College Expenses for Divorcing & Unmarried Military Vets

As a Chicago divorce lawyer, I can tell you that many parents are flabergasted upon learning that a court can force them to pay for their children’s higher education through Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the “IMDMA”), titled “Support for Non-minor Children and Educational Expenses.” 

Getting this law changed should be a no-brainer. A good start would be helping Illinois’ unmarried veteran parents deal with a court ordering them to pay college expenses.

I am proposing a statutory amendment to assist unmarried veteran parents in paying for their children’s higher education.

Amending the IMDMA for veterans

Currently, an unmarried veteran parent may be ordered by a court to pay an unlimited portion of his or her children’s higher education expenses – even though married parents cannot be forced to do so.

Section 513 of the IMDMA should be amended to honor unmarried veteran parents who are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill by placing a ceiling on the amount that courts can order them to pay.

Under my proposed amendment, the amount of GI Bill benefit that an unmarried veteran parent could transfer to a child would also be the maximum amount that an Illinois court could order that parent to pay for child’s higher education.

Our veterans have enough problems re-adjusting to civilian life without the burden posed by an unpredictable college expense liability. Under my proposed amendment, unmarried veteran parents who are eligible to transfer Post-9/11 GI bill benefits to their kids may do so knowing that once benefits are transferred, no Illinois court will order them to pay one penny more.

The college expense law is wrong at its core

The law is inherently unfair because no parent should be forced to pay for the higher education of an adult child,” Wolkowitz said. “The current statutory scheme inverts the parent-child relationship by removing control from the parent. Paying for higher-education is not a necessity, like child support is, and it should not be treated as such.”

When a court orders a parent to pay for college expenses, the child can be robbed of valuable lessons, like those that come with having financial responsibility for one’s own college expenses. Even parents who could easily pay for all their kid’s college expenses may want the kid to have some skin in the game, to earn money from a job, or to take out student loans. But under the current statutory scheme, that key parenting strategy is at risk because a judge could order parents to pay for everything, leaving the child responsible for nothing.


About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).