Parental Responsibility: Who Pays for College?

Parental-ResponsibiltyCollege is expensive and it is not getting any cheaper. While the law is not clear on a parent’s general duty to pay for college, Illinois does allow family court judges to order a parent to pay for college as a form of child support.

When Does Child Support End?

Typically, child support obligations end when a child turns 18. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. If a child has a severe impairment, support can continue past the age of 18. If a child is going to be attending college, child support may be ordered past the age of 18 to pay for that education. A child has until they are 23 or receive a bachelor’s degree, whichever happens first, to receive these extended child support benefits.

A child can petition the court to extend the timeline to age 25, if good cause can be shown. After age 25, the child is on their own for college expenses.

Do Both Parents Contribute to College?

When an order to pay for college is sought, the judge will look at the parties’ ability to pay for college. Judges will also look to the lifestyle the parents and the child have enjoyed during the course of the payment of child support.

A judge can order both parents to contribute to the costs of college, or just one of the parents. The judge can even order the child to contribute towards their own costs if they have earned income or an inheritance. Because the costs of college vary greatly from institution to institution judges uses the tuition and expenses of an average student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a baseline.

Students are required to maintain a “C” grade point average for continued support payments. Both contributing parents must be allowed access to academic records. The child does not necessarily have to attend a four year university to request support. Community colleges and certain vocational schools also qualify.

There may be a dispute if the child wants to attend a more expensive school when a cheaper alternative is available. For example if the child wishes to attend an expensive vocational program, but there is an Associate's Degree program at a local community college, the court may order that no support is warranted. The court could also just order the parents to contribute what they would have to pay for the community college program and the student will have to make up the difference.

If you have questions about child support or college expenses, you need to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable Hinsdale family law attorney right away. Call Martoccio & Martoccio at 630-920-8855 today to schedule a consultation. Make sure you understand your rights.


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