Illinois is one of about a dozen states that may order a divorced parent to contribute to the college or vocational expenses of a child. One of the issues often reserved (or delayed for later adjudication) in divorce judgments is who will pay for the children’s college after high school. The issue is often reserved because the children are too young at the time of divorce to know where the child will attend college and what it will cost.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that a party cannot receive contribution to college expenses if the issue was reserved in the divorce judgment until the moving party files a petition seeking relief. In re Marriage of Petersen, 2011 IL 110984.
Under Illinois law, a judge can order a divorced parent to contribute to the educational expenses of a child to cover the costs of college or professional training. The educational expenses may include: room, board, dues, tuition, transportation, books, fees, registration and application costs, medical and dental expense, including insurance and living expenses. A trial court will consider all relevant factors when ordering, modifying or termination a parent’s contribution to college expenses including: the financial resources of the parties; the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not dissolved; the financial resources of the child; and the child’s academic performance.
The Illinois Supreme Court has deemed college contribution to be in the nature of child support and therefore it is also subject to modification and termination. An obligation to pay for college expenses ends when a child earns a baccalaureate degree.