Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County. No. 94D317. Honorable John P. Freese, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner
Respondent, Michael R. Case, appeals the September 30, 2003, order of the McLean County circuit court, awarding petitioner, Courtney L. Case (now known as Courtney Mammenga), a $35,849 judgment for back child support. Specifically, Michael asserts the trial court erred in finding Courtney was equitably estopped from seeking back child support only for the period of April 12, 1999, to December 19, 2001. We affirm.
The parties were married in June 1990 and have two children together, Jordan (born in February 1990) and Mackenzy (born in June 1991).
In June 1994, Courtney filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. She was represented during the divorce proceedings by E. William Rolley. In August 1994, the trial court awarded Courtney temporary custody of the minor children and ordered Michael to pay $400 in child support every two weeks. In December 1995, the court entered a judgment of dissolution on grounds only.
In July 1996 and July 1997, Courtney filed petitions for a rule to show cause, contending Michael's child-support payments were in arrears. In November 1997, Michael filed a petition to modify child support, asserting he was a full-time student and had no job. In September 1998, the trial court entered a supplemental judgment order, ordering Michael to pay $200 per month in child support starting September 5, 1998, and expressly reserving the matter of the child-support arrearage.
On April 12, 1999, the parties entered into an agreement (Agreement), under which Michael was to sign a consent to adoption and waiver of parental rights for each of the minor children and, in consideration, Courtney would not seek to collect current or back child support. That same day, Michael signed a consent to adoption for both of the children. In June 1999, Courtney married Brian Mammenga.
In March 2000, Courtney executed a limited power of attorney and authorization to release information to CSE Child Support Enforcement, Co. In June 2000, that organization requested copies of the court orders in this case. In October 2001, the Illinois Department of Public Aid (Department) began filing notices to withhold income for child support to several of Michael's employers. In December 2001, a $200 child-support payment was withheld from Michael's paycheck.
In November 2002, the Department filed a petition for adjudication of indirect civil contempt, arguing Michael owed $32,956.81 in back child support. That same month, Michael filed a motion to establish specific visitation times with the minor children. In February 2003, Michael filed a motion to dismiss the Department's petition, alleging Courtney could not seek payment of current and back child support because of the Agreement.
In April 2003, the trial court granted Courtney leave to withdraw the contempt petition and to file an alternative pleading. Courtney then filed a motion for judgment, seeking a judgment of $32,856.81 plus interest for back child support. That same month, Courtney and her husband filed a petition for adoption, No. 3-AD-21 (Circuit Court of McLean County). In May 2003, Michael filed a motion to dismiss Courtney's motion for judgment, again asserting she was estopped from seeking support because of the Agreement.
On May 20, 2003, the trial court held a joint hearing on Michael's motion to dismiss and Courtney's motion for judgment. Guy Parr, superintendent of Heyworth Community Unit No. 4, testified the minor children were first enrolled in his district in the fall of 1999 with the last name Mammenga. The children were registered under that name until the fall of 2002 when Michael informed Parr the children's legal name was Case.
Lori McCormick, deputy director of juvenile court services for McLean County, testified one of her job responsibilities was to witness consents to adoption. She recognized her signature as a witness on the consents to adoption executed by Michael on April 12, 1999. Her records indicated Michael's appointment had been set up by Rolley. She did not know what happened to the original copies of the consents.
Michael testified Courtney approached him about having Brian adopt the children so they could have his last name. On April 12, 1999, Michael, Courtney, and Brian met at Rolley's office, and Michael agreed to sign the consents if he would not be responsible for past or current child support. Rolley drafted an agreement, indicating Courtney would not seek to collect any current or back child support in consideration of Michael signing the consents to adoption. Michael and Courtney both signed the letter despite Rolley noting his disagreement with the letter. The parties ...