In Illinois, you can come to any kind of agreement with your ex as to where the child will attend school. Specifically, 750 ILCS ILCS 602.10(f)(6) requires that a parenting plan MUST include “the child’s residential address for school enrollment purposes only”.
If parents cannot agree on what school your child will attend, either parent can petition the court to enter an allocation of parenting responsibilities and parenting time that includes the school residency.
“The court shall allocate to one or both of the parents the significant decision-making responsibility for each significant issue affecting the child” 750 ILCS 5/602.5(b).
One of the “significant decision-making responsibilit[ies]” the court can assign is “Education, including the choice of schools and tutors.” 750 ILCS 5/602.5(b)(1)
The court will use the “child’s best interests” in determining which parent makes that decision. Usually, the court looks to the actual decision that will be made when deciding which parent will make that decision.
School districts can often be a very large factor in determining with which parent the child will spend the majority of his or her time. Typically, courts favor keeping the child registered where they are currently registered, especially in the middle of the school year. The difference in school quality can often be good cause for a change, though. Again, this is all determined by considering “the best interests of the child.”
If you cannot have a judge make the decision as to where the child will attend school (or perhaps you do not want the judge to make that decision) you can look to the Illinois School Code for direction. This may be a clever way to enroll the child in the school of your choice without entering an all-encompassing order regarding everything.
In Illinois, a child’s residency is determined by 105 ILCS 5/10-20.12b which states, “the residence of a person who has legal custody of a pupil is deemed to be the residence of the pupil.”
The problem is that as of January 1, 2016, the term “custody” was stricken from the law in favor of “allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time.”
We can still look to 105 ILCS 5/10-20.12b for guidelines as to who would have “custody” for school purposes.
“i. Custody exercised by a natural or adoptive parent with whom the pupil resides.
- Custody granted by order of a court of competent jurisdiction to a person with whom the pupil resides for reasons other than to have access to the educational programs of the district.
iii. Custody exercised under a statutory short-term guardianship, provided that within 60 days of the pupil’s enrollment a court order is entered that establishes a permanent guardianship and grants custody to a person with whom the pupil resides for reasons other than to have access to the educational programs of the district.
- Custody exercised by an adult caretaker relative who is receiving aid under the Illinois Public Aid Code for the pupil who resides with that adult caretaker relative for purposes other than to have access to the educational programs of the district.
- Custody exercised by an adult who demonstrates that, in fact, he or she has assumed and exercises legal responsibility for the pupil and provides the pupil with a regular fixed night-time abode for purposes other than to have access to the educational programs of the district.”
Using the school code may be especially helpful if the child is in the care of a grandparent or someone else who is not a parent. If the child is using the address of a non-parent to attend in a particular school district, this will be a problem as children are supposed to live with parents and “[i]t has long been the law in Illinois that a school district provides a free education only to children who reside within its district and Illinois courts have been enforcing this law for almost a century.” Jones v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, 996 NE 2d 1093 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 2nd Div. 2013
If the child does not live in the district, they cannot attend that school for free. “[O]nly resident pupils of a school district may attend the schools of the district without payment of the tuition” 105 ILCS 5/10-20.12b(b)
“Resident pupils” are not defined by an Illinois statute. Neither is “residency” for the purposes of school attendance. The rules are pretty loose as to whether a child can attend school in a particular school district.
“The right to attend school is not limited to the place of the legal domicile…[and a] residence, even for a temporary purpose, in a school district, is sufficient to entitle children of school age to attend school…. The only requirement, so far as residence is concerned, is dwelling in the school district.” Ashley v. Board of Education, 275 Ill. 274, 278-81 (1916)
“The establishment of such a residence [to attend school in a particular school district], even for a temporary purpose, is sufficient to entitle children to attend school in the district” as long as that temporary residence was not established solely for the purpose of attending school for free. Gwozdz v. Board of Education of Park Ridge-Niles School District No. 64, 2021 IL App (1st) 200518. As
such, “when determining one’s residence for school district purposes we consider not only the
dwelling place of the family, but also whether that place is the family’s intended ‘home base’ for
day to day living and care of the child.” Gwozdz v. Board of Education of Park Ridge-Niles School District No. 64, 2021 IL App (1st) 200518
Whatever school a child attends, the parents who does not live in the district will have to drive the child there during their parenting time. Again, this can become the basis for request for more or less parenting time for either parent.
A child’s school district is a very important matter, especially in Chicago where one district may be a unique garden of opportunities while another district may resemble a war zone. Contact my Chicago, Illinois law firm to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how to ensure your child goes to the right school district.