For approximately 40 years, Illinois divorce law has required that both parents in a divorce contribute to the tuition of their children. However, the law does not require input from the parents in choosing the college. In short, in Illinois, parents can be forced by the Court to pay for their child to go to a college that the parents may not wish their child to attend or may not be able to afford.
This law has recently been tested in DuPage County, Illinois, where a father has challenged his obligation to pay for his daughter’s college tuition. On May 4, 2018 Judge Else of DuPage County ruled that the Illinois law requiring the father to pay his daughter’s college tuition without input from the father regarding where she could attend college was unconstitutional. The father was willing to pay his daughter’s college tuition but would only pay if she went to a school that offered the daughter’s intended course of study, marine biology. The school that the daughter wished to attend did not offer a degree in marine biology. Further, the father was concerned with the daughter’s choice of school because the school was known as a “party school”. One can assume from this that the father did not want his tuition money to be wasted.
The Father was not challenging his responsibility to contribute to his daughter’s college tuition. Rather, he challenged that he did not have any say, under Illinois law, in how his tuition money would be spent and where his daughter attended school in the event that the Court ordered him to pay tuition. The argument presented by the father was that a married couple are not required by law to blindly pay for their child’s college tuition, why should a divorced couple be required to do so.
Judge Else’s ruling that Illinois divorce law on this subject is unconstitutional will likely spark an appeal and potential changes to the handling of college tuitions by Illinois Family Courts. Other Judges could follow suit, possibly leading to a change in Illinois law. This would be very beneficial as it will give divorced parents more input and control over where their tuition dollars are invested for their child. With college costs rising, it is necessary that divorced parents be given the power to exercise a more critical eye and control over where their child attends college so that the child can receive the best and most practical benefit given the funds available to the parents.