also contain a provision for contribution to college or educational expenses.

Who can bring a Case for College contribution, a parent or child? Usually a divorced parent files a petition for college contribution or educational expenses on behalf of a child.

Can a child sue one or both parents for payment of college expenses in Illinois? It depends on whether the parents have divorced or not.

No Divorce 

If the child's parents are not divorced, then the child has no ability called "standing" to ask for college or post high school educational expense payments.

Divorced Parents

If the child's parents are divorced from one another and their marital settlement agreement provides for payment of a child's educational expenses,  then the child can sue either or both parents for college expenses. The child in that case is a third-party beneficiary of to agreement made by the parents. However, the court will not allow the child to participate in the parties active divorce to seek college contribution. In re Marriage of Vondra.

If you are in need of Illinois divorce counsel, contact the attorneys of Martoccio & Martoccio. From our Hinsdale office we can set up a free consultation to discuss your divorce issues.

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