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For the most part, parents are responsible for supporting a child until the point of emancipation. In general, emancipation happens at age 18 when people are considered legal adults, although cases involving disabled children will often extend support requirements beyond this age. Sometimes, support requirements for a child’s college education can be included in a divorce settlement.
Depending on the needs in your divorce case, you should consider discussing whether an educational obligation should be included in your settlement. Many parents who opt to do this sign an agreement that they will split the costs and these agreements often have stipulations, like certain grade point averages, that a child must meet in order to continue receiving the support.
Parents should be aware of the importance of wording in such contracts, as is indicated by a recent decision out of New Jersey. In that case, a father and mother had signed an agreement to split the cost of graduate education for their children. When their daughter was accepted to an expensive program at Cornell, her father denied responsibility and said he would only pay for a less expensive law school. A judge disagreed and ordered that the father was required to pay for half of her Cornell education costs.
This case shows that many judges are not inclined to consider terms outside of the original agreement. If parents agree to pay half of any school, they are then obligated to do so regardless of the school the child selects.For parents and children, a well-worded section of the divorce settlement on responsibility for higher education costs can be worthwhile. It clearly lays out expectations and reduces the chances of further legal engagements down the road. If you would like to discuss your unique needs in divorce, contact an Illinois family lawyer today.