Can I Be Required to Pay for College and Post-Minority Support After My Divorce?

pay for collegeIs Post-Minority Support Unconstitutional?

Divorcing with college-age children may lead to the inevitable question of who will pay for college expenses of the child. In Illinois, Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act controls this question. Section 513 provides that the Court may require either party to contribute to the educational expenses of a child over the age of 18. These educational expenses may include tuition and fees, housing expenses, medical expenses, living expenses of the child, and the cost of books and supplies. The important thing to note here is that this section says “may,” because parents are not required to contribute the post-secondary expenses of their children with the same certainty as when the child is under the age of 18.

This statute has been challenged in the past and found to be constitutional. Specifically, in 1978, the Illinois Supreme Court decided a case challenging the constitutionality of Section 513. The Court said the statute was constitutional and discussed their belief that children of divorced parents were less likely to receive assistance from their parents for college education than children of married or single parents.[1] In 1988, the Second Appellate District said that this rationale also applied to cases where the parents had never been married. [2]

The reasoning behind these 1978 and 1988 cases may seem outdated now. In Illinois the “average” family, statistically, is no longer a two-parent married household, in fact in 2011 only 46% of children under age 18 lived in a two-parent married household. [3]

A recent DuPage County case brought these changing norms to light when it again challenged the constitutionality of Section 513. [4] In this case, Yakich v. Aulds, both parents were ordered to pay 40% of the college expenses for their daughter and the daughter was ordered to pay the final 20%. However, the mother paid the daughter’s portion of the expenses.  The father, Yakich, argued that parental decision-making with respect to college contribution exists for married persons, but this input ends for non-married couples, and he was therefore unable to give meaningful input into his daughter’s college decision-making process. He further argued that because of this lack of input, non-married parties can be forced to bear a burden with respect to their child’s college expenses when they had no say in where their child went to school or how much tuition cost. This obligation, he argued, does not exist for parties who are married or single, who are not required to contribute to their children’s college expenses, violating the equal protection clause. The Court largely agreed with the father in this case and found that divorced or never married parents are not provided the same input and ability to educate their children as married persons are permitted. Further, because the Court found that there is no rational basis for this difference, it determined that equal protection was denied to the father in this case and Section 513 was unconstitutional as applied to him.

This case does not completely abolish Section 513, as it only decided regarding one specific situation.  However, it puts this statute on the chopping block if other Courts were to agree with the Yakich v. Aulds Court and find other circumstances in which a party being required to pay college expenses would be unconstitutional.

TheYakich v. Auldscase is currently on appeal. We will keep this blog updated when the higher courts give their ruling.

The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.  You should consult with an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, emails, and communications.  Contacting our offices does not create an attorney-client relationship.  Please do not send any confidential information to us unless and until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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[1]Kujawinksi v. Kujawinski, 71 Ill.2d 563 (1978).

[2]Rawles v. Hartman, 172 Ill.App.3d 931 (2d Dist., 1988).

[3]Yakich v. Aulds, 15-F-651 (DuPage Cnty May 4, 2018) (citing Livingston, Gretchen “Fewer than Half of U.S. Kids Today Live in a ‘Traditional’ Family,” PewResearch Center, December 22, 2014, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/12/22/less-than-half-of-u-s-kids-today-live-in-a-traditional-family.

[4]Yakich v. Aulds, 15-F-651 (DuPage Cnty May 4, 2018).

 

It’s September: How Will You Pay for College Next Year?

paying for collegeToday, a college education averages about $43,000 per year for a 4-year private school. The average for a 4-year public school is $19,000 per year. Tuition and fees at both levels continue to increase every year by 3%. Many of us don’t have a lot of cash lying around, which makes us wonder how we are going to pay for college without breaking the bank.

Paying for college can be an especially difficult subject when you are divorced from your spouse. Regardless of how this topic was handled in your divorce decree, you may still want to be able to pay for college, and you need to do some serious planning in order to achieve this. The following are a few suggestions that can help you pay for college and not unreasonably affect your own finances. The sooner you start to understand the planning and application process that comes with getting ready for college, the more money you may be able to save on the cost of tuition.

Search for Scholarships

An excellent way to pay for tuition is to get your hands on some free money. This comes in the form of scholarships. You can start your scholarship search as early as your child’s junior year of high school. You can find available scholarships through their school, your church, workplace, or even extracurricular activities. Consult your child’s high school or career counselor to help you search for scholarships. Applying for scholarships can be very time consuming, so be sure to plan ahead and get them turned in on time. Some applications require an essay from the student, so be sure to add enough time for that as well.

Apply to More than One College and Compare Award Letters

Even though the college application process can be expensive, applying to more than one school gives you the flexibility to choose and compare the costs of several different schools before making our final choice.

By the end of March or April of your student’s senior year, you should get an award letter from the school you have chosen with the details of the financial aid they offer. The letter may include information about federal student loans, scholarships, and grants. After looking over your award letter, you will have a better idea of how much more money you will need to find to pay for college.

Fill Out the FAFSA

You and your student will need to complete the FAFSA after January 1st of their senior year in high school, and every college year after that. Completing the FAFSA gives you the chance to qualify for federal student aid.

When to Call Our Office

If you are a divorced parent needing to pay for college and you have a child support order, the time to call our office is right before your child begins their senior year of high school. There is no magic formula the Courts use to determine how post-minority support is paid, as this type of support for college expenses is completely discretionary for the Court. This is also why each state treats this issue differently. Some states disallow this support, while others support it by state statute.

Pursuant to Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, the court is able to make provisions for educational expenses for the children of the marriage, whether or not they are of minority or minor age. This support is for any period that the child is still attending high school, even past the age of 18, as well as for college education or other professional training after high school.

Expenses for this include tuition, room and board, transportation, books, application fees, medical expenses (including insurance), as well as living expenses during school and school breaks. The court will also take into account the financial resources of both of the parents and the standard of living the child would have been accustomed to if the marriage had not ended. It is best to wait until your child has a more definitive idea of his or her choice of college before petitioning the Court for post-minority child support, as the Court will want to know more precise figures and costs for the child’s tuition, expenses, room and board, and other living expenses.

Don’t wait. The time to modify your child support order to cover college tuition is right now. Here at Sherer Law Offices, our experienced family law attorneys will submit the proper paperwork for you to get your order amended so that you will have help paying for college when the time comes.

 CONTACT US TODAY!

 

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