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In re Guardianship of Sanders

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

May 9, 2017

In re GUARDIANSHIP OF DENISE RAE SANDERS, a Disabled Person, (Susan Sanders, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
Leon R. Sanders, Respondent-Appellant, Curtis W. Myers, Guardian Ad Litem-Appellee).

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Livingston County No. 12P8 Honorable Robert M. Travers, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Holder White and Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          STEIGMANN JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 In December 2015 Susan Sanders filed a motion for contribution, requesting that the trial court order her former husband, respondent, Leon Sanders, to contribute money to support the parties' adult disabled daughter, Denise Rae Sanders.

         ¶ 2 After a May 2016 hearing, the trial court ordered Leon to contribute $350 a week to Susan in support of Denise. The court stated that it drew its authority to make such an award from the Probate Act of 1975 (Probate Act) (755 ILCS 5/1-1 to 30-3 (West 2014)).

         ¶ 3 Leon appeals. We hold that section 513.5 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Dissolution Act) (750 ILCS 5/513.5 (West Supp. 2015)) grants trial courts the authority to order support for an adult nonminor child with a disability. Moreover, in proceedings under the Probate Act, the trial court may look to the support provision in the Dissolution Act in a proceeding such as this. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court's particular award in this case and remand for a new determination of support, with consideration of the factors provided by section 513.5(b) of the Dissolution Act (750 ILCS 5/513.5(b) (West Supp. 2015)).

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 In January 2012, Susan filed a petition for appointment of guardianship in Livingston County case No. 12-P-8, asking the trial court to appoint her as guardian to her daughter, Denise (born March 2, 1994). The petition alleged that Denise would become an adult in March 2012 and was not fully capable of managing her estate or her person. Susan requested that the court (1) adjudge Denise a disabled person and (2) appoint Susan guardian of Denise's estate and person. In September 2012, the court entered an order adjudicating Denise a disabled adult and appointing Susan as the plenary guardian of Denise's estate and person.

         ¶ 6 In December 2015, Susan filed a "Motion for Contribution To Support of Disabled Adult." In it, Susan alleged that Leon was Denise's father, who had been ordered to provide child support to Susan under a previous order entered as part of the dissolution of Susan and Leon's marriage. Susan argued that support was authorized by section 513 of the Dissolution Act (750 ILCS 5/513 (West 2014)).

         ¶ 7 At a May 2016 hearing on Susan's motion for contribution, Leon testified about the income he received from the sole proprietorship electrician business he operated. Susan testified that she worked as a secretary in a law office, where she earned approximately $40, 000 per year. Susan testified further that Denise lived with her and did not receive any government benefits. Susan received approximately $147 a week from Leon, which is the amount Leon was paying as child support before Denise became an adult. Susan testified that she and Denise were able to survive on Susan's income plus what she received from Leon.

         ¶ 8 After the close of evidence, the trial court found that Leon earned approximately $170, 000 in annual personal income. The court mused about whether it could award contribution to Susan to support Denise. The court concluded that, although the Dissolution Act authorized support for Denise, the court could not utilize that authority because the current proceeding was a guardianship proceeding and not a dissolution proceeding. That is, Denise's petition was filed in case No. 12-P-8, the probate case. (The parties were divorced in Grundy County case No. 98-D-178. Sanders v. Sanders, No. 3-01-0527 (May 31, 2002) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).) Instead, the court decided that it could order support pursuant to its "inherent powers" under the Probate Act, so long as the court found that ordering support was in Denise's best interests. The court then struggled to decide what criteria should be used to determine the amount of support Susan should receive. The court determined that the child support standards of the Dissolution Act did not apply to the current proceedings. The court eventually ordered Leon to contribute $350 per week to Susan.

         ¶ 9 This appeal followed.

         ¶ 10 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 11 Leon argues that (1) the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enter the order awarding Susan support and, alternatively, (2) the court failed to properly consider the factors provided by section 513.5(b) of the Dissolution Act (750 ILCS 5/513.5(b) (West Supp. 2015)) when awarding support to Susan. Susan has not filed a responding brief, but attorney Curtis W. Myers, who served as guardian ad litem (GAL) in these proceedings, has. He responds that the trial court (1) had subject-matter jurisdiction to order ...


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