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June 7, 1994


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable R. Morgan Hamilton, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication August 2, 1994.

DiVito, Scariano, Hartman

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Divito

Presiding Justice DiVito delivered the opinion of the court:

Petitioner Beverly Johnson appeals from a circuit court order denying reimbursement for support furnished by the Georgia Department of Family and Children's Services. She seeks reversal and remandment, raising the issue of whether the circuit court properly denied reimbursement to a public agency, where the issue of support was expressly reserved in the underlying marriage dissolution judgment.

Petitioner and respondent Charles E. Johnson were married in Chicago, Illinois, on August 3, 1968. A judgment of dissolution was entered on March 18, 1987. Petitioner was awarded custody of the couple's five minor children, but the dissolution order expressly reserved child support and visitation for a later date because respondent was unemployed and his earnings were unknown.

On July 23, 1992, petitioner initiated this action by filing a petition pursuant to the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (URESA) (750 ILCS 20/1 et seq. (West 1992)) in the Superior Court of Gwinnett County, Georgia. The petition included a certification by a Georgia official that the State of Georgia had paid $1,408 for the support of respondent's minor children between March and July of 1992. After the petition was certified by a Judge of the Georgia court on August 26, 1992, the matter was transferred to the circuit court of Cook County and respondent received personal service of summons on December 21, 1992.

At a default hearing on February 2, 1993, the circuit court entered an order requiring respondent to pay $330 each month in support, but refused to award any reimbursement for prior expenses. The court found that because the issue of support had been reserved in the underlying divorce decree, neither petitioner nor the Georgiastate agency that provided the support had a right to collect reimbursement for past support.

On appeal, petitioner argues that a claim for reimbursement of support previously furnished is a separate right of action not governed by the judgment of dissolution. She maintains that because respondent had a common law duty to support his minor children independent of the provisions of the divorce decree, the circuit court's order should be reversed and the cause remanded for adjudication of Georgia's claim. *fn1

The purpose of URESA is to enable a dependent in one state to enforce a duty of support owed by a person residing in another state. ( People ex rel. Noah v. Gasik (1980), 91 Ill. App. 3d 980, 982, 415 N.E.2d 452, 47 Ill. Dec. 447; People ex rel. Kerl v. Kerl (1979), 75 Ill. App. 3d 347, 349, 393 N.E.2d 1305, 30 Ill. Dec. 958.) URESA creates no duty of support itself, but instead simply provides a means to enforce a duty of support as it may exist under the law of the responding state. ( Department of Public Aid v. Peterson (1987), 156 Ill. App. 3d 657, 659, 509 N.E.2d 146, 108 Ill. Dec. 720; People ex rel. Gribbins v. Skopitz (1985), 135 Ill. App. 3d 76, 78, 481 N.E.2d 815, 90 Ill. Dec. 15.) Thus, the question before us is whether a separate duty of support exists when the dissolution decree expressly reserves the issue of support. We hold that it does.

In People ex rel. Paredes v. Paredes (1986), 150 Ill. App. 3d 692, 502 N.E.2d 273, 104 Ill. Dec. 10, this court affirmed an order obligating a father to reimburse the State of Utah for $9,893 it had provided for the support of his minor children. The court stated:

"Under both Illinois and common law, a father is liable for the support of his minor children, even though a prior divorce decree between the father and mother is silent on the subject. When the father fails to fulfill that duty of support and his children are being supported by another, the father has received a benefit related thereto and the law implies a promise on his part to reimburse the supporter of his children." Paredes, 150 Ill. App. 3d at 694 (citations omitted).

Similarly, in People ex rel. Hartshorn v. Hartshorn (1959), 21 Ill. App. 2d 91, 157 N.E.2d 563, the court stated:

"Independent of the provisions of the Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act, when the parents of a child are divorced and no mention is made in the decree for the care andcustody of the minor child, under the law, the father is still bound to provide a reasonable and ...

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