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04/28/88 In Re Marriage of Joanne Stockton

April 28, 1988



Petitioner-Appellant, and STEPHEN STOCKTON,


523 N.E.2d 573, 169 Ill. App. 3d 318, 119 Ill. Dec. 817 1988.IL.621

Appeal from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. Luther H. Dearborn, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE LUND delivered the opinion of the court. GREEN, P.J., and SPITZ, J., concur.


The marriage between petitioner Joanne Stockton, n/k/a Joanne Griffith, and respondent Stephen Stockton was dissolved on August 31, 1984. A supplemental judgment as to ancillary matters was entered in the fall of 1985. In March 1987, respondent filed a petition to modify child support pursuant to section 510 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 40, par. 510), and a petition seeking contribution from petitioner for college educational expenses pursuant to section 513 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 40, par. 513). Following orders entered by the circuit court of McLean County, petitioner appeals. We reverse and remand.

Petitioner and respondent were married for almost 16 years before a judgment of dissolution was entered in 1984. The parties have two children, Stacey and Richard, who were both minors at the time of the dissolution. In the supplemental judgment, petitioner was given permanent custody of both children. Respondent was ordered to pay $477.81 on a biweekly basis commencing May 31, 1985, for child support. There was no provision for termination of child support or payment of college expenses.

On March 20, 1987, respondent filed two petitions. One petition sought modification of child support because the oldest child, Stacey, had resided with respondent since June 1986. Also, Stacey was graduating from high school in June 1987 and was planning on attending the University of Missouri beginning in August 1987. The second petition asked for contribution from petitioner for Stacey's college expenses. Petitioner filed a response to the petition to modify child support. She stated that Stacey had turned 18 years old in February 1987 and had elected to reside with respondent. The remaining child, Richard, was still a minor and continued to live with petitioner. Petitioner alleged that respondent's income had increased substantially since the dissolution, and the biweekly child support payment of $477.81 was now equal to 20% of respondent's net biweekly income. She also requested that respondent pay her attorney fees.

A hearing was held in June 1987 at which time evidence was produced regarding both petitions. Respondent, who serves in an executive capacity with State Farm Insurance Company, is paid on a biweekly basis. His pay receipts for 1987 up through May 1 were admitted into evidence. Respondent's income had increased steadily through the year, and his last two pay receipts showed a gross income of $4,146. Petitioner's counsel calculated this to be over $107,000 if computed on an annual basis. This represented a substantial increase from the date of dissolution. In 1984, respondent's gross income from all sources was approximately $80,000. In addition, respondent testified that he received approximately $1,200 to $1,300 in additional yearly income from various securities valued at about $10,000. Respondent had an interest in an incentive and thrift plan with his employer currently valued at $15,944. Respondent had some $3,500 in various bank accounts. The house respondent owned was valued at $167,525 but had a mortgage of $125,808. Respondent testified that his current wife had provided $31,000 as a down payment on the house, and he had given her a promissory note for that same amount. He had other debts of approximately $17,000.

Petitioner testified regarding her income and assets. For the most part, petitioner did not work outside the home during her marriage to respondent. She and respondent worked on a joint venture which brought additional income to the family, but there was no testimony that this produced significant income. Petitioner received maintenance following the dissolution until she remarried. She had a bachelor's degree in advertising from Northwestern University and was currently employed in two jobs. Her estimated income for 1987 was $10,800. She had hopes that one of the jobs would blossom into a career-oriented position. In essence, she had begun searching for a career following the dissolution of her marriage. She was the sole owner of the former marital residence valued at $95,400. The home was encumbered in the amount of $34,000. She had additional assets of about $1,170 and debts of $2,300. Stacey worked part time, but her income was not significant.

Both parties submitted calculations of Stacey's estimated college expenses for 1987-88. The trial court accepted petitioner's higher figure of approximately $12,400. Petitioner supplied the court with figures representing her expenditures for the support of her children in 1986. She calculated her support for Richard at $9,221.84. She testified that, outside of the support she received from respondent, she was the sole provider of support for Richard. Her expenditures for Stacey were $5,228.49.

In a letter to both attorneys, the court found as follows:

"Respondent paid $12,402 in child support in 1986, at the rate of $477.18 per two weeks, which was based on the assumption that both children would be living with petitioner. Because of raises in his salary, that bi-weekly rate is now about 20% of his net income, which is the statutory percentage for one child. If he continues to pay that amount of child support plus another $12,374 per year, which petitioner estimates to be the entire amount of expenses for college for the daughter, this will amount to 40% of his $62,000 annual net income.

Petitioner presented evidence that the entire expense of all support for the minor son in 1986, totaled $9,221.64, which would mean a bi-weekly cost of $354.69. Therefore, this actual cost of the entire support of the son is less than 20% of respondent's net income.

The gross income of respondent is ten times that of petitioner. A ratio of 10 to 1 would appear to be an equitable way to allocate the support for the minor child of the parties and the college education ...

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