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In Re Marriage of Marguerite Putzler

February 11, 2013

IN RE MARRIAGE OF MARGUERITE PUTZLER,
PETITIONER-APPELLEE, AND
RONALD PUTZLER,
RESPONDENT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kendall County. No. 04-D-39 Honorable Ronald G. Matekaitis, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Jorgensen

JUSTICE JORGENSEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Zenoff and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Respondent, Ronald Putzler, appeals two court orders: (1) a December 27, 2011, order increasing his monthly child support obligation from $2,500 to $3,703; and (2) an April 25, 2012, order awarding petitioner, Marguerite Putzler, $3,125 in attorney fees in connection with her successful pursuit of two contempt petitions against him. For the following reasons, we affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 A. Child Support

¶ 4 The parties divorced in 2005. Petitioner was granted residential custody of their two children, Dillon (born in 1995) and Cole (born in 1997). The dissolution judgment provided that respondent would pay child support to petitioner in the form of: (1) a lump sum of $511 per week (averaging $2,214 per month), based on respondent's net income of $95,000 per year; and (2) two-thirds of the cost of the children's extracurricular school expenses, extracurricular activities, and medical or dental costs not covered by insurance. In 2007, the parties agreed to increase the monthly amount of child support to $2,500, based on respondent's net income of $114,000 per year.

¶ 5 In June 2009, petitioner petitioned for an increase in child support. On January 31, 2011, a hearing commenced on the petition. Petitioner testified that she works full time as an office manager for Presbrey and Associates, P.C. (her attorney's law firm). Petitioner compared her 2006 affidavit of expenses, which was submitted to support the 2007 increase in monthly child support, to the affidavit she submitted to support her 2009 petition. Petitioner testified that, despite the 2007 increase in support, she was experiencing monthly cash shortfalls. She testified that many expenses had increased, including those for home repairs, utilities, auto insurance (because Dillon is driving on a permit), gas, and food. Petitioner explained that their home, a log-style house, requires more maintenance than other homes. Their front porch had to be repaired because it rotted, a new roof was installed because the old one was leaking, and a water purifier was installed because the community water table was altered and became sulfuric. Plaintiff attached to her affidavit a list of additional extraordinary expenses related to the home since 2007.

¶ 6 Petitioner explained that, even where her estimates on the 2006 and 2009 financial affidavits appeared the same (for example, on both affidavits, she listed clothing expenses as $300), the percentage of those amounts that went to her decreased and the amount for the children increased. In addition, although gas costs for the home are the same on both affidavits, since 2007 plaintiff has shut off gas to an exterior structure on her property and now uses gas only for the residence (which reflects that gas prices had increased). Further, school tuition and expenses (calculators, lab fees, etc.) had increased, and via the dissolution judgment respondent was not required to directly contribute a percentage thereto. Petitioner explained that her gasoline expenses had increased because of traveling to and from the children's increased activities. In addition, although petitioner and her sons occasionally provided food for guests, food costs had increased (from $800 on the 2006 affidavit to $1,000 on the 2009 affidavit) primarily because, as petitioner explained, the 15- and 13-year-old boys now consumed more food than when they were younger.

¶ 7 Petitioner refinanced her home mortgage to lower her monthly payment, but, in doing so, she borrowed an extra $7,400 on that loan in order to pay off a home equity loan that was, per the dissolution judgment, respondent's responsibility to pay. According to petitioner, respondent had not reimbursed her that amount. Further, petitioner testified that she has incurred credit card debt (around $6,476) and makes monthly payments thereon, but that, overall, she has tried to pay down or eliminate that balance. Petitioner explained that on her Mastercard, she charged Christmas gifts, clothing, and other expenses related to the children; she also charged some airline tickets for herself and as a gift for her boyfriend. She opened a Discover card to pay for the water purification system, and she has credit cards for Kohl's and Menards.

¶ 8 Petitioner explained that she pays for the children's health insurance through work. She pays $683 per month (half of which is for the children). Petitioner explained that the health insurance expense is not reflected in her paycheck because it is a benefit she receives from her employment but that, if the children were not on her insurance, she would earn more money. For example, although in 2010 her paychecks reflected a higher gross income than in 2006 (i.e., an increase from $3,544.86 to $4,166.66), petitioner believed that any pay increases she receives are stymied by the health insurance cost, such that her income would be higher if she did not carry the insurance. As to extracurricular expenses, petitioner disagreed that, per the dissolution judgment, if she paid $150 per month, for example, respondent necessarily paid $300. She stated that "it would depend on the activity," and, although she could not recall with specificity, she thought that there were occasions when she sent respondent a bill for extracurricular expenses and he refused to pay.

¶ 9 Respondent testified that he is a dentist; the building in which he practices is owned by a partnership and he is one of 10 or 12 partners. He, however, practices under his own name, as "Ronald C. Putzler DDS, Ltd.," and is the sole shareholder of that corporation. Respondent has a Dodge Ram pickup truck that he purchased for $25,662 in the fall of 2008, is titled in his corporation's name, is depreciated under the corporation, is insured through the corporation, and for which the corporation purchases the gasoline. The distance from respondent's home to his dental practice is 15 miles. On occasion, but "not very often," respondent leaves his office for business purposes, to help an elderly patient at home or to go to a dental lab. If a member of his staff runs an errand for the business, he "usually" lets him or her take the truck. Respondent's office has three telephone land lines; in addition, the business pays cell phone bills for respondent, his girlfriend, his children, and four members of his staff (as a work courtesy, i.e., a perk).

¶ 10 Respondent agreed that, besides the truck, he owns three motorcycles and three other vehicles. As to the vehicles, in 2007, respondent purchased a Corvette for $47,900 (only $200 remains on the loan). In 2009, respondent purchased a Factory Five home construction vehicle kit (to build a car similar to a "Carroll Shelby Cobra") for $19,800. He also owns a Ford pickup truck. The motorcycles consist of a 1967 Harley-Davidson (purchased for $12,000 in 2007), a 2007 Harley-Davidson (purchased for $18,000 in 2006), and a custom-built motorcycle (built with $12,000 worth of materials in 2009). In 2008, respondent purchased two Honda all-terrain vehicles for $2,000 each. Respondent rents a storage unit in which he stores his Corvette and his father's three antique Thunderbirds. He also keeps 2 or 3 old office chairs, 1 set of old office blinds, and 10 to 15 boxes of office records there. Respondent's father does not pay any money toward the storage unit rent; rather, respondent's business pays the rent.

ΒΆ 11 Respondent has approximately $1,000 in savings. He "sometimes" pays real estate taxes. Specifically, respondent and his parents co-own his residence (which he shares with his girlfriend, who contributes nothing to the home expenses). Respondent's parents pay the real estate taxes on the home and he "tries" to reimburse them. For example, on three or four occasions in 2009, respondent paid his parents $600 to apply toward the taxes. Since then he has not made any $600 payments. Respondent testified that, since 2006, his father ...


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