Parents have a financial obligation to support their children when they are minors. Court-ordered child support almost always continues until the age of 18. However, there are some circumstances in which a child might need continued support beyond the age of majority.
Illinois law allows a court to order parents to support their children past the age of 18. A parent seeking this type of support – called non-minor support – can petition the court and make a formal request. Child support that is extended or awarded beyond age 18 is decided on a case-by-case basis, but the law mentions a few specific scenarios.
The first is when a child turns 18 while still in high school. If this is the case, the law allows support to continue until graduation or until the child turns 19. Even though the child is technically not a minor, he or she is likely living the same life they were at 17 and is in need of the same support from his or her parents until graduation. Don’t assume, however, that your child support order covers this post-majority time period unless specifically stated.
A second justification for non-minor support is for a physically or mentally disabled child. In these cases, support can continue indefinitely. This is for children who are not emancipated. If you want support for a non-minor disabled child, you can petition the court any time, even after their 18th birthday.
And finally, a very common basis for non-minor support is educational expenses to pay for college. When a child is headed to college (or professional or other training), a judge can order both parents, and the child, to share the costs of continued education. The court generally cannot order payment of educational expenses beyond a bachelor’s degree, however.
Illinois judges are given discretion when deciding who pays and how much, but an order for shared expenses is likely unless one party is facing extreme financial hardship. A judge will consider a range of relevant factors, including the financial resources of both parents, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents not divorced, as well as the financial resources of the child and the child’s academic performance. A judge may consider additional factors that are deemed relevant.
The shared educational expenses can include tuition, room and board, books and supplies, fees, transportation, health insurance and other reasonable college expenses. The support order can include a requirement that the child remain in good standing as a full-time student in order for the support to continue. Support payments can be made to either parent, to the student or directly to the school.
Keep in mind that non-minor support is not automatic and it’s not required by law. Oral promises and informal plans, even when well intended, are bound to change as the years go by. The relationship between the parents might be amicable at the time of divorce, when decisions about child support are being made, but that can change by the time college comes around.
You can go to court to request non-minor support before your child turns 18. If you and the other parent can agree to the continued support, including how much and for which expenses, then it makes things easier. If not, the judge will decide.
Is this confusing? It can be. Contact us if you’d like to speak to one of our attorneys for free and in confidence for legal guidance and/or a child support attorney referral.