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Father Ordered by Illinois Judge to Pay College Tuition, or Face Jail

McHENRY COUNTY, Ill., JANUARY 12, 2004 – A father of four was ordered this month by a circuit court judge to pay for his adult daughter’s college expenses, regardless of his ability to pay, and will be incarcerated if he cannot pay the obligation.

Michael Franke, of Lake in the Hills, Ill., will be sent to jail on Jan. 23rd if he does not hand over $3,800 to his former wife for the tuition expenses of his 18-year-old daughter. In addition, Franke’s paychecks will be seized 100% by the state of Illinois until the full initial court-ordered amount of $8,000 is paid in full. Franke could continue to be held responsible for his daughter’s college expenses should she continue in school.

Franke and his former wife, who divorced in 1999, agreed at the time that "the amount and extent of contribution on the part of each party for vocational, college and/or university expenses of said minor children will be dependent upon the financial ability of that party at the time" [Franke v. Franke]. Franke’s former wife earns a comparable salary and holds savings in excess of the amount Franke has been ordered to pay.

In addition to paying more than $20,000 per year in child support payments to his former wife for the care of his children, and having never been in arrears, Franke has a young son with his second wife who suffers from Recurrent Respiratory Papillomatosis. The ailment is a recurrent benign tumor involving the larynx and vocal cords. Monthly surgery is necessary for the child to maintain an unobstructed airway and normal voice development. The surgeries and routine care of this disease costs Franke approximately $500 per month.

McHenry County Circuit Court Associate Judge Joseph P. Condon told Franke this week that the special needs of his young son were of no concern to him, and that Franke’s current wife would have to deal with the ramifications of losing 100% of her husband’s income. Condon added that the children of Franke’s first marriage were a priority over Franke’s ill one-year-old son. Franke’s children also include a 16-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son.

Even though Franke has made regular attempts at exercising his visitation with his children, none of Franke’s three children from his first marriage currently have any contact with their father. Franke has had no contact with his 18-year-old daughter in more than three years.

According to Franke’s wife, Nicole, the couple made an offer to pay a “more reasonable” amount of the 18-year-old’s college tuition needs, citing the medical condition of the one-year-old, but the offer was refused. Condon also ordered Franke to pay all of his former wife’s attorney’s fees.

An appeal has been filed, but Condon warned Franke that he would be incarcerated if he did not provide proof that he had paid his former wife the $3,800 in full.

Courts in New Hampshire have recently ruled that forcing divorced parents to pay for their children’s college expenses is unconstitutional, citing the fact that parents from intact families cannot be legally compelled to provide the same assistance.

Lisa Miller
McHenry County, Illinois

January 2004

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