1. Third District follows Altman case (First District) and holds attorneys’ fees earned and already paid to counsel not subject to disgorgement. Acknowledging that the First and Second Districts have conflicting holdings as to how section 501(c-1)(3) should be interpreted for the purpose of disgorging fees already earned by and paid to an attorney, the Third District aligned with the First District case of In re the Marriage of Altman, 2016 IL App (1st) 143076, and held that a trial court may not require payment of interim attorneys’ fees by way of disgorgement of retainer funds previously paid to an attorney, when prior to the attorney receiving notice of the petition for interim fees, the attorney already earned the money and was under no obligation to return those funds to the client. Thus, such funds were not “available” under the section 501(c-1)(3) of the IMDMA. In re the Marriage of Goesel, 2017 IL App (3d) 150101.
2. Trial court’s reduction of attorneys’ fees after a final fee hearing upheld. Husband’s former counsel filed a petition for final fees against his former client and a petition for contribution against the wife. The trial court dismissed the petition for contribution against the wife and awarded husband’s former counsel $12,500 in final fees when he had requested in excess of $48,000. Counsel had billed a total of $85,529 on the matter and had been paid $37,500 when he withdrew, bringing the total amount of fees paid after the final fee hearing to $50,000. The Appellate Court affirmed the award and noted that the trial court was not required to provide detail line-by-line findings corresponding to the attorney’s billing statements supporting its reasons for any reductions as counsel argued that it should have. In re the Marriage of Kane, 2016 IL App (2d) 150774.
3. Post-judgment change in allocation of decision-making upheld. Two years after the entry of a custody judgment (now an allocation judgment) granting mother sole custody (decision-making) with respect to the parties’ three minor children, father filed a petition to change the allocation of decision-making to himself which was granted by the trial court and affirmed by the Appellate Court. The evidence strongly supported the court’s findings that mother excluded father from the children’s lives which negatively impacted their relationship with their father. In this case, the court’s ruling did not align with the Child Representative or the court’s own 604.10 evaluator, but the trial court is not obligated to be bound by the opinions of the court-appointed expert. In re the Marriage of Wendy J.D. and George T.D., 2017 IL App (1st) 160098.
4. Trial court’s denial of motion to continue and motion to reopen proofs upheld. In a parentage action, father appealed the denial of a motion to continue and motion to reopen proofs with respect to a support modification hearing. After a final hearing was set on mother’s petition to modify child support, father made an oral motion to continue the trial based on his unavailability. The hearing proceeded without father’s presence or testimony. He later moved to reopen proofs prior to closing arguments so that he could testify, which was also denied. The Appellate Court affirmed and justified the trial court’s decisions due to father’s lack of due diligence displayed throughout the case: He had ignored discovery requests and court orders; he had repeatedly failed to appear at court dates; his financial disclosure statement was not credible with respect to his income; and he failed to disclose bank accounts and business interests in which he was involved. The Appellate Court further noted that father did not make an offer of proof after the denial of the motion to reopen proofs which would have permitted it to understand what additional evidence he wanted to introduce. The Court also affirmed the trial court’s award of $3,000 per month which was a needs-based order, but ordered that retroactivity could only be applied back to the date mother filed her motion to modify. In re Parentage of I.I., 2016 IL App (1st) 160071.
5. Trial court properly extended comity to Thailand judgment of parentage and establishment of child support. Biological father of triplets conceived by gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) appealed the trial court’s ruling which applied comity to a Thailand judgment which adjudicated him to be the biological father and imposed child support obligations on him. Father argued that the judgment was not entitled to comity because it was against Illinois public policy and because the mother obtained the judgment by fraud. However, the Thailand judgment was not against Illinois public policy because father was not merely a sperm donor. He had an intimate relationship with the mother for several years, participated in a traditional Thailand wedding ceremony even though it was not legally formalized, had consented in writing to the use of his sperm for the GIFT procedure, and signed the consent form as “husband.” The Court further held the mother had not secured the judgment by fraud, but rather, the father had strategically chosen to not appear at the hearing in Thailand because he had challenged Thailand’s ability to adjudicate paternity and set child support. In re the Parentage A.H., 2017 ILApp (1st) 133703.