In Illinois, a family court requires child support payments until a child turns 18, or graduates from high school if the child is still attending high school full-time at the time of his/her 18th birthday. However, there are circumstances where a judge may award continued financial support after high school. Parties’ children who are over 18 may receive child support payments to help pay for their college education.
Unless otherwise noted in a support order, one of the parents must request what is called “post minor support” payments when seeking support for a student beyond the age of 18. The request must outline a list of anticipated expenses as well as their current financial situation. To qualify, the student must intend to attend college full-time. Alternative to filing a motion, both parents can agree to pay for expenses without issuing a court order.
The state requires timely payments for any child support order. As a result, parents should review their agreement to ensure all payments are made within guidelines.
What Expenses Are Covered?
“Non-minor” or “post minor” child support can continue throughout an individual’s undergraduate degree. Both parents’ financial circumstances determine payments as well as other factors. The college expenses covered by additional support payments include:
- Tuition and fees
- Room and board
- Registration and application costs
- Medical expenses (including medical insurance)
- Dental expenses (both during school and breaks)
- General living expenses
- Transportation costs
Are There Limits to How Much Child Support Can Be Requested?
The state does place a cap on certain expenses such as tuition, fees and room and board. This cap is the equivalent of the cost of an in-state student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Parents will not pay over the cap once it has been reached.
How Long Can Child Support Payments Help Pay for College?
Typically, payments will continue throughout an undergraduate degree. However, there are certain requirements the student must fulfill. The support agreement requires parents to pay for college expenses, subject to the following “terminating” events:
- The student does not maintain a “C” grade point average.
- The recipient turns 23 years old prior to obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree.
- The student graduates.
- The student gets married.
What Other Resources Are Available for Parents and Students?
In addition to continued support payments, parents and students may also utilize other financial resources such as a college savings plan or the FAFSA.
What is a 529 College Savings Plan?
A 529 Plan is a savings plan designed to encourage saving for future education costs, including college tuition and fees. Like a savings account, parents can contribute funds to the plan on a regular basis. The money is not taxed if it is spent on educational expenses.
If the plan is opened during a marriage, the funds within the same account are considered to the Court a “resource” of the child. For payments made by the parent(s) after a divorce to the account, those payments are contributions from the specific parent who made the deposit. These contributions can then be taken into consideration if/when a party later files a case for post-minor support.
Federal Application For Student Aid (FAFSA)
Filing a FAFSA is already a complicated process for students and parents. Divorce or separation may add extra steps. When filing, students are asked to base their FAFSA on the custodial parent or the parent who provides the most financial support.
Regardless of the parent’s marital status, students will still need to provide the following information:
- Social Security Number (Child’s & Parents’)
- Driver’s License
- Tax information
- Date of parents’ divorce or separation
Seek Guidance from a Family Attorney
Interpreting child support laws on your own can be difficult. Whether you’re recently divorced or have been separated for a while, Strieker Law Firm can help you make the most of your child support agreement. Put your mind at ease when it comes to paying for college. Contact us to learn more.