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.)