As is the case in virtually every state, Illinois law recognizes the right of a child to receive financial support from both parents. Since the vast majority of children with parents who are divorced, separated, or who were never married live with one parent or the other, most child support orders require the non-custodial parent to make support payments. Court-ordered support usually continues until the child reaches adulthood—defined in the law as having reached age 18 and graduated from high school. There are situations, however, in which a court may determine that support for a child should continue, despite the child no longer being a minor. One of the common cases of this type involves child support to assist with college-related or other educational expenses.
While either parent or the child can petition the court for help with educational expenses, the law does not presume that non-minor support will necessarily be granted. In this way, non-minor support is very different from “normal” child support considerations, which are based on the presumed right of the child to support from both parents. Absent a voluntary agreement between the parents and the child, the appropriateness and amount of non-minor support are entirely left to the discretion of the presiding court.
In making a determination, the court will consider a number of factors, including:
If the court determines non-minor support for educational expenses to be appropriate, the next step is to determine the portion for which each party should be responsible. It is important to note that the death of one parent would not prevent the other parent or the child from seeking assistance from deceased parent’s estate. To determine the estimated cost of the child’s education, the court will generally allow for tuition, books, room and board, student fees, living expenses, utilities, transportation, and any other expenditures deemed to be reasonable. Unless the petitioner can show good cause, the calculations will be based on the estimated expenses of an average student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
In accordance with the law, support awards for educational expenses should only be considered for costs incurred before the child’s 23rd birthday, except for good cause shown. In no case is the court permitted to extend the support beyond the child’s 25th birthday. Support will also be terminated upon the achievement of a bachelor’s degree or if the child gets married before completing the program. Once non-minor support has begun, the child must also continue to maintain a “C” average. Failure to do so, again, except for good cause shown, will result in the termination of ordered support.
If you have questions about your particular situation and the possibility of being ordered to pay non-minor support for educational expenses, contact an experienced Illinois child support attorney in your area. A qualified professional can help you understand the law and provide insight into how to be well-prepared for the future. You can also estimate your child support payments with our online Illinois Child Support Calculator.