Can I Be Forced to Help My Child Pay for College?

college, Aurora family law attorneyAs a new class of graduating high school seniors prepares for the road ahead, many will be headed to college for the first time this fall. While post-high school education certainly offers a great deal of opportunity for a young mind, the ever-increasing price tag associated with it is a source of serious concern. A large number of parents have both the desire and financial ability to help their child pay for college. But what about those cannot or will not contribute to their child’s college expenses? Can a court force such parents to help? It may come as a surprise to learn the answer depends on whether the parents are married or divorced, along with several other factors.

Rising Costs of College

According to recent surveys, a student at an in-state public university can expect to spend, on average, about $24,000 per academic year, while a student a private college could reasonably expend about double that amount. These numbers include not only tuition and fees but also the cost of living, food, and other related college expenses. This means that for a student to graduate with a four-year degree, he or she will incur up to $200,000 or more in educational costs. While loans and programs are available to many students, beginning a professional life up to a quarter of million dollars in debt does not sound like anyone’s ideal situation.

The Role of Parents

Illinois law does not contain any provisions that could require parents who are married to each to help pay for their child’s college expenses. Such a decision is left entirely to the discretion of the couple. The law is considerably different, however, when the parents are divorced or were never married to each other. In either of those situations, a court does have the authority to order one or both parents to contribute toward the child’s post-high school education, essentially as a form of child support.

There is an important distinction, however. The court is only permitted to act as an intermediary between the parents, as the law recognizes a child’s college costs to be a financial matter related to the divorce and the child’s upbringing. Either parent can ask the court to force the other to help pay, but the child is not permitted to make such a request.

Statutory Considerations

In making its decision, the court will consider the resources and needs of each parent and the child, the standard of living the child could have reasonably expected if the parents had stayed together, the child’s academic performance, and the ability of the child to secure scholarships, grants, and other financial aid. The court will also take into account any prior agreement or judgment between the parents that may have already addressed sharing college costs.

Whether you would like the help of your child’s other parent in paying for college or you have been asked to contribute, you need an attorney who will protect your best interests and those of your child. Contact an experienced family lawyer in Aurora, Illinois today. Call [[phone]] for a confidential consultation.



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