Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 99F3 Honorable Albert G. Webber, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Myerscough
On September 13, 2001, the trial court denied the Department of Public Aid's (Department) petition to modify child support. In December 2001, the trial court denied the Department's petition to reconsider. This appeal followed.
Plaintiff, Jason E. Anderson, was declared to be the father of Nadia N.H. on May 13, 1999. At that time, the trial court ordered plaintiff to pay $36 per week for child support, which was 20% of his average weekly salary. On October 14, 1999, plaintiff filed a petition to reduce child support, alleging he was attending college and receiving unemployment compensation. On January 22, 2001, the court reduced plaintiff's child support to $51 every other week (or $25.50 per week), which was about 20% of plaintiff's income.
On June 14, 2001, the Department filed a petition to modify child support, stating plaintiff's ability to pay had increased since the January 2001 court order. A hearing was held on September 13, 2001, and plaintiff admitted that he was employed with the Macon County sheriff's department and that defendant's exhibit No. 1 accurately reflected his earnings. Plaintiff also acknowledged that under the terms of his collective-bargaining agreement, every November 30 he receives an additional payment equal to 6% of his annual salary. The Department argued that 20% of plaintiff's net pay, including 20% of this year's annual November 30 payment, would require a child support payment of $60 per week.
By docket entry dated September 13, 2001, the trial court denied the Department's petition to modify without explanation. The bystander's report further does not indicate that the court provided any reasons for denying the Department's petition to modify.
The Department filed a motion to reconsider, stating that the current child support of $25.50 per week was calculated using plaintiff's former unemployment income of $256.80 every two weeks. The Department argued that plaintiff's current income of $590.72 every two weeks constituted a 130% increase in income and was a substantial change in circumstances. Further, the Department argued that the $590.72 every two weeks did not take into account the over $1,300 payment plaintiff would receive November 30. Finally, the Department argued that the trial court offered no explanation for its deviation from the statutory guideline of 20% in setting plaintiff's child support and that the current $25.50 per week was only 8.6% of plaintiff's net income.
After taking the motion under advisement, the trial court denied the motion to reconsider on December 11, 2001, by docket entry. The court found that it was not required to adhere to the statutory guidelines or to state its reasons for denying the modification.
"Cause removed from advisement. The [c]court's [o]rder of September 13, 2001[,] was a denial of the [d]efendant's [p]etition to [m]odify the support order entered on January 18, 2001. In such circumstances, adherence to statutory guidelines is not mandated. In any event, the [c]court is not required to state its reasons beyond oral statements made at the time of ruling on the [d]efendant's [p]etition to [m]odify."
The Department appeals, arguing (1) the trial court erred by ruling that the statutory child support guidelines need not be followed on a petition to modify, and (2) the court abused its discretion by failing to comply with section 505 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Dissolution Act) (750 ILCS 5/505 ...