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Paying for Your Child's College After Divorce

Posted on in Family Law

Paying for Your Child's College After DivorceChild support payments make sure that both parents pay a fair share of the expenses related to raising their children into adulthood. However, one of the largest child-related expenses occurs after a child becomes an adult. Attending four years of college can easily cost more than $100,000. Even with scholarships and student loans, the immediate cost may be high. Child support ends once a child turns 18 or graduates from high school, but Illinois divorce law allows a court to order both parents to pay for the college and living expenses of a child who is no longer a minor.

What It Covers

A court may approve shared payment of post-secondary education expenses during the divorce settlement or when a parent petitions for it. If awarded, the expenses will likely be divided proportionately between the parents, based on their incomes and financial resources. Educational expenses can include:

  • Tuition and housing;
  • Independent housing when school is out of session;
  • Medical expenses;
  • Books and materials; and
  • A limited number of pre-college application and test fees.


When a parent requests an order forcing the other parent to help pay for a child's college expenses, he or she must show why the order is necessary. Previous Illinois cases have established that people do not have an absolute right to attend college. When deciding whether to allow the petition, a court will consider:

  • The financial resources of each parent and the student;
  • A reasonable standard of living for the student;
  • The student’s academic performance; and
  • Whether a college with a lower tuition could provide the same academic experience.

A court will not order a parent to pay an inequitable amount or for unnecessary expenses. If the court believes the student's college expenses are excessive, it can advise a student to attend a less-costly university or seek cheaper housing. The student can choose to ignore the recommendation but may not receive financial support as a result.


An order to share the payment of college expenses can be retroactive only to the date that the petition was filed. If approved, there are conditions that can terminate the order, including when the student:

  • Receives a baccalaureate degree;
  • Turns 23, unless reasonable cause is given to extend;
  • Allows his or her grades to drop below a C average; or
  • Marries.

Paying for College 

Because an order will not cover college expenses from before you file the petition, it is in your best interest to start the legal process before your child attends college. A McHenry County family law attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can guide you through the petition process. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.



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