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In Re Support of Pearson

OPINION FILED MARCH 19, 1986.

IN RE SUPPORT OF KEITH PEARSON (PAULINE PEARSON, APPELLEE; ROBERT E. PEARSON, APPELLANT).


Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. John Reynolds, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Pauline Pearson, instituted the present action asking that defendant, her former husband, Robert Pearson, contribute toward the educational expenses of their son, Keith. The circuit court of Cook County ordered that defendant pay $100 per month for two years toward Keith's post-high-school education. Plaintiff appealed, and the appellate court, in a Rule 23 order (87 Ill.2d R. 23), modified the judgment to require defendant to pay $5,150 per year for two years (132 Ill. App.3d 1159). This court granted defendant's petition for leave to appeal.

The sole issue presented is whether the trial court's award of $100 per month was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The parties' marriage was dissolved on March 18, 1983. The dissolution decree provided for the education of the couple's youngest child by stating:

"With regard to KEITH PEARSON, now emancipated, at such time as he has applied for and been accepted to a college, university, or trade school, either party may file an appropriate petition seeking financial contribution from the other in connection with said college education expense pursuant to Section 513 [of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.]"

The decree thus incorporated the standards set forth in section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, which reads in relevant part:

"The Court * * * may make such provision for the education and maintenance of the child or children, whether of minor or majority age, out of the property and income of either or both of its parents as equity may require * * *. In making such awards, the court shall consider all relevant factors which shall appear reasonable and necessary, including:

(a) The financial resources of both parents.

(b) The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved.

(c) The financial resources of the child." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 40, par. 513.

On July 5, 1983, approximately 3 1/2 months after the dissolution decree was entered, plaintiff filed a petition seeking contributions toward Keith's education and reimbursement for amounts she had already expended. At the hearing held pursuant to this petition the evidence showed that Keith had been accepted into, and was attending, a two-year program in automotive and diesel technology at Technical Careers Institute in West Haven, Connecticut. The annual tuition at Technical Careers Institute (TCI) was $5,300. Keith had rented an apartment in Connecticut at a monthly rent of $300, for a total of $3,600 per year. Plaintiff estimated Keith's food expenses at $1,400 per year, and estimated other expenses, including clothing, supplies, and transportation, at $3,700 per year. Her total estimate was approximately $14,000 per year or $28,000 for the two-year period of study.

Defendant offered into evidence the course catalogue from Triton College, a junior college in Cook County. Although the program at Triton was not identical to that at TCI, tuition for a similar program in automotive and diesel maintenance would cost $4,026 over four semesters. The parties disagreed as to the relative merits of the two programs, plaintiff claiming that TCI had a better reputation than Triton, while defendant claimed that Triton's program was "more comprehensive."

Defendant also offered evidence of the post-high-school educational expenses the Pearsons had expended on their other children prior to the dissolution. One child, Amy, had attended a three-year program at the Massachusetts General Hospital School of Nursing. According to defendant the highest annual cost expended on Amy's education was $1,795 in 1975. Another child, Kim, attended Harper Junior College and Western Illinois University, with expenses ranging from a low of $450 for a year at Harper to a high of $2,404 for a year at Western. A third child, Todd, had taken only a few classes at Harper in 1978, at a cost of $125, and had then entered the Navy. The Pearson's greatest outlay in a single year ...


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