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12/05/89 In Re Marriage of Theresa Marie Webber

December 5, 1989

IN RE MARRIAGE OF THERESA MARIE WEBBER,


APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT

Petitioner-Appellant, and BRYAN DOUGLAS WEBBER,

Respondent-Appellee

547 N.E.2d 749, 191 Ill. App. 3d 327, 138 Ill. Dec. 582 1989.IL.1885

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. Roger W. Holmes, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE GREEN delivered the opinion of the court. SPITZ and STEIGMANN, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE GREEN

Petitioner Theresa Marie Webber appeals from an order of the circuit court of Sangamon County entered December 21, 1988, in which the court denied both her petition for rule to show cause why respondent Bryan Douglas Webber should not be held in contempt for his failure to pay arrearages in child support and her petition to modify his monthly child support obligation. In its order, the court granted respondent's petition to reduce his child support obligation by ordering a decrease in the monthly amount he had been required to pay.

On appeal, petitioner contends the court erred in ordering that decrease and, conversely, in failing to increase respondent's monthly support obligation. She further maintains the court erred in concluding no arrearages existed by finding the parties had agreed to abate the child support due from respondent for a period of time. For the reasons stated in this opinion, we affirm the order of the trial court in full.

The record in this cause reveals the parties married in 1976 at a young age. Petitioner testified she was still in high school at the time, and respondent had just graduated from high school. Respondent indicated that, during their marriage, he and petitioner made plans for both parties to further their education beyond high school. He said petitioner planned to work upon her graduation from high school while respondent pursued a two-year degree. They hoped respondent's associate's degree would allow him to obtain better employment to support petitioner while she pursued a four-year degree. Respondent stated the parties then planned for him to return to school to obtain a four-year degree in engineering once petitioner received her bachelor's degree.

The record shows respondent did, in fact, receive an associate's degree in electronics, which allowed him to obtain a job repairing office machines and allowed petitioner to pursue her degree. The parties were unable to complete their educational goals during their marriage, however, for the parties dissolved their marriage in May 1982. Petitioner did obtain her associate's degree shortly following the dissolution and then continued attending college several more years and received a bachelor's degree.

Unlike petitioner, respondent did not pursue additional education for himself immediately following the dissolution. Instead, he continued to work at his job full time. However, respondent testified that, in August 1988, he voluntarily decided to return to school and reduce his hours of employment. He said he had obtained only a $2-an-hour increase in his pay over the 5 1/2 years he had worked at his present job, and no opportunities existed for upward mobility. He maintained an engineering degree would provide him with a greater earning potential. He further added he thought it was a "good time" to further his education because petitioner had obtained full-time employment, he no longer had custody of their son and his girlfriend was willing to assist him financially.

Respondent petitioned the court to modify the judgment of dissolution to reduce his child support obligation. He stated that enrolling full time in college and reducing his hours of employment to 14 hours per week would result in a substantial change in circumstances, and he would no longer be able to afford the $150 per month in child support he had been required to pay for his two children. In its order, the court agreed a substantial change in circumstances had occurred and found the decrease in respondent's income had been made in good faith. It reduced respondent's child support payments to $125 per month.

Petitioner now maintains the evidence before the court did not support a finding that respondent's decision to return to school and reduce his hours of employment was made in good faith. She emphasizes his decision to enroll in college was made only after she had filed a petition seeking an increase in support. She further states that, at the time of his decision, he was aware of his support obligation and the increasing needs of their ...


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