Chance of success
There are several questions to ask yourself before starting a court case.
- Who are you filing a case against? Can they give you what you are asking for if you win the case?
- Why are you filing a case? Do you have enough information to support your side?
Costs of a court case
It costs time and money to file a case in court. Court cases may take several months and even a year or years to finish. Court cases often include:
1. Fill out the forms requesting educational expenses
Fill out and sign the forms listed below. Make three (3) copies of each form.
- Petition for Educational Expenses in Cook County: Use this petition to ask the court to order the other parent to pay educational expenses for a non-minor child
- Notice of Petition: Tells the other party that you filed a Petition for Educational Expenses
- Financial Affidavit: Use this program to help you complete a Financial Affidavit
You will also need four (4) copies of one of the following (whichever is most recent and whichever applies):
If you do not have money to pay court fees, you should also fill out the below application:
- Application for Waiver of Court Fees: Asks the court to participate in the court case for free if you do not have money to pay the court filing fees.
2. Prepare your forms for filing
3. File your forms with the court
Now that you have filled out your forms, you need to file them with the clerk. The method you are required to use depends on the county where you are filing.
- E-filing: Some counties require you to file your forms and documents electronically. See E-Filing Basics for more information.
- Paper filing: If you can paper file or have an E-filing Exemption Certificate, take your completed forms to the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. See courthouse locations.
There is a fee to file most forms. The cost depends on the type of case you have and the county where you are filing. Contact your local circuit clerk's office for information on the fees.
If you do not have money to pay court fees, use the Application for Waiver of Court Fees program.
When you file your forms with the clerk they become part of the case. The clerk will stamp your forms. This stamp is important because it's proof that you filed the form with the court.
- E-filing: The documents you want to file with the court have to be uploaded into the system. You will need to create an account. See E-filing Basics for details.
- Paper filing: If you are paper filing bring the forms to the clerk at the courthouse in the county where you are filing. Bring all your copies and the originals with you when you file. Ask the clerk to stamp all your forms. They will keep the original. Keep at least one copy for your records. See courthouse locations.
How you will find out about the court date (or hearing date) and time depends on how you filed your case.
- E-filing: The website you used to electronically file may let you pick your court date (or hearing date) and time. If it does not, contact the clerk.
- Paper filing: If you filed in person at the courthouse, the clerk will let you pick or they may pick for you.
4. Tell the other parent about the Petition for Educational Expenses
After filing, you must notify the your parent about your Petition. You will need to:
- Mail a file stamped copy of your Petition to your parent;
- File a Certificate of Mailing of Petition for Educational Expenses with the circuit clerk certifying the date you mailed it and the address where you mailed it; and
- Mail a file stamped copy of the Certificate of Mailing to the parent.
5. Prepare for the Petition for Educational Expenses hearing date
- Why your child needs the other parent's support
- Why you cannot pay for all of your child's educational expenses
- Why you think the other parent has the money to contribute to your child's educational expenses
You will also need to testify about whether you are requesting that the other parent pay for all of your child's educational expenses or a part of your child's educational expenses. You will also need to testify if you are requesting that the other parent reimburse you or your child for educational expenses that have already been paid.
Once you fill it out, file it with the circuit clerk and send a copy of it to the other parent. Also make sure you file a proof of service with the circuit clerk showing that you sent a copy of the financial affidavit to the other parent.
6. Going to court for a petition for educational expenses case
It is important to follow the below suggestions when going to court:
- Get to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your hearing time. Go to the courtroom listed on your court forms. If your forms do not have a courtroom number, look for a list of cases at the courthouse or ask the circuit clerk
- Check in quietly with the courtroom staff and wait for your name and case number to be called
- When your case is called, walk up to the judge and introduce yourself. Briefly tell the judge what you want out of the case. After listening to you and the other side, the judge will let you know what happens next
- Always refer to the judge as “Your Honor.”
- Bring copies of all the documents you filed and any papers relating to what you are requesting
- The judge may ask you about your case. To testify, you will need to call yourself as a witness. The judge or the judge's clerk will put you under oath and you will present your testimony.
When you testify, your testimony should include at least some of the following:
- Your name and address
- The other parent's name
- The name and birthdate of the child for whom you are requesting educational expenses
- Where the child attends school
- How much the school costs
- What other educational expenses your child incurs
- How much you have already paid toward your child's educational expenses
- How much your child has contributed to his or her educational expenses
- Where the money has come from that you have contributed and where the money has come from that your child has contributed
- Evidence of your child's grades both while in high school and in his or her post-high school education if you are requesting post-high school educational expenses
- Why it is necessary for your child to continue their high school education after turning 18 or why it is important for your child to attend post-high school education if you are requesting post-high school educational expenses
- Why you or your child needs the other parent to help pay for educational expenses
- Why the other parent is able to help pay
- About how much the other parent should contribute to your child's educational expenses
You should also bring to court any evidence that you have to prove your case. Useful evidence that can help you prove your case includes the other parent's:
- Tuition statements
- Receipts or statements for expenses related to your child's educational expenses
- Receipts or statements that show how much you and your child have already paid
- Your child's grade reports
- Proof of enrollment of your child
- Evidence of how much money the other parent makes
If this is your first time going to court, learn more about the process of Going to court in Illinois.
If your Petition for Educational Expenses is granted, the judge will issue an order stating what amount or percentage each parent needs to contribute as well as whether the child is also required to contribute to their educational expenses.
Updated: January 2017