Illinois is one of the few states in which a judge can order parents to contribute to college costs for their children after a divorce. Couples can also create a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that details financial responsibility for college expenses. 

If you are considering divorce in Illinois, learn more about how courts determine who pays for college. 

Legal considerations 

The judge will determine payment for college expenses as part of the property division process. The law requires judges to divide these costs as fairly as possible depending on each parent’s income, the assets and property each parent owns and whether the child has access to college savings accounts or other resources. A parent who has never married can also petition the court for assistance with college costs from the other parent. 

Illinois does not have an exact formula to calculate reasonable college costs. However, the judge cannot require parents to pay more than they can afford. In addition, the law caps reasonable college costs at the rate for in-state tuition, room and board at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, currently between about $33,000 and $38,000 per year, depending on the degree program. 

Eligibility requirements 

The court can require parents to pay for a two- or four-year college program, vocational school or trade school. Costs that fall into the category of educational expenses include tuition, housing, fees, medical expenses, books and school supplies. If the child continues to live with one or both parents, the court will also consider the cost of transportation, utilities and food. 

Parents can refrain from paying for school if the child fails to keep at least a C average, earns a bachelor’s degree, marries or turns 23 without completing a program in the absence of a reason such as military service. In addition, either parent can request the modification of college costs at any time, and the judge will review this request while considering the child’s interests.