The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that college expenses are a form of child support and a petition to allocate them is a modification request subject to Section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
Janet and Kevin Petersen had three sons, then divorced. The divorce decree reserved the issue of college expenses. Eight years later Janet filed a Petition to Allocate College Expenses. At that time the oldest boy had finished college, the middle boy was in college, and the youngest was still in high school. The trial court allocated 75% of all college expenses to Kevin, including expenses incurred before Janet filed her Petition. Kevin appealed.
The Supreme Court held that college expenses are a form of child support and are subject to the section addressing modification. Reserving the issue in the divorce decree made no difference because the word modify plainly includes any post-decree change to the parties’ obligations. Because the original decree did not require either parent to pay college expenses the Petition “sought to change the status quo” which made it a request to modify child support.
Because the Petition was a request to modify support, and by rule such requests were not retroactive, Kevin could not be required to pay amounts incurred before the Petition was filed.
BUT the Court’s instructions on remand said that when determining how to allocate the college expenses, the trial court needed to analyze each parent’s financial resources including “the fact that Janet’s financial resources may have been depleted” by paying for the earlier college expenses.
Brian D. Moore