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Warrenville divorce lawyer college expenses modificationAfter a divorce is finalized, and the divorce decree is entered into court records, former spouses must abide by all terms concerning child support, spousal support, the allocation of parental responsibility, and the division of the marriage’s assets and liabilities. The decree may only be modified if a valid reason exists. These reasons may include changes in employment and/or income, parent and child relocation, a change in marital status for either party, a change in health status, and the educational needs of children.

With regard to a child’s educational needs, when a child is at or near the age of 18, one parent may petition the court for a modification to compel the other parent to help bear the cost of college expenses. The purpose of this article is to explain the basics of a divorce decree modification petition regarding a child’s college expenses.

Illinois Extends Child Support Obligations to Include College Expenses

Illinois is one of several states in which parents’ child support obligations may include post-secondary (college) educational expenses for adult children. Either parent can petition the other for financial contribution to the child’s college expenses. Ideally, the parents address the issue of post-secondary expenses during the original divorce settlement, so that each party is clear as to terms and conditions and can plan years before tuition and board fees are ever due. However, as college may seem far away at the time of divorce, it is not uncommon for the issue to go unaddressed. Later, when the issue must be confronted through a divorce modification petition, lawful “educational expenses” for which contributions may be sought by either parent include:

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West Chicago child support modification attorneyWhile child support payments become stable and predictable when parents’ employment circumstances remain constant over time, instability and stress can ensue when there is an unexpected decrease in income. This is true for both the parent paying child support and, when payments fall short or cease altogether, for the parent and child receiving support. When people’s circumstances change, Illinois law allows parents to request a modification of a child support order to increase or decrease the amount of child support payments.

Either Parent Can Request Child Support Modification

Life happens. On the positive side, there are promotions and pay increases. On the negative side, there are layoffs, demotions, pay decreases, and job termination. Whether positive or negative, a meaningful change in the income source of child support payments bears on the support itself. When a paying parent’s income increases or decreases significantly, either parent may petition the court to modify child support payments accordingly. 

Importantly, child support payments cannot be modified informally, out of court. Only a judge is capable of entering a binding modification, and these modifications must be based on the supporting parent’s ability to make their required payments. This bright-line reality may be maddening for a child support payer who is in need of downward modification yet worried about court and attorney’s fees. Fortunately, an experienced family law attorney is well versed in efficiently and effectively navigating the support modification process.  

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