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college tuition in divorce, Illinois, child support, divorce lawyer in IllinoisSometimes, divorce decrees do not include an explicit obligation for a parent to pay for a child's post-secondary education. Though divorce decrees can govern child support and alimony payments, some issues may be left undecided in a divorce for the parties to determine in the future. In Illinois a heavily litigated topic is the determination of who is required to pay for unallocated post secondary education expenses, and how much of the expense should be borne by parents.

Divorce Decrees and Post Secondary Expenses

If an obligation to pay expenses is explicitly contained in a divorce judgment, even when the amount to paid is left out, the non-petitioning party will typically be required to pay college expenses incurred pre-petition. When a divorce decree does not provide for a child's post-secondary expenses, this issue is often reserved by general language that states that the parents “shall contribute” in such a way that will be decided in the future. Such allocations are typically not decided at the time of divorce, because it is unclear what sort of education the child will pursue, where this education will take place, and how much it will cost. The best practice is to file a petition for expenses before the child's first year in school. However, these petitions can be filed anytime while the child is in school, and even after the child has graduated and incurred all of the expenses necessary for their post secondary education.

Illinois Law and the Allocation of Post Secondary Expenses

Section 13 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act  (“IMDMA”) governs an Illinois' courts right to allocate the payment of post-secondary school expenses. IMDMA allows a court to require both parents, and a deceased parent's estate, to pay their child's post-secondary expenses. These expenses include living expenses, tuition, room and board, books, registration, application fees, and medical costs. IMDMA section 513 even gives courts the right to order expense allocations before the child is old enough to attend post secondary education.

Best Practices for Allocating Post Secondary Expenses

In order to avoid unnecessary court costs and future litigation, one should file a post secondary expense allocation petition before college expenses have been incurred. The best time would be to file a petition during the spring or winter before your child starts college. At this point your child will know what school they are attending, as well as the financial aid awards that they will receive from school. As a result, this will be the best time to calculate expenses. This will also give the case enough time to be heard by the court before the expenses are due to the post secondary institution.

Determining who should be liable and how much should be contributed for a child's post secondary expenses following divorce is a difficult endeavor. Contact the family law attorneys here at the Law Offices of Cosmo Tedone and Barbara Morton, P.C. in Joliet, IL for any question you may have regarding expense allocation and any other family law related issues.

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