In Illinois, professional licenses and educational degrees are non-marital property. In fact, they're not considered property at all.1 Illinois courts have ruled, however, that there must be adequate compensation where one spouse helps another acquire a higher degree or a professional license.2 Generally speaking, the contributing spouse is awarded a larger share of the marital property to compensate for the increased earning capacity of the professional or degree-holding spouse. Absent sufficient assets, most courts turn to an award of maintenance to balance the scales.
The general rule applies to more than just "professional" degrees, too – even obtaining just a college degree during the marriage and with the spouse's support should be considered by the court when splitting up the assets.3 The focus is on the fact that one spouse obtained a degree during the marriage with the support of the other spouse. The mere fact that the supporting spouse had plenty of resources and easily afforded the support of the degree-earning spouse is largely irrelevant.4 That's right, where a millionaire's spouse could stay at home and do nothing but instead goes out and earns a degree, the degree will be counted against that spouse and may result in that spouse compensating the millionaire for the support.