Relationships often require sacrifice. Considering the financial undertaking and time commitment of earning a professional degree, it is not uncommon for many spouses to sacrifice their own goals for the sake of supporting their spouse. Certain professional degrees, such as medical, legal, and accounting, while necessary to practice within specific industries, can command a significant salary increase. This partnership and compromise is commendable, but what happens if the marriage comes to an end and one person is left with higher earning capacity, while the supporting spouse is left with little to nothing? This begs the question of whether the supporting spouse is entitled to any interest in such a professional degree. After all, they have contributed to its earning and in essence, the graduate spouse’s future earnings.
The Consideration of Professional Degrees Under Illinois Law
Although it may seem inequitable, under Illinois law, a professional or educational degree or license is not considered to be marital property subject to division of the assets during divorce proceedings. Due to the fact that they are not susceptible to creditors and cannot be bought and sold, educational degrees and licenses are not considered property at all under this definition. The degree rightfully belongs solely to its original owner. The cost of the degree cannot be conferred to the other spouse, or anyone else for that matter.
Equitable Division of Marital Property and Spousal Support
Luckily though, Illinois courts will take several factors into consideration regarding the degree in order to account for fairness. Spouses who are proven to have provided different types of assistance (e.g. financial) in support of their partner’s educational endeavor are generally compensated in some manner. Courts also consider the financial status of “supporting” spouse when deciding upon the equitable division of marital property. If the court finds that there is a deficiency of assets needed to adequately support the “supporting” spouse, it may elect to award spousal support to that spouse.
Find an Experienced Family Law Attorney to Protect Your Rights
In addition to the support given by each spouse during the earning of a spouse’s degree or license, the court will consider all of the circumstances of the specific case. Equitable divisions of marital property cases are not “one size fits all.” Regardless of whether you are the degree “earner” or the degree “supporter,” it is smart to obtain an experienced and compassionate family law attorney. This helps serve to protect your rights.
With over 35 years of experience in private practice with a concentration in family law, Attorney Michael J. Smith, has experience in the issues that you may be facing. From dissolution of marriage, to child custody and visitation rights, to child support and more, he understands how to help you to navigate through your personal situation. To learn more about how Mr. Smith can work to protect your interests, call 815-282-8228 today.
Posted in: Family Law