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In re Marriage of Sanchez

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

March 23, 2018

In re MARRIAGE OF JAIME SANCHEZ, Petitioner-Appellant, and MARTHA SANCHEZ-ORTEGA, Respondent Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Intervenor-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 08 D 430330 Honorable Raul Vega, Judges Presiding.

          JUSTICE ROCHFORD delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Reyes and Justice Hall concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          ROCHFORD JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Petitioner-appellant, Jaime Sanchez, appeals pro se from two postdissolution orders: one that denied a motion to vacate a plenary order of protection entered against him and a second that denied his motion to reconsider the denial of a motion to abate child support payments. His former spouse, respondent Martha Sanchez-Ortega, has not participated in the appeal. Intervenor-appellee, the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (Department) is a party to this appeal only as it relates to the child support issues. For the following reasons, we dismiss the appeal from the order denying the motion to reconsider the denial of the motion to abate child support payments, as we lack appellate jurisdiction, and we affirm the order denying the motion to vacate the plenary order of protection.

         ¶ 2 We note at the outset that the record on appeal is insufficient. It lacks, for example, key pleadings and orders, as well as transcripts of the proceedings at issue. However, we will set forth that much of the relevant background that may be gleaned from the scant record presented on appeal.

         ¶ 3 On August 22, 2008, Jaime filed a petition for dissolution of his marriage to Martha. Jaime and Martha are the parents of Ju. S., born May 13, 2001, and Ja. S., born May 15, 2004. It appears that, during the divorce proceedings, issues relating to abuse and visitation arose. For example, on October 22, 2008, an order of protection was entered against Jaime, which protected Martha and the children, and that order remained in effect for the pendency of the initial divorce action. In 2010, the court suspended Jaime's supervised visitation with the children.

         ¶ 4 On April 15, 2011, the circuit court entered a judgment for dissolution of marriage following a trial. At that time, the court ordered Jaime to pay $785 per month for child support and entered judgment against him for an $11, 775 arrearage on previously-ordered child support payments. Jaime's child support obligation was determined based on the income he derived from his home services business. Pursuant to a custody judgment, which was incorporated into the dissolution judgment, Martha was granted sole custody of the children, and Jaime was granted supervised visitations. After finding that there was a continuing need for Martha to be protected against future abuse and harassment by Jaime, the dissolution judgment provided Martha and the children with a two-year plenary order of protection, which was to terminate on April 15, 2013. Martha later moved to extend that order of protection.

         ¶ 5 Jaime appealed after the circuit court denied his motion to reconsider the dissolution judgment or, in the alternative, to re-open proofs. We affirmed the judgment for dissolution after finding that Jaime had failed to provide a record sufficient to address his claims of error, in violation of the requirements espoused in Foutch v. O'Bryant, 99 Ill.2d 389, 391 (1984), or to adequately support his arguments in his brief with proper citation to the record or pertinent legal authority, in violation of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 341(h)(7) (eff. July 1, 2008). See In re Marriage of Sanchez, 2012 IL App (1st) 112898-U, ¶¶ 6-7.

         ¶ 6 Thereafter, the parties engaged in various postdissolution proceedings. For example, Jaime's visitation was suspended by the court on September 28, 2015. On June 22, 2016, with the Department's involvement in the case, the court entered a uniform order of support finding that Jaime's imputed net income was $1965 per month and that, as of January 14, 2015, he was $42, 503.50 in arrears as to his child support obligation. Jaime was then ordered to pay $550 per month in child support and $100 per month as to the arrears through the State Disbursement Unit. Pursuant to a motion brought by the Department, the June 22, 2016, order vacