1. Contribution to attorneys’ fees pursuant to 503(j) upheld. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision to order the husband to pay $43,180 towards wife’s outstanding attorneys’ fees. One of the main issues at trial was the proper calculation of husband’s net income. The Court agreed with the finding that his net monthly income was $12,000 given his lack of credible testimony. Husband admitted that he handled significant amounts of cash in his employment at a family-owned business. He had also filled out various financial applications that contradicted his own testimony about his income. On the other hand, wife suffered from bi-polar disease and depression and had a significantly lower earning capacity than husband. Although husband argued that he and wife were in similar financial situations after the divorce, the Appellate Court held that the trial court properly considered all of the statutory factors when ordering the contribution. In re the Marriage of Sobieski, 2013 IL App (2d) 111146 (2013).
2. Guideline child support appropriate even when father spends substantial amount of time with the children. Father appealed a trial court’s ruling that he pay guideline child support even though he spent portions of 216 days per year with the children. In the parenting agreement, the mother was designated the four children’s primary residential parent. The trial court was not persuaded that she should not be entitled to guideline support. The Court relied on the case of In re the Marriage of Demattia,302 Ill.App.3d 390 (1999) which held that there should not be an automatic reduction in child support because the father spends extended time with his children, who reside primarily with the mother. In re the Marriage of Sobieski, 2013 IL App (2d) 111145 (2013).
3. Appellate court had jurisdiction to hear post-judgment appeal filed 30 days after trial court’s initial ruling. In a post-judgment action, mother filed a petition to increase support and two different petitions for rule to show cause relating to parenting issues. The trial court ruled on the petition to increase support first, but did not issue any Rule 304(a) language in the order. Father waited to file his notice of appeal on the child support issue after all of the pending post-judgment petitions were ruled upon. The Appellate Court held that it did have jurisdiction to consider the appeal on the support issue even though more than 30 days had passed since the court’s ruling because he timely filed his notice of appeal after all pending claims were resolved at the trial level. In re the Marriage of Putzler, 2013 IL App (2d) 120551 (2013).
4. Post-judgment increase in child support upheld. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling to increase a father’s support order from $2,500 per month to $3,703 per month. Father argued at trial that the mother had failed to demonstrate that expenses for the children had specifically increased. Mother hired a C.P.A. to review father’s tax returns and opine at trial on father’s income. Father failed to offer any contradictory evidence to this opinion. The Appellate Court reaffirmed existing case law which states regardless of whether the children’s needs have increased, support obligations may be increased based upon an increase in the supporting parent’s ability to pay. Additionally, it is well settled that an increase in children’s needs may be presumed because they have grown older and the cost of living has risen. The Appellate Court also upheld a fee award to mother for prevailing on two petitions for rule on parenting issues even though she was employed at a law firm and her boss had agreed to not charge her for her representation. In re the Marriage of Putzler, 2013 IL App (2d) 120551 (2013).
5. Illinois trial court has authority to hear subsequent removal petitions as part of its inherent power to enforce custody and visitation provisions in its judgment. In a parentage action, mother petitioned for leave to remove the minor child to Kentucky so that she could reside with her new husband who was in the military and residing at Fort Campbell. The trial court made numerous findings under the Eckert factors and ruled that it was in the child’s best interest to reside in Kentucky. Later, mother filed a petition to remove the child from Kentucky to Maine, where her husband had been assigned to a ROTC training position. The trial court denied her petition and she appealed. On appeal, mother argued that the trial court lacked statutory authority to hear her petition on the grounds that once leave is given to a parent to remove a child from Illinois, neither the IMDMA or the Parentage Act require the parent seek further leave of court to remove the child again. The Court disagreed and held that by its inherent authority to enforce its custody and visitation provisions of its judgment, it had the authority to hear the subsequent removal issue. However, the Appellate Court reversed the trial court on the removal issue and found that the child’s life would be enhanced if mother was allowed to remove him to Maine. Banister v. Partridge, 2013 IL App (4th) 120916.