Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 76C361 Honorable Harry E. Clem, Judge Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Steigmann
In January 2000, the trial court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff, Bonnie Jean Burwell, and against defendant, Lloyd C. Burwell, and awarded Bonnie $15,100 in unpaid child support. The court later denied Bonnie's request for prejudgment interest on the unpaid support.
Bonnie appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by not awarding prejudgment interest in accordance with section 12-109 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/12-109 (West 1998)). We reverse and remand.
In March 1977, the trial court entered an order dissolving the parties' marriage, granting custody of their only child, John (born November 3, 1976), to Bonnie, and ordering Lloyd to pay $100 per month in temporary child support, beginning April 1, 1977. In November 1977, the court entered an order setting permanent child support at $100 per month.
In September 1999, Bonnie filed a motion for entry of judgment, seeking $23,200 in unpaid child support that had accrued between April 1, 1977 (the date of the initial temporary order for child support), and November 3, 1994 (the date that John reached 18 years of age). Bonnie also sought prejudgment interest on the child support arrearage and attorney fees.
In January 2000, the trial court entered an order pursuant to the parties' agreement, awarding Bonnie $15,100 in unpaid child support. The court reserved ruling on the questions of interest and attorney fees. Following a hearing later that month, the court granted Bonnie's request for attorney fees but denied her request for prejudgment interest "in the exercise of its discretion." After pronouncing its ruling at the hearing, Bonnie's counsel asked the court to comment on the impact of section 505(d) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Dissolution Act) (750 ILCS 5/505(d) (West Supp. 1999) (effective until June 1, 2000)) on the court's ruling. The court responded that (1) section 505(d) was enacted after 1994 and thus was not in effect while the child support order was in effect (April 1977 through November 1994), and (2) during the time that the child support order was in effect, the awarding of interest on child support judgments was a matter within the trial court's discretion.
In February 2000, Bonnie filed a motion to reconsider, in which she argued that pursuant to (1) section 505(d) of the Dissolution Act (then section 505(c) (Pub. Act 85-2, §2, eff. May 1, 1987 (1987 Ill. Laws 1, 6-7))) and (2) the amended version of section 12-109 of the Code (see Pub. Act 85-2, §6, eff. May 1, 1987 (1987 Ill. Laws at 14), as amended see 735 ILCS 5/12-109 (West 1998)), both of which took effect on May 1, 1987, she was entitled to interest on the unpaid child support that accrued after June 1, 1987. Following a March 2000 hearing, the trial court denied Bonnie's motion. In so ruling, the court explained that it was compelled to follow In re Marriage of Kaufman, 299 Ill. App. 3d 508, 701 N.E.2d 186 (1998). This appeal followed.
A. Lloyd's Failure To File a Brief
Initially, we note that Lloyd did not file a brief in support of the trial court's order. In First Capitol Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp., 63 Ill. 2d 128, 133, 345 N.E.2d 493, 495 (1976), the supreme court held that when the record is simple and the claimed errors are such that a reviewing court can easily decide them without the aid of the appellee's brief, the reviewing court should decide the merits of the appeal. Because we conclude that this is such a case, we address the merits of Bonnie's appeal despite Lloyd's failure to file a brief.
The facts are not disputed and the issue raised on this appeal is one of law--that is, whether the imposition of interest on child support judgments is mandatory under section 12-109 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/12-109 (West 1998)). We review questions of law de novo. Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line Co. v. ...