Appeal from the Circuit Court of McHenry County. No. 96--DV--232 Honorable Joseph P. Condon, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne
Respondent, Alan L. Schacht, appeals the circuit court's order denying his petition to reduce child support. He contends that his support obligation was based on a lump-sum worker's compensation settlement that has been exhausted and that his support obligation now represents more than 100% of his actual income. We vacate and remand.
Respondent and petitioner, Erin Schacht, now known as Erin Anderegg, were married in 1983. They have three children, Sara, Trevor, and Hanna.
In 1995, respondent was injured on the job and filed a worker's compensation claim. While the claim was pending, he received $1,493.36 per month in temporary total disability (TTD) payments. Petitioner filed her petition to dissolve the parties' marriage on March 21, 1996. While the petition was pending, the court ordered respondent to pay $477.88 monthly--representing 32% of his TTD payment--for temporary child support, and $111.18 for the children's health insurance.
The trial court dissolved the parties' marriage on March 10, 1998. The judgment gave petitioner sole custody of the children and required respondent to continue paying child support and health insurance at the same rate as before. The judgment awarded petitioner as marital property 35% of respondent's pending worker's compensation claim.
Respondent appealed, contending, among other things, that the trial court erred by awarding petitioner a percentage of his as-yet-undetermined worker's compensation settlement. Citing In re Marriage of DeRossett, 173 Ill. 2d 416, 422 (1996), we held that the trial court did not err by considering the claim as marital property, but that it was premature to divide the claim before the settlement amount was fixed. In re Marriage of Schacht, No. 2--98--0826 (1999) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23) (Schacht I).
Shortly after our order was filed, respondent received a lump-sum worker's compensation settlement of $150,000. After deducting costs and attorney fees, respondent was left with a net award of $118,973. The trial court awarded petitioner 30% of the award as marital property. The court ordered that the settlement be placed in a trust account administered by respondent's attorney, W. Randal Baudin. Baudin was authorized to pay respondent $746.68 twice per month. (The monthly total of $1,493.36 was the same as the TTD payments he formerly received.) During this time, respondent's child support obligation was unchanged.
When the trust arrangement terminated, respondent received $24,301.11, which was all that remained of the worker's compensation settlement. He claims that he gave this to his parents to reimburse them for having paid his attorney fees during the dissolution proceedings.
Respondent also applied for Social Security disability benefits. After a hearing, the Social Security Administration (SSA) advised respondent that he was eligible for $991 per month in benefits. However, when the checks started arriving, respondent actually received only $381 per month. The SSA advised respondent that it set off his worker's compensation settlement against his disability benefits. Respondent also learned that his children were not receiving Social Security benefits although they were eligible to receive $150 per month apiece. Respondent is appealing the SSA's decision to set off his worker's compensation settlement against his disability benefits.
Following the second remand from this court, the trial court conducted further hearings and awarded petitioner 30% of respondent's worker's compensation award as marital property. The court allocated another 20% of the award to establish trusts for the children's college expenses. See 750 ILCS 5/503(g), 513(a)(2) (West 2002).
Respondent again appealed. This court affirmed the trial court's division of the worker's compensation settlement as marital property. In re Marriage of Schacht, No. 2--00--1154, slip op. at 8 (2001) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23) (Schacht II). However, we vacated the portion of the order establishing section 503(g) college trusts and directed the trial court to make further findings about respondent's ability and willingness to pay his children's college expenses. Schacht II, slip op. at 14.
On December 20, 2001, respondent filed the motion to reduce child support that is the subject of this appeal. Respondent contended that the worker's compensation settlement had been exhausted and that his only income was the $381 in Social Security benefits he received each month. Respondent noted that the court had already decided that the settlement was marital property, not income, and had awarded 50% of it to petitioner and the children.
In a memorandum of decision issued April 19, 2002, the trial court resolved several pending matters. As relevant here, the court made the additional findings this court required and reinstated the section 503(g) educational ...