Who Pays For College And Handles Financial Aid After A Divorce?

A pile of money and a college graduation hat

College expenses are a major concern for any parent. However, parents who are getting divorced often have more to worry about, especially if a separation occurs well before a child is nearing the age at which they will attend college or pursue vocational school or any other professional training after high school.

After the age of 18, child support will end as this new financial need emerges. But, how much are you obligated to pay and what does the new Illinois law state regarding this issue?

As of January 1, 2016, College Expense Obligations And Financial Aid Have Changed

The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) contains the law the courts follow regarding the division of property and financial obligations, including college expenses. As of January 1, 2016, the IMDMA has been revised and with it, the obligation regarding college expenses for children of separated parents.

Most notably, the update makes the obligations of both parents much more specific. This means both parents will understand what they are obligated to pay as well as for how long for each child, leaving nothing to question.

Both Parents Can be Held Responsible for College Expenses… 

College expenses can be burdensome for any parent. But under the new law in Illinois, either parent may be obligated to contribute to college expenses. However, because many parents either don’t have the immediate ability to pay or simply don’t feel as if they should, many spouses will take the other back to court on post-decree matters to set an obligation for both parents to contribute.

When you return to Court, the judge will obligate both spouses to pay an amount that is equitable and fair. Like most issues in a settlement, it won’t necessarily be something that is split 50/50, especially if there is a gross disparity in income between spouses.

This is not to say that your child won’t be responsible for expenses either. In fact, your child will likely be responsible for an equitable share as well, which they can cover in part with financial aid or other scholarship money. Understanding how the calculations are made for financial aid after a divorce will be will be an important part of your settlement.

What are Considered Reasonable “Expenses” Under the IMDMA?

Under the new Illinois law, there are several expenses that will be considered and must be provided for. These expenses include:

  • Tuition and fees (considered reasonable in contrast to fees paid by a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) for any given academic year;
  • Supplies, such as books and other necessities;
  • Housing expenses, whether on- or off-campus (provided that these expenses do not exceed the cost for a double-occupancy student room with a standard meal plan at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) for any given academic year;
  • Medical expenses for the child, including both medical insurance and dental expenses; and
  • Reasonable living expenses during the academic school year and while not in school.

Remember, your judge will use his or her discretion to allocate these expenses between the parties. For example, if you earn $50,000 annually and your spouse earns $200,000 annually, the judge may require a greater financial contribution from your spouse. However, there are other factors that must be considered that may complicate the issue beyond just “who makes what.”

When do Your Financial Obligations End for College Expenses? 

You are not responsible for your child’s educational expenses forever. Typically, your educational expense obligations will end when your child turns 23 years old.

However, if there is a legitimate reason to continue the support obligations, you may return to Court to continue the obligation for both you and your spouse until your child turns 25.

If You’re Considering Divorce or Your Child is Nearing 18 and College Expenses are of Concern, Contact Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd.

College expenses are typically reserved if your child is young, or children are young, at the time of separation. So if you’re dealing with questions relating to college expenses, or you need help to understand how financial aid will be affected by your situation, Lawrence R. Surinak Ltd. can help.

Larry has been practicing law for over 35 years and has handled countless college expense matters for clients. Let us help you by contacting us at 630-470-9990 or requesting your free, 30-minute consultation online. We look forward to speaking with you and offering our expertise on this issue and any others you’re experiencing!

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