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Cianchetti v. Cianchetti

August 19, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois No. 86--D-183. Honorable Gilbert Niznik Judge, Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McDADE

[8]  In this case from the circuit court of Will County, the Petitioner, Mario Cianchetti, appeals from an order requiring him to pay 50% of the tuition and fees necessary to send his two daughters to private college in Chicago. He argues that the amount, in excess of $15,000, is more than he can afford and that it was an abuse of discretion for the court to impose the requirement. He also argues that the court erred in preventing him from presenting the testimony of Daniel Kriedler, an alleged expert in college expenses and education financing. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.


[10]   The Cianchettis were divorced in 1988. At the time, Mario was awarded custody of the two daughters of the marriage, Echo and Felicia. The children lived with Mario until they were seniors in high school, when they moved out of his home and moved in with their mother, Darlene Martin.

[11]   Although the children were educated in public school through their grade school years, when they were old enough, Mario enrolled them in Marian Catholic High School.

[12]   Mario's expenses/income affidavit reveals that he nets $4,123.09 per month, with expenses of $4,248.53, leaving him with a deficit of $125.44. This calculation does not include the $7,400 tax refund Mario received in 2002, which is equal to $616 a month in additional income for that year.

[13]   The Cianchetti daughters intend to attend Columbia College in Chicago. Echo has already begun her schooling at Columbia, and studies theatre, while Felicia intends to study dance. Both programs offer internships and other opportunities for participation in the arts community of Chicago. Other schools in the area do not offer similar programs. Echo had already completed one year at Columbia prior to the ruling in this case, although it is unclear how she paid the tuition.

[14]   Annual tuition at Columbia is $13,914 for each of the girls. Books, supplies and fees bring the total cost for Columbia to approximately $15,000 per year. This amount does not include room and board. The sisters intend to live together in Chicago and will pay for housing and other living expenses through their own savings. In 2002, Echo earned approximately $14,373, and she has savings of around $2,200. Both girls have around $1,800 each in bonds.

[15]   Darlene Martin has an income of approximately $42,000 a year, most of which she uses to pay for incidental expenses related to the girls, like shopping trips and vacations. In addition, her new husband, Kevin Martin, nets roughly $140,000 per year.

[16]   Mario had attempted to call Daniel Kriedler as an expert witness at the hearing on the matter. Mr. Kriedler would have testified about other educational programs available to the girls and would have discussed educational costs and alternative methods of funding the expenses. The trial court rejected the evidence, stating that it was not relevant, since Kriedler had not done comparisons with other programs substantially similar to that offered at Columbia College. Following the hearing, the trial court found that Mario could afford to pay half of the combined tuition of both girls to Columbia College and set the amount at $15,000 a year.


[18]   A trial court's decision to award educational expenses will be overturned only if it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. In re Marriage of Hillebrand, 258 Ill. App. 3d 835, 840-41, 630 N.E.2d 518, 522 (1994). A decision is against the manifest weight of the evidence when the opposite conclusion is clearly evident or where it is unreasonable, arbitrary or not based on the evidence. Maple v. Gustafson, 151 Ill. 2d 445, 454, 603 N.E.2d 508, 512-13 (1992).

[19]   Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act authorizes the trial court to order a parent to pay for the educational expenses of a child of majority age. 750 ILCS 5/513(a) (West 2002). In making the decision whether to order the payment of educational expenses, the court should consider all "reasonable and necessary" factors, including: (1) the financial resources of both parents; (2) the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not been dissolved; (3) the resources of the child; and (4) the child's academic performance. 750 ILCS 5/513(b) (West 2002)).

[20]   The petitioner first alleges that he is not in a financial position to pay the tuition. A party should not be required to pay more for a child's college tuition than he can afford. In re Support of ...

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