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In Re Marriage of v. Daniel Rice

December 9, 2011


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 82 D 9896 and Honorable David Haracz, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Robert E. Gordon

PRESIDING JUSTICE ROBERT E. GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Garcia and Lampkin concurred in the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 This case concerns the amount of past-due child support that is owed by respondent Daniel Rice to his former wife, petitioner Madonna Rice. The parties divorced in 1982 and entered into a marital settlement agreement concerning the amount of child support Daniel would be required to pay, which was incorporated into the judgment for dissolution of marriage; the agreement included a provision that as each of the couple's four minor children emancipated, the support obligation would decrease by "one quarter" (the reduction provision). In 1990, the postjudgment court entered an order for "temporary support," modifying the amount of child support Daniel was to pay, and the order did not mention the reduction provision. By 2009, all four of the parties' children were emancipated, and Daniel was in arrears approximately $40,000, including interest that began accruing in 2006. However, at Madonna's request, the interest calculation was changed to reflect interest accruing beginning in 1991, resulting in a revised arrearage amount of approximately $80,000. Daniel filed a petition for clarification of his child support obligations and the arrearage amount. The trial court found that the reduction provision did not control the amount of child support owed and that the larger interest calculation was correct. The court denied Daniel's motion to reconsider and Daniel appeals, arguing that: (1) the 1990 court order modifying Daniel's child support obligation had no effect on the reduction provision, (2) the reduction provision was not against public policy and that argument should be barred by laches, (3) the 1990 court order was within the guidelines of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (the Marriage Act) (750 ILCS 5/101 et seq. (West 2008)), and (4) the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services cannot assess interest for sums owed prior to January 1, 2000, since that is within the discretion of the trial court. We affirm.


¶ 3 The parties were married in 1972 and four children were born during the course of their marriage. On May 24, 1982, Madonna filed a petition for dissolution of marriage. At the time of the filing of the petition, Madonna was a housewife and Daniel was an attorney in private practice as a solo attorney. Madonna requested custody of the parties' children.

¶ 4 On March 31, 1983, the trial court entered a judgment for dissolution of marriage. Incorporated into the judgment was a marital settlement agreement (the agreement) entered into by the parties. Article III of the agreement concerned the support of the parties' children. It stated that "the Husband shall pay to the Wife the sum of 42% of his net income as and for child support with a minimum of $312.50 per month per child" and further stated that the support payments were based on Daniel's represented "gross receipts of $86,000 in 1982." Article III also contained the reduction provision, which provided: "Husband's obligation for support shall be reduced by one-fourth as each child attains the age of 18, dies, marries or becomes emanicipated [sic], whichever event occurs earlier."

¶ 5 On March 31, 1983, the same day as the entry of the judgment for dissolution of marriage, the court also entered a family support memorandum of judgment. In that document, Daniel's net income was listed as $30,000 per year and his support payments were to be made payable to the clerk of the court at $1,250 per month. Additionally, the memorandum of judgment listed prospective dates of termination of support for each child, and stated that "as children cease to be eligible for support, support payments to clerk shall be reduced as follows," followed by a list indicating that the support payments would decrease by one quarter as each child ceased to be eligible for support.

¶ 6 In 1984, the legislature amended section 505 of the Marriage Act to add guidelines for calculating child support. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 40, ¶505. In 1988, the legislature amended section 510 of the Marriage Act to allow those who received child support pursuant to an order entered before the effective date of the support guidelines and whose support payments were below those in the guidelines one opportunity to petition the court for a modification of the support order to increase the amount of child support to the amount specified under the guidelines. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 40, ¶510 (as amended by Pub. Act 85-1001 (eff. July 1, 1988)).

¶ 7 On September 18, 1989, the State, on Madonna's behalf, filed a petition for rule to show cause for Daniel's failure to pay child support and for modification of the child support amount pursuant to the amendment in the statute. The petition claimed that Daniel was in arrears in the amount of $9,505 and also requested increased support in conformity with the guidelines of section 505 of the Marriage Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 40, ¶505).

¶ 8 On March 27, 1990, the parties came before the court on the issue of determining current support and arrears. The trial court entered an agreed "order for support" and "judgment order for arrearages." The order stated that "Respondent is self employed[,] income v[a]ries" and found that Daniel was in arrears $20,662. The court further ordered Daniel to pay $2,000 per month, $1,250 for current support and $750 to be applied to the arrears until it was paid in full; the order stated that "[u]npaid arrears bear interest." The order also stated that "[c]urrent support is based upon guidelines (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985 Ch. 40 Par. 505)." The court continued the matter to June 19, 1990, noting that "Respondent is to remain current -- if Respondent is not current by 6-19-90 contempt hearing will proceed."

¶ 9 On June 19, 1990, the parties again came before the court on the matter of "child support." The court ordered Daniel to make his June payment within the next seven days and continued the matter to October 16, 1990, for payment status. The order also stated that if Daniel was not current on the next court date, a contempt hearing would occur. On October 16, 1990, the trial court found that Daniel was $23,412 in arrears and entered an order for a body attachment, noting that the matter was before it "on the return of a Rule to Show Cause" against Daniel and that Daniel had been ordered to appear on the rule but had failed to appear.

¶ 10 On October 23, 1990, the trial court held a hearing on Daniel's motion to vacate the body attachment and also considered the matter of "child support and[/]or arrearage." The trial court entered two orders, one vacating the body attachment order and one for "temporary*fn1 support and arrears." The court found that Daniel was $21,312 in arrears and entered a judgment against Daniel and in Madonna's favor in that amount. The court ordered Daniel to pay $750 per month, $700 of which was for current support and $50 for arrears until the arrearage was paid. The matter was continued to April 23, 1991, "to reconsider [the] arrears" payment.

¶ 11 On April 23, 1991, the court ordered Daniel to "make payment of $3,000.00 within 21 days toward the arrearage of $23,812 as of 4/30/91." Over the next two years, the case was continued a number of times, with Daniel periodically being ordered to make payments on his current and past-due support. The court removed the matter from its call on November 16, 1993.

¶ 12 On December 3, 1993, Daniel filed a pro se petition to reduce child support. The petition claimed that under the marital settlement agreement, support payments were to be reduced by 25% as each child reached the age of 18; the petition further stated that one of Daniel's children had reached the age of 18 and graduated from high school. The petition claimed that Daniel had been current in his payments of $700 per month, as required in the October 23, 1990, court order, as well as an additional $50 per month paid by agreement with the State's Attorney's office. Daniel requested that the court reduce the amount of current support he was required to pay by $175, which represented the 25% reduction, and apply that $175 per month toward the arrearage; in short, the total amount he was to pay would remain the same, but the funds would be allocated differently. The record does not contain a disposition of this pro se petition.*fn2

ΒΆ 13 The next document in the record is an order to withhold income for child support, dated April 27, 2001, and sent to "Danile Rice." The order stated that $200 per month was to be deducted from Daniel's income; $50 of the amount was designated for past-due ...

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