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Illinois Court Questions Law Requiring Divorced Parents to Pay for College

Posted on in Child Support

Illinois Court Questions Law Requiring Divorced Parents to Pay for CollegeThe Illinois Supreme Court has upheld a portion of the state’s divorce law that can order both parents to help pay for a child’s college education, in response to a circuit court judge who ruled that it was unconstitutional. The circuit court judge had decided that forcing a divorced parent to contribute to college expenses is a violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which promises equal protection under state laws. Rather than argue the merit of the claim, the supreme court said that the circuit court judge lacked the authority to strike down the law because the supreme court had previously ruled that the law was constitutional. Only the supreme court has the authority to overturn that ruling, it said.

College Expenses

The law in question is Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which states that courts may order divorced parents to use their assets and incomes to pay for a child’s post-high school education. Expenses may include:

  • Tuition
  • Housing
  • Books and supplies
  • Reasonable living expenses
  • Medical expenses

Divorced parents can share these expenses by allocating assets in their divorce agreement towards paying for college or continuing child support payments until the child graduates with a bachelor’s degree or turns 23, whichever happens first. The age deadline can be extended to 25 if good cause is shown. Continued child support payments may be dependent upon the child’s academic performance.

Recent Case

The 14th Amendment promises citizens equal protection under state law, which has been interpreted as meaning that states must treat people in an equal manner if they have similar conditions and circumstances. In the recent case of Yakich v. Aulds, a divorced father successfully argued to the circuit court that Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because:

  • It did not allow him to have input on which school his daughter should attend.
  • The law forces both divorced parents to help pay for college, while both married parents are not forced to do so.

In its ruling, the circuit court stated that society and families have greatly changed since the Illinois Supreme Court last upheld the law in 1978. Unmarried and divorced parents are more common, and the courts should no longer presume that such parents are less likely to both contribute to paying for college. While the supreme court overturned this ruling based on the lack of authority of the lower court, it neither supported nor dismissed the argument itself.

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Attorney

College education for a child is expensive, and sharing the cost is often the most reasonable way for divorced parents to afford it. A Naperville, Illinois, divorce lawyer at Calabrese Associates, P.C., can help you determine how you and your co-parent can both contribute towards your child’s education. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.


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