The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Burke
JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
At issue in this appeal is whether delinquent child support payments in Illinois began to bear mandatory interest in 1987 with the passage of Public Act 85--2 (eff. May 1, 1987). The appellate court concluded that they did not. 394 Ill. App. 3d 49. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court.
Mark Wiszowaty and Margaret Mihaila were married and had one child. The couple divorced in 1991, shortly before their child's second birthday. Pursuant to the judgment for dissolution of marriage, Mark was ordered to pay $48 per week in child support to Margaret through the clerk of the circuit court of Cook County, until the child's eighteenth birthday.
Years later, in 2005, Mark filed a petition for declaratory judgment, asking the circuit court of Cook County to declare and adjust child support payments that were in arrears. On January 25, 2006, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (Department) filed a motion to intervene on Margaret's behalf and a petition for rule to show cause as to why Mark should not be held in contempt of court for failing to pay child support. According to the Department, Mark had paid some child support in 1991 but then paid no support from 1992 through 2005. The Department asked the court, among other things, to enter a judgment for the arrearage including interest accruing from the first missed payment in 1991.
Mark conceded the arrearage and that interest on the unpaid support payments became mandatory when certain amendments were made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Marriage Act) (750 ILCS 5/101 et seq. (West 2000)) in 2000. However, Mark argued that, prior to that date, the imposition of interest was left to the discretion of the circuit court and that the circumstances of his case did not warrant imposing interest.
The Department, however, contended that the 2000 legislation was not the proper starting point for calculating mandatory interest. Instead, according to the Department, interest became mandatory in 1987, when the General Assembly enacted Public Act 85--2 (eff. May 1, 1987), and changed the law to provide that each unpaid installment of child support was a "judgment" by operation of law and that child support judgments "shall bear interest."
Relying on In re Marriage of Steinberg, 302 Ill. App. 3d 845 (1998), the circuit court rejected the Department's argument. The court also rejected the Department's alternative request for discretionary interest prior to 2000. The circuit court entered judgment against Mark for the arrearage in the amount of $52,889.41, but this total included post-2000 interest only. The appellate court affirmed, holding that interest was not made mandatory in 1987. 394
Ill. App. 3d 49. The appellate court recognized that a contrary result had been reached in Burwell v. Burwell, 324 Ill. App. 3d 206 (2001), but the appellate court determined that Burwell had not adequately considered the relevant statutes in their historical context and had "reached a conclusion that is not well-founded." 394 Ill. App. 3d at 59.
We granted the Department's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S. Ct. R. 315 (eff. Oct. 15, 2007). We allowed Scott Wagner, pro se, to file an amicus curiae brief on Mark's behalf.
In 1987, with the passage of Public Act 85--2 (eff. May 1, 1987), the General Assembly amended the Marriage Act by adding the following provision:
"Any new or existing support order entered by the court under this Section shall be deemed to be a series of judgments against the person obligated to pay support thereunder, each such judgment to be in the amount of each payment or installment of support and each such judgment to be deemed entered as of the date of the corresponding payment or installment becomes due under the terms of the support order. Each such judgment shall have the full force, effect and attributes of any other judgment of this State, including the ...