SCHOOL RESIDENCY FRAUD CAN BE CHARGED AS A FELONY

Understandably, you would like your child to get the best education in the best school district, but perhaps you can’t really afford to live there. You may be tempted to lie about your child’s real home in order to enroll them in that preferred school. But depending on the circumstances and the school district, you could end up charged with a felony.

In February, 2018, Orland School District 135 pressed felony charges against a mother who provided an allegedly fraudulent lease for a home in District 135. The home was actually a retail establishment. After questioning, the mother continued to provide allegedly fake documents, leading to her arrest for felony forgery. (See Woman Charged with Forgery after Giving School False Address).

Most school districts do not carry matters quite so far. They may simply disenroll your child and bill you several thousand dollars in tuition. However, the option of pressing criminal charges for at least a Class C Misdemeanor is always possible.

If you receive notice from your child’s school questioning their residency, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. Many parents make the mistake of trying to handle the situation themselves, but they are often unprepared for what they are walking into. By the time, they call an attorney, the facts of the case have already been established and the attorney’s hands may be tied. Furthermore, once a school believes you are lying, it is very difficult to convince them otherwise. Your words are often twisted against you.

An attorney can review your situation to see if you have a genuine claim to residency. If so, the attorney can present evidence to the school accordingly. Even if your child is not a legal resident, an attorney may be able to negotiate an agreement that allows you to leave the school district without facing criminal charges or possibly paying tuition.

If you have questions about Illinois school residency, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

WHEN YOUR MARRIAGE BECOMES SCHOOL BUSINESS: SCHOOL RESIDENCY AND MARITAL SEPARATION IN ILLINOIS

You and your husband no longer see eye to eye. You have not filed divorce papers, but you’ve decided to live apart—at least for now. You still hope you can work things out. One of you lives in an excellent school district so you would like your children to go there. Now the school is claiming that your children are not residents of the district and is handing you a whopping tuition bill.

Can they do that? What can happen to you?

In Illinois, your child has a right to a free and appropriate public school education in the district where the parent or guardian resides. (105 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/10-20.12(a)(1).) However, you cannot live in a school district for the sole purpose of sending your child to that district’s schools. Therefore, you may have to prove you had other reasons for living there.

Well, you think, I am having marital issues, so I’m covered, right? Not necessarily. Legally speaking you would be correct. If you really moved because you separated from your spouse, then the schools aren’t your sole reason for living in that district. The problem comes in proving that to the school.

Unfortunately, many school districts still think we live in the 1950’s with idealized nuclear families. If you didn’t file divorce papers, the schools are suspicious. If you are ambivalent about your separation and still trying to make a go of your marriage, the schools are suspicious. If you get along too well with your spouse, the schools are suspicious. And that means that if your residency is challenged, the schools will want to know a lot about your business. This can include sharing the intimate details of your married life.

If you do file divorce papers, you may need a custody order giving the parent in the desired district residential custody. But if you haven’t filed, you will need a lot of evidence proving where you live, especially since the school will have undoubtedly sent an investigator to spy on you. The testimony of just you and your spouse is not enough.

If you receive a notice about your child’s residency, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can help present your situation to the school in its most favorable light. Do not try to handle the matter yourself. What you believe is your right to enroll your children may instead violate Illinois law. Our clients often unwittingly make incriminating statements before coming to us. Plus, a school hearing officer is more likely to rule for the school if you represent yourself. Your child may be barred from attending that district, and you could face a hefty tuition bill as well as criminal charges.

If you have questions about this or another related school matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

“CAN MY CHILD LIVE WITH MY RELATIVE?”: SCHOOL RESIDENCY IN ILLINOIS

Like any good parent, you want your child to have the best education possible. Unfortunately, the school district where you live just doesn’t cut it. You do have a family member, however, such as a parent, an aunt or an uncle, that happens to live in a great school district. Can you send your child to live with them?

In Illinois, your child has a right to a free and appropriate public school education in the district where the parent or guardian resides. The child’s residence is deemed to be with the person who has legal custody. (105 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/10-20.12(a)(1).)

So why not give legal custody to your relative?

Under Illinois law, you cannot send your child to live in a school district for the sole purpose of attending that district’s schools. You must have other, more compelling reasons to appoint your relative as the child’s guardian. Perhaps you are unable to care for your child, and your relative is really providing a stable home. Perhaps the child is living with the relative because you cannot afford to support them.

The Illinois court has ruled in favor of a child attending his aunt’s Illinois school district where the parents sent the child from Mexico because of greater social and economic opportunities. In another case, the children lived with their aunt after their mother’s remarriage because the new husband did not want the children in his home.

However, the Illinois Supreme court ruled against one family where a sister moved in with her brother because she preferred to live with him and to help care for his infant children. The Illinois court was not convinced, finding that the sister lived with the brother for the sole purpose of attending school.

If you receive a notice about your child’s residency, contact an experienced school law attorney immediately. An attorney can help present your situation to the school in its most favorable light. Do not try to handle the matter yourself. What you believe is a right to enroll your children in school may instead violate Illinois law. You could make incriminating statements. Plus, a school hearing officer is more likely to rule for the school if you represent yourself. Your child may be barred from attending that district, and you could face a hefty tuition bill as well as criminal charges.

