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In re Marriage of Hughes

June 5, 2001

IN RE MARRIAGE OF STACY J. HUGHES, PETITIONER-APPELLEE, AND RONALD C. HUGHES, RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Ogle County. No. 97--D--229; Honorable Michael T. Mallon, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Rapp.

Original opinion issued April 25, 2001.

Modified Upon Denial of Rehearing

Respondent, Ronald C. Hughes, appeals from orders of the circuit court of Ogle County entered one year after his dissolution of marriage from petitioner, Stacy J. Hughes, granting her petition to increase child support. Ronald argues that the trial court erred in determining that a substantial change in circumstances had occurred since the entry of the original judgment for dissolution of marriage. We reverse.

The record indicates that a judgment for dissolution of marriage was entered on December 2, 1998, between Stacy J. and Ronald C. Hughes. The judgment apparently was not by agreement of the parties, as it was rendered after the court heard evidence and arguments of the parties. Pursuant to the judgment, Ronald was ordered to pay child support in the amount of $1,113 per month and non-modifiable rehabilitative maintenance to Stacy in the amount of $788 per month for a period of 12 months, effective September 1, 1998. Ronald was also ordered to pay 12 monthly payments on a Honda Odyssey awarded to Stacy, after which time Stacy would be responsible for the debt.

On September 27, 1999, Stacy filed a petition to modify the judgment for dissolution of marriage. Stacy alleged that (1) because of the termination of the maintenance and car payments, Ronald's expendable income has increased by $1,038 per month; (2) Ronald's income has substantially increased as a result of a promotion; (3) her income is very limited; (4) the children's needs have substantially increased; (5) her income has substantially decreased as a result of the termination of maintenance payments; and (6) her expenses have substantially increased as a result of the termination of the car payments and her responsibility for making the car payments in the amount of $250 per month.

On October 25, 1999, Ronald filed a response denying the allegations of Stacy's petition. An evidentiary hearing on the petition to modify the judgment for dissolution of marriage was held on November 30, 1999.

Stacy testified that she had become employed since the dissolution and is now earning $1,000 per month as a part-time college clerk, but that, even with the addition of $1,113 per month in child support, she is unable to meet her estimated $3,500 in monthly expenses. She explained that she is unable to meet her monthly expenses because she no longer receives maintenance and car payments from Ronald. She also testified that the needs of the children have increased based on day-care expenses, increased school tuition, and extracurricular activities.

Ronald testified as an adverse witness that he is still employed as a new car manager at a car dealership and would earn $72,000 in 1999, several thousand dollars more than in the previous year. Ronald also testified that the last quarter of each year is slow in the automobile business.

At the close of Stacy's case, Ronald moved for a judgment on the ground that Stacy had failed to show that a substantial change in circumstances had occurred since the 1998 judgment for dissolution of marriage. The court took the issues under advisement.

On December 15, 1999, the court entered an order granting Stacy's petition to modify and ordered Ronald to pay $1,275 per month for child support. The court found that "there has been a material change in circumstances requiring modification of the child support as previously ordered." The court reasoned:

"[Stacy] has show[n] that [Ronald's] financial situation has changed and that change has taken place by the fact that he is no longer responsible [for] $788.00 in maintenance expenses and[,] in addition[,] is not required to pay $250.00 per month towards [Stacy's] automobile."

The court did not make any determination that the needs of the children had substantially increased, although it did note that it was not awarding any additional day-care expenses based on the fact that Ronald is responsible for all uncovered medical, dental, and optical expenses for the children.

On January 7, 2000, the trial court entered a support order and an employer's income withholding order to implement the new child support amount. On January 13, ...


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