Child Support: Additions to regular support

The Illinois legislature has recently enacted a law that allows the courts to specifically include additional child support amounts to the set guidelines. Under 750 ILCS 5/505 (a)(2.5):

The court, in its discretion, in addition to setting child support pursuant to the guidelines and factors, may order either or both parents owing a duty of support to a child of the marriage to contribute to the following expenses, if determined by the court to be reasonable:

(a) health needs not covered by insurance;
(b) child care;
(c) education; and
(d) extracurricular activities.

Paying attention to the above amendment should place both custodial and non-custodial parents on alert to the possibility of added financial exposure regarding children’s needs. Custodial parents now need to consider requesting (and being prepared to prove the reasonableness of) additional support for before and after-care costs needed to allow that parent to continue employment. Tuition and fees for children who attend private school (especially where the choice was made some time prior to the breakdown of the marriage)is now “in play” in the settlement negotiations between parents. Note also that the costs associated with school-sponsored athletic, artistic, and cultural events is now subject to court determination of reasonableness in terms of cost and best interest of the child or children standard. This consideration probably extends to non-school associated athletic, artistic and cultural activities as well.

Understand also that “education” encompasses a wide array of academic enrichment, tutorial and supplemental expenditures for the child or children of the parties. These costs can range from tutoring, mentoring, additional books, supplies, enrichment classes, test preparation courses, religious education, boy scout and girl scout costs, and other costs tied to the education of the child or children.

What to do? Make sure that you keep proofs of payments for non-reimbursed health related costs for the child or children, and keep accurate records and proofs for babysitting, daycare, before and aftercare, and other such costs. This means paying by check, or some other verifiable method of payment. At the end of the day, you and your child or children’s parent are going to have to try to maintain some semblance of communication; even if the communication is between a trusted intermediary. Believe me, it is better than having the conversation in the courthouse hallway during a contested hearing on child support modification under the new statute.

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Post-Judgment Educational Expense Contributions

Well, it’s August again.  And it is time for the annual post-judgment petitions for educational expense contributions for college costs.  Our domestic relations statute allows for the parties to defer decisions about college educational expenses for their children until a time after the divorce when the issue of college costs arises.  The actual citation for the rules and procedures is found in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/513):  

         Support for non-minor children and educational expenses:

(a) The court may award sums of money out of the property and income of either or both parties or the estate of a deceased parent, as equity may require, for the support of the child or children of the parties who have attained majority …

The statute goes on to list the various terms and conditions needed to file and prove the right to require contribution from your child’s or children’s parent spouse for college educational expenses.  What does this mean for you?

Most importantly, it is necessary to have an idea of what your child or children’s overall college costs are going to be.  Virtually all colleges and universities will issue an award letter to a student (or have this information available on-line).  The usual approach is to be given an “aid package” that allows the student to “accept” or “reject” various grants, scholarships, loans, work-study awards, and other forms of financial assistance.  Depending upon the college or university, there may be a formal award letter that indicates your expected family contribution. It is this “contribution” figure that will form the basis of the request to your child’s other parent.  Note well the use of the words other parent, because the Paternity Act borrows from and treats children from parents who were not married similarly.

It is recommended that you begin the process of negotiation for college expense contributions well in advance of the start of the new college year.  The spring prior to fall enrollment is not too soon to get an idea as to whether you will be faced with resistance from your child’s parent regarding sharing college expenses costs.

Finally, be aware that there is much more to college contribution costs than room, board, books, fees and tuition.  Understand that there are costs for transportation, to and from school, living expenses while away at school, laundry, paper, supplies, computer access charges, minor fees and expenses, and even some portion of the family’s utility and other expenses for children who are living at home and commuting to college.