If you have questions about this or another related school matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

“I SHOULDN’T HAVE POSTED THAT!:” SOCIAL MEDIA AND SCHOOL RESIDENCY

Most parents are vaguely aware of the dangers of social media such as Facebook, at least when it comes to their kids. Ill-advised remarks or embarrassing photos on a Facebook page can lead to your child’s suspension at school or rejection from a college.

But students are not the only ones who must watch what they do in cyber world. Parents in danger of a school residency challenge should post with care. Recently, a Tennessee mother frustrated with her sons let the residency cat out of the bag. (http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Tennessee-team-vacates-wins-after-mom-8217-s-Fa?urn=highschool-wp6392.)

In the Tennessee incident, high school athletic association rules required that all members of a family reside within the county in order for students to be eligible to play on the high school football team. The two sons had transferred to the new school, and the team had won several games. Then, the athletic association learned that the sons were not eligible for the new school’s team as the mother was still living in the original school’s county. And officials learned this fact from the mother’s own Facebook post:

“… the mother actually works in Henry County, and she posted on her Facebook page that she sent the kids back to Perry County for the week and that she would not see them again until Friday night….Then, later on her Facebook page, she posted, ‘How can two boys mess up their room as badly as they do when they’re only here on Saturday and Sunday?'” (http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Tennessee-team-vacates-wins-after-mom-8217-s-Fa?urn=highschool-wp6392.)

As a result, the team’s first three wins of the season were vacated. The story even made the United Kingdom Daily Mail. That is pretty embarrassing, but in suburban Chicago, the consequences could have been much more severe. Suburban schools are actively on the watch for students who do not legitimately reside in their district. Any parent who gives false information about their residency to a school can be charged with a criminal offense. Non-resident students can be removed from school and their parents can be stuck with a steep tuition bill.

If you have questions about this or another school law matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

“I AM DIVORCED. WHERE CAN MY CHILD GO TO SCHOOL?”: ILLINOIS RESIDENCY LAW

You and your spouse are divorced. You get along exceptionally well, so well that you share custody of your child. Since you live in the better school district, you enrolled your child where you live. Now, you have received notice from the school that they believe your child is not truly a resident and they wish to remove your child from enrollment.

What are your rights and what can you do?

In Illinois, a child has a right to a tuition-free education in the district where the child’s parent or guardian resides. A guardianship may not be awarded to a friend or non-parent relative solely to allow the child to attend school in a given district. In other words, you cannot give your sister legal custody of your child for the sole purpose of your child attending school in your sister’s district.

If you are divorced and have legal custody by court order, your child may attend school in your district. This does not always prevent some schools from developing suspicions about your child’s actual residence, however, and you may still have to prove that your child’s fixed nighttime abode is actually with you and not the other parent.

The situation can become more complicated if you have joint custody, or if you and the other parent were never married, but informally share custody of the child. The Illinois school statute does not seem to have contemplated such modern beneficial living arrangements. After all, if your child splits their time between parents, how do you prove which home is your child’s real nighttime abode? Fortunately, in situations with joint custody, you are generally allowed to make an election once a year as to which residence controls for school purposes. If you have no formal custody arrangement, the situation can become more problematic. You may still have to prove which parent’s residence should control.

If the school believes your child is not a resident, the school must first send you notice by certified mail. You then have ten days to request a formal hearing to provide the evidence necessary to show where your child actually lives. We advise that you have an attorney assist you with the hearing as school districts sometimes take advantage of unrepresented parents who believe the matter should be simple since they have nothing to hide. If the parent loses the hearing, the school may remove deregister your child and even charge the parent tuition.

If you have any questions about this or a similar school-related issue, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

RESIDENCY: WHERE CAN I SEND MY CHILD TO SCHOOL?

Like many parents, you want your child to have the best possible education, but maybe your local school district just isn’t the answer. So you try other options. Maybe you are thinking of buying property in a better school district and living there with your child part time. Maybe you have a relative, and you can send your child to live with them. Can you do this without being handed a tuition bill from the new school district?

Local school districts will send out detectives to determine if a family resides where they say they live. You might get handed a notice that your children are not residents of a district, even if you do in fact live there. Families that own property outside a school district should be particularly careful.

In Illinois, the residence of a student is defined as being the residence of the person who has legal custody. This can be a guardian as long as the guardian does not have custody solely so that the child can go to school in their district. To prove residence, a family must show two things: 1) they must have physical presence in a school district and 2) they must intend to remain there on a permanent basis.

If you actually lived in a school district on the first day of the school year, but moved out on the second day, your child could attend school through the end of that school year. But if you make a residence in a school district solely to enroll your child, you could be in trouble.

Proving physical presence and an intent to make some place your permanent home can be very fact specific. In one critical Niles Township High School District 219 case, a family lived in Chicago, but purchased a condominium in Skokie. While the father and son lived at the condo during the week, they returned on weekends to the Chicago house. The father produced voter registration, utility bills, income tax returns and car registration for the Skokie condominium. But it was not enough. Because the main base of family operations was in Chicago, the Court found against the family, saying that the family did not show that they intended to make their permanent home in the Skokie condo. All family holidays were spent in Chicago, the father and son generally ate meals there and the father had his calls forwarded from the Skokie home when he was away.

If you are served with a notice from a school district or you are thinking of purchasing a second home to take advantage of a better school system, you may want to contact me for a consultation. Contact me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com or by calling 847-568-0160. I can help you present your case in its best light.