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In Re Marriage of Janet Kellogg Petersen

September 22, 2011

IN RE MARRIAGE OF JANET KELLOGG PETERSEN, APPELLANT, AND KEVIN PETERSEN, APPELLEE.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Freeman

JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Theis took no part in the decision.

OPINION

¶ 1 Leave to appeal was granted in this case to determine the appropriate means by which to apportion post-dissolution decree college expenses where the judgment of dissolution reserved the issue for future consideration.

¶ 2 Background

¶ 3 Janet and Kevin Petersen married on September 1, 1983. They had three sons, Gregory (born August 12, 1984), Ian (born October 21, 1985), and Ellis (born April 19, 1989). In June 1996, Janet and Kevin separated. The circuit court of Cook County entered a judgment of dissolution of marriage on August 27, 1999.

¶ 4 The judgment decree awarded Janet sole custody of the three children. Sections 3, 4, and 5 of the judgment addressed the issue of the children's support. Section 3 ordered Kevin to pay Janet monthly child support. Section 4 ordered Kevin to maintain the children on a major medical health insurance plan, with the couple to contribute equally to any medical costs not covered by insurance. Section 5 ordered Kevin to continue his life insurance coverage for as long as he remained obligated to support Janet or the children. With respect to Kevin's obligation to the children, Kevin was to name the children the irrevocable beneficiaries of the policy "until Kevin's obligation to support them (including any obligations for colleges expenses) is terminated." Section 6 of the decree included the following language:

"The Court expressly reserves the issue of each party's obligation to contribute to the college or other education expenses of the parties' children pursuant to Section 513 of the Illinois Marriage and Marriage Dissolution Act."

The decree further noted that Janet and Kevin "agreed to and adopted" a "Custody and Visitation Agreement" which was incorporated into the final decree. That agreement stated:

"Janet shall consult Kevin on all issues relating to the children's education. Kevin shall be granted at least 48 hours notice to consult with Janet prior to any decision being made concerning any said educational issue. Janet shall have the final decision and authority to make all educational decisions."

The decree further stated that the court expressly retained jurisdiction of the cause for the purpose of enforcing all the terms of the judgment.

¶ 5 On May 17, 2007, Janet filed a petition to allocate the college expenses of the children. In the petition, she asked for contributions from Kevin for the tuition and expenses incurred by their son Gregory, who attended Cornell University beginning in 2002, and who had graduated in 2006. She also asked for reimbursement of the tuition and expenses of their son Ian, who had started his college studies at Wake Forest University in 2004. In 2005, Ian transferred to the University of Texas, where he was pursuing an engineering degree at the time of the petition's filing. Janet also sought a ruling on the future college tuition and expenses of their son Ellis, who was to graduate from high school in May 2007 and had been admitted to California Polytechnic State University for the semester beginning in the fall of 2007.

ΒΆ 6 After a hearing, the circuit court ordered Kevin to pay 75% of the total college expenses for all three children. Ultimately, the court determined the amount Kevin owed was $227,260.68 for past college expenses, and $46,290.91 for Ian's ...


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