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People Ex Rel. Person v. Miller

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 23, 1977.

THE PEOPLE EX REL. JOE ANN PERSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

FRANK MILLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN E. BOWE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MEJDA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This action was commenced on February 20, 1975, by the filing of a petition for a rule to show cause. In her petition, plaintiff, Joe Ann Person, alleged that on March 10, 1959, orders were entered by the circuit court of Cook County directing defendant, Frank Miller, to pay child support for two children. Plaintiff prayed that defendant be found in contempt for failure to comply with such orders, being approximately $12,000 in arrears, and that the court grant such other relief as it deemed equitable in order to bring to an end said arrearages. On May 2, 1975, the court entered an order finding defendant in contempt and awarding judgment to plaintiff for past due child support in the amount of $9465.03. Defendant appeals from this order, raising numerous points of alleged error. We affirm. The pertinent facts follow.

In 1959, defendant was adjudged the father of two children born to plaintiff. A daughter, Angeletta, was born on May 2, 1956, and her case was therefore determined under the bastardy act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, ch. 17, par. 1 et seq., repealed by act approved July 5, 1957, 1957 Ill. Laws 1035) and defendant was ordered to pay support for a total of $1100, payable in set quarterly installments to the clerk of the court. A son, Ronald, was born on September 10, 1957, and his case was therefore determined under the Paternity Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1959, ch. 106 3/4, par. 51 et seq.), with the support order providing for payment of $15 per week by defendant.

Plaintiff testified that she should have received a total of $1100 from defendant as child support for Angeletta, but that she had only received $370, leaving an arrearage of $730. She further testified that she should have received $12,435 from defendant as child support for Ronald, but that she had only received $574, leaving an arrearage of $11,761. A report from the social service department of the circuit court of Cook County substantiating these figures was admitted into evidence over defendant's objections.

On cross-examination plaintiff stated that she had no records of payments made by defendant other than the statement of arrears prepared for her by the social service department. Plaintiff further testified that defendant had custody of Ronald from May 11, 1971, to the beginning of January 1974. Defense counsel then showed plaintiff two documents, one which agreed to transfer custody of Ronald to defendant and his wife, and the other which allegedly agreed to waive all rights to child support arrearages concerning Ronald. Both documents were dated April 24, 1971. Plaintiff admitted signing the transfer of custody but denied having signed the waiver of support, claiming the signature thereon was a forgery.

On redirect examination, plaintiff testified that in addition to having custody of Ronald from 1971 to 1974, defendant had custody of Angeletta for a total of approximately three months.

Defendant testified that he had mailed six money orders of $15 each directly to plaintiff. These payments were made for the support of Ronald between June 18, 1974, and August 26, 1974, and to defendant's knowledge the money orders were received since none was returned to him. Defendant identified the money order receipts as bearing his signature. Defendant stated that the last time he made support payments for Angeletta was from September of 1971 to the summer of 1972. At that time he sent plaintiff two $50 checks and approximately $300 in money orders.

In addition, defendant testified that in the fall of 1974 he purchased approximately $1000 worth of clothing for Ronald, and in the fall of 1973 he purchased approximately $300 worth of clothing for Angeletta. He stated that plaintiff had in fact signed the 1971 waiver of child support arrearages concerning Ronald in his presence.

On cross-examination defendant estimated that from 1969 to 1974 he spent over $1800 on the children. However, he stated that he had no receipts from the clerk of the circuit court and that he had made no independent payment records. Accordingly, he was unaware of the total amount of support payments which he had made in any of the years. The last payment defendant remembered making through the clerk of the court was in 1959 or 1960. When asked why he did not make payments to the clerk's office as ordered defendant stated that he "thought this case was disposed of." In addition, since it "had been so long" and he had custody of the children he felt he was doing what was "right under the circumstances." Lastly, defendant also stated that he was an alcoholic and had not cared about the children until after he stopped drinking in 1967. Defendant later stated he quit drinking only in 1970. He admitted that he had been continuously employed for the last eight years; however, he did not make regular support payments to the clerk's office during that time.

On redirect examination defendant explained further that during the four years in which he had custody of Ronald he believed that he no longer had to pay child support. Defense counsel introduced into evidence the six $15 money order receipts which defendant had testified represented support payments for Ronald made directly to plaintiff.

Plaintiff was then called as a rebuttal witness. She stated that she had received only two of the six $15 money orders defendant allegedly sent her. She further testified that defendant was not an alcoholic and that he had always worked.

Shirley Jones was called to testify on behalf of plaintiff. She stated that she was a caseworker for the Department of Social Services. She testified that she had prepared the report which showed the payments made by the defendant for the support of Angeletta and Ronald and the total amount of arrearages on each.

On cross-examination Miss Jones testified that the information contained in the report had been obtained via telephone from the clerk's office. Another individual from the department had obtained this information from the clerk's office, and Miss Jones had no personal knowledge as to whether or not the financial reports were true and accurate.

On redirect-examination Miss Jones stated that this report was prepared in the normal course of her duties as a social worker. Defense objections to introduction of the report were sustained.

Eleanor Harmeyer next testified on behalf of plaintiff. She stated she was employed by the Department of Social Services for 10 years as a typist. In November of 1974 she contacted the clerk's office concerning the status of the instant child support orders. The clerk's office advised her of the amount of payments defendant was to have made, the date of the last payment, and the total amount paid to date. She used this information to prepare the report which had been filed with the court in the ...


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