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In re Marriage of Lynn Marie Hartman

June 08, 1999


Appeal from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County. No. 84--D--161 Honorable Wiley W. Edmondson, Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Geiger

The respondent, David Hartman, appeals from the May 12, 1998, order of the circuit court of De Kalb County finding him in indirect civil contempt of court for his failure to make court- ordered child support payments. On appeal, David argues that (1) the trial court was without subject matter jurisdiction to enter the contempt order; (2) the trial court improperly failed to give full faith and credit to a Florida court's determination of the amount of child support past due; and (3) the doctrine of res judicata prevented the trial court from entering the instant contempt order. We affirm.

The parties have filed a stipulation summarizing the proceedings before the trial court. On March 20, 1985, the trial court entered an order dissolving the five-year marriage between David and the petitioner, Lynn Hartman. The parties had one daughter during the marriage, Michelle, who was born on April 11, 1984. As part of the dissolution order, David was ordered to pay child support for Michelle in the amount of $85 per week.

In 1990, David relocated from Illinois to Florida. By 1997, David was substantially in arrears on his child support obligations. On September 9, 1997, Lynn initiated a child support enforcement action through the Illinois Department of Public Aid (IDPA). The IDPA thereafter filed a child support collection action on Lynn's behalf pursuant to the provisions of the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (the Uniform Act) (750 ILCS 22/100 et seq. (West 1996)). The action was transmitted to the State of Florida for enforcement.

The Florida Office of Child Support Enforcement commenced an action against David for the determination and collection of past- due child support. David subsequently entered into a settlement agreement with the Florida Department of Revenue concerning the payment of child support. According to the settlement, David agreed to repay a child support arrearage in the amount of $18,798.49, which had accrued between March 20, 1995, and July 29, 1997. David agreed to make payments on the arrearage in the amount of $5 per week. David also acknowledged his continuing obligation to pay child support in the amount of $85 per week.

On February 9, 1998, the circuit court of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit in Sarasota County, Florida, accepted this settlement agreement and adopted it as the judgment of the court. The Florida court specifically reserved jurisdiction regarding the "establishment and repayment of child support arrearage which may have accrued from August 1, 1997 through February 13, 1998." The court further reserved jurisdiction over the case "to enter such future orders as may be necessary to enforce [the] agreement."

On March 30, 1998, David filed a petition for modification of the judgment of dissolution in the circuit court of De Kalb County. In his petition, David alleged that he had moved to Florida to start a new business. David further alleged that his net income in 1997 was $8,495.94 and that he was self-insured for medical expenditures. David requested that his child support payments be reduced to $33 per week and that Lynn be required to provide medical insurance for Michelle.

On May 7, 1998, Lynn filed a motion for a rule to show cause why David should not be held in contempt of court for his failure to pay child support in compliance with the judgment of dissolution. The motion alleged that David was in arrears in the amount of $21,658.87 and that he had not paid his share of Michelle's uncovered medical expenses.

On May 12, 1998, the trial court held a hearing on David's petition for modification and Lynn's motion for a rule to show cause. As to the motion for a rule to show cause, David argued that the Florida court had already adjudicated the issue of child support and had retained jurisdiction with regard to the child support arrearage and its enforcement. David therefore argued that the trial court was required to give full faith and credit to the Florida court's judgment and had no jurisdiction to relitigate the issue or hold him in contempt. During the hearing, David presented the following documents: (1) the voluntary petition for collection of child support initiated by Lynn through the IDPA; (2) the complaint and summons filed and issued in Florida against David; and (3) the Florida court's order.

Lynn testified that David had ceased making regular child support payments since he moved to Florida in 1990. Therefore, Lynn sought the assistance of the IDPA to collect on the arrearage. Lynn testified that, after filing papers in Illinois, she heard nothing about the matter until she began receiving child support payments in April 1998. As of May 12, 1998, Lynn had received child support payments totaling $633.90.

A certified copy of the child support records of the clerk of De Kalb County was introduced into evidence, showing a total arrearage of $22,292.77. Lynn testified that this document did not reflect the $633.90 in payments received in 1998. Lynn therefore requested judgment in the amount of $21,658.87 ($22,292.77 minus $633.90).

Following the hearing, the trial court determined that the child support arrearage was $21,658.87. The trial court found David in indirect civil contempt for his failure to pay child support and ordered that he be taken into the custody of the De Kalb County sheriff and held until such time as he could pay a purge amount of $4,000. The trial court additionally ordered that David pay $3,000 annually towards the arrearage through the clerk of the court, while at the same time abiding by all of the provisions of the judgment entered by the Florida court. The trial court also denied David's petition for modification.

In response to David's jurisdictional arguments, the trial court found that David had submitted himself to the court's jurisdiction by filing his modification petition, personally appearing in court, and agreeing to proceed with the hearing. Although the trial court acknowledged that the Florida court's judgment was valid, it explained that an Illinois court always retains jurisdiction to enforce its own orders through the use of its contempt powers. The trial court observed that, at a rate of $5 per week, it would take over 85 years to pay the arrearage in full. David subsequently filed a timely notice of appeal from the trial court's contempt order. However, David has not sought review of the trial court's denial on his petition for modification.

David's first argument on appeal is that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the child support arrearage or to use its contempt power to compel additional payments. David argues that, pursuant to the provisions of section 205(b) of the Uniform Act (750 ILCS 22/205(b) (West 1996)), exclusive ...

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