Illinois Grants College Expenses to be Paid by Father, and Appellate Court reverses the Award

Dana and Matthew divorced in Georgia in 2003. Dana later moved with the parties’ children to Illinois. In 2014, Dana filed a petition to enroll the Georgia dissolution judgment in Illinois and then filed a petition for contribution of college expenses in Will County, Illinois.

Matthew agreed that the Georgia dissolution judgment should be enrolled in Illinois but opposed Dana’s petition for contribution of college expenses. The trial court granted the petition for contribution to college expenses, but then the Appellate court reversed.

The marital settlement agreement that they both signed in Georgia made no mention of the children’s college expenses. The agreement contained a provision stating that it was to “be governed exclusively by the laws of the State of Georgia.”

A provision for the payment of college expenses is a form of child support. See In re Marriage of Petersen, 2011 IL 110984. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act  facilitates the reciprocal enforcement or modification of child support awards between states that have adopted the Act. In re Marriage of Hartman, 305 Ill. App. 3d 338, 343 (1999) (citing 750 ILCS 22/601 et seq. (West 1996)). The Act has now been adopted by every state. In re Marriage of Vailas, 406 Ill. App. 3d 32, 35 (2010).

The Act states that “a tribunal of this State may not modify any aspect of a child-support order that may not be modified under the law of the issuing state, including the duration of the obligation of support.” 750 ILCS 22/611(c) (West 2012). The Act further states that the law of the issuing state “governs the duration of the obligation of support” and provides that the obligor’s fulfillment of his initial duty of support “precludes imposition of a further obligation of support” by the forum state. 750 ILCS 22/611(d) (West 2012). Pursuant to these provisions, the law of the state that issued the initial child support order governs whether a parent will be required to contribute to a child’s college expenses. In re Marriage of Edelman, 2015 IL App (2d) 140847.

Under Georgia law, a parent has no duty to pay for a child’s expenses once a child has reached the age of 18. See Ga. Code Ann. § 19-6-15(e) (West 2012).   That is contrary to what is allowed here in Illinois.

In Georgia, “Neither a judge nor jury may require a parent to provide child support beyond the age of majority.” Marshall v. Marshall, 421 S.E.2d 71, 72 (Ga. 1992). In Georgia, a court may not require a parent to pay college expenses for a child who is 18 years old or older. Wood v. Wood, 361 S.E.2d 819, 821 (Ga. 1987).  That of course is contrary as well to Illinois law.  But what this case is telling us, is that if you enter your foreign judgment here, the law of the state that entered your judgment is the authority.  Illinois is not allowed to modify it if the issuing state is different than the law here.

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