The short answer is: It depends. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because there are variables that change the outcome for different families. Because situations vary and the laws are complex, having a family law attorney to work with you is highly recommended. Illinois courts take child support seriously, and not understanding what’s required can lead to legal and financial trouble down the road. Read on for more information about child support in Illinois in general and how the college years may be handled.

Child Support in Illinois

The phrase “child support” implies that support is only for young people. However, child support in Illinois is defined as continuing until the child turns at least 18 years and is regarded to be an adult. It’s essential to understand the terms of your specific child support orders. Often–but not always–the courts include an automatic termination date of child support, such as mandating the support ends on the child’s 18th birthday. Because that’s not always the case, ensure you understand your order. Some orders don’t have the mandatory termination date, and you will need to actively pursue having the child support stop via a child support modification request. Simply assuming it ends on the child’s 18th birthday is not enough. If there’s no mandatory termination date and the parent ordered to pay child support stops paying, they could face serious legal charges in Illinois.

It’s important to know that if there are younger siblings included in that child support order, their support will continue until they age out of it as well. The support order needs to be modified to reflect one less child to be supported.

What Happens to Child Support When the Child Turns 18?

Often, a child turning 18 means child support comes to an end. But there are exceptions to that. If the child has yet to graduate from high school when they turn 18, the support continues until they graduate and turn 19. 

There are situations where the child support is ordered to continue past the 19th birthday as well, and that includes the time when the child (technically an adult, but for clarity’s sake, we’ll continue to refer to them as a child) goes to college for an undergraduate degree. Child support may continue in order to help cover all related college expenses, including tuition and associated fees, housing, and other college expenses. The parents may negotiate this as part of their child support contract, or the court may order it. Either way, the amount of support either or both parents must pay will take into consideration each parent’s financial situation. While child support for a minor living at home usually goes to the custodial parent, college-focused child support may be paid to the parent, the child, or directly to the college or university they’re attending. The types of applicable costs include:

Applicable college expenses may include any or all of the following:

  • Tuition, required fees, and books and supplies that are needed for college courses. However, that’s not to say the child can choose an out-of-state Ivy League school and force the noncustodial parent to pay the total costs there. In Illinois, the maximum amount of support is capped at whatever it costs for in-state student tuition and fees at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the year in question. The court has the option of not requiring even that entire amount to be paid.  
  • Housing expenses for the child to attend college. In Illinois, that’s defined as the costs of an on-campus dorm room and meal plan for the relevant year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Again, the court may rule that the parent won’t have to pay the maximum cost. If the child lives off-campus, the parent could be required to pay up to the full cost of board there.
  • Medical, dental, and mental health costs and medical and dental insurance premiums. 

Note that students who live with the custodial parent while attending college are eligible for college costs. But there are requirements they may need to abide by in order to earn that support.

  • Some living expenses, such as transportation to the college, must be deemed reasonable. 
  • The student may be required to apply for financial aid before receiving child support.
  • Academically, the student needs to maintain at least a C grade point average or risk losing the child support for school expenses.
  • Child support must end when one of the following conditions is reached:
    • A bachelor’s degree is completed.
    • The student turns 23 years old.
    • The student marries someone.

Are There Other Situations Where Child Support Continues Past the Age of 18?

Yes. If the child suffers from a disability (physical or intellectual) or there are other medical concerns that prevent them from becoming financially independent, the court may order nonminor child support. This usually requires the custodial parent to file a petition with the court, asking them to order that support from the noncustodial parent.

What Do I Need to Do to Appeal a Property Division order?

Call us at 312-757-4833 for a no-obligation case evaluation. Child support is an important and complicated part of family law that, if mistakes are made and payments missed, can have serious consequences in Illinois. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable family law attorneys understand the importance and gravity of this work and want to ensure your child is protected and cared for through the support due to them to its fullest extent. We know how to read child support orders for the details that are important to understand and make sure they’re followed correctly and in a timely fashion.