Post-high school educational expenses have been limited since the revised Act has taken effect. This has been done to ensure more consistency and fairness with such awards/allocations. The new language stipulates that post-high school educational expenses must be incurred no later than the student’s 23rd birthday, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties or for good cause shown. An example of good cause would be if the child is in the military which has consequently extended the age to which he/she can start college. However, educational expenses cannot be incurred/an award cannot be granted, under any circumstance, upon the child’s 25th birthday. The educational expenses include, but are not limited to the following:
- Tuition and fees*
- Costs of books and other necessary supplies
- Medical expenses, including medical insurance and dental expenses
Reasonable living expenses of the child during the academic year and during breaks*
*Now, the Act specifically stipulates that the maximum contribution towards tuition and fees will be capped at the amount equivalent to those expenses charged at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for that corresponding academic year. Further, contribution towards housing expenses relates to both on or off campus housing but it cannot exceed the charged amount that corresponds to a double-occupancy student room with a standard meal plan, in a residence hall operated by University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. Lastly, reasonable living expenses of the child refers to both if the child is a resident student or if the child is living at home with one of the party’s and is attending an educational institution/program as a non-resident. If the child has non-resident student status, the expense contribution relates to the reasonable costs of the child’s food, utilities, and transportation.
Additionally, the court has discretion to require both parties and the child to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and other financial aid forms. The court may also require either or both of the parties to provide funds for the child so as to pay for the cost of up to five (5) college applications, the cost of two (2) standardized college entrance exams, and the cost of one (1) standard college entrance exam prep class.
It’s important to note that the court’s authority to make a provision for educational expenses extends not only to periods of college education or vocation/professional/other training post-high school graduation, but it also extends to any period during which the child of the parties is still attending high school, even though the child is 19 years old. The court’s authority to make such provisions effectively ends either when a student fails to maintain a “C” grade average, provided there is no limiting instance or illness or other extenuating circumstance present; when the child attains the age of 23 or older; if the child receives a bachelor’s degree; or if the child marries. This authority does not terminate if the child joins the military, becomes pregnant, or is incarcerated.
The court may also, as it sees fit, have the expense sums ordered payable to the child, to either party, or to the educational institution, directly or through a special account or trust created for that purpose. If the expenses are ordered payable, each party and child shall sign any consent necessary for the educational institution to provide the supporting party with access to the child’s academic transcripts, records and grade reports. Further, unless the child’s safety would be jeopardized, each party is entitled to know the name of the educational institution that the child attends. An account established prior to the dissolution that is to be used for the child’s post-secondary education, whether its through an IRS 529 tuition program or through any other college savings plan, will be considered by the court as a resource of the child, provided that any post-judgment contribution by a party to such an account is to be considered a contribution from that party. It is also important to note however that the child is not a third party beneficiary to the settlement agreement or judgment and is not entitled to file a petition for contribution unless death or legal disability of a party who would have a right to file a petition for contribution befalls on him or her. Under this circumstance, the child may file a petition for contribution.