In most states, a divorced parent’s obligation to pay child support ends when the child either attains 18 years of age or graduates from high school – but a handful of states, including Illinois, can impose financial obligations on parents a bit longer.
In this state, the court may order one or both parents to pay for a child’s post-secondary education expenses, including college, until the child either turns 23 (and possibly until they are 25), obtains their baccalaureate degree or marries.
How extensive is this obligation?
The law doesn’t make a distinction between trade schools and colleges, but you may be relieved to know that there are some limitations. Unless you agreed to fund a private college education, for example, your child is only entitled to tuition and fees equal to the amount paid by a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for any given school year.
In addition, you cannot be obligated to pay for your child’s post-secondary education if your child doesn’t conform to reasonable academic standards. Absent a good excuse (like illness), your child will be expected to maintain a “C” average in their studies, or they lose their entitlement to your financial support.
It’s important to note that tuition isn’t the only college expense you may have to pay. Parents may be expected to pay for everything from test prep courses and college application fees to the child’s living expenses (even if they continue to live off-campus at the other parent’s home) and books.
An application for educational expenses made before the court by your co-parent on behalf of your minor child or by your young adult child may throw you off your footing – but you may have some recourse if you believe that your financial resources are too limited or the demands are excessive. Speaking with someone who understands the legal aspects of the situation can help you better understand your options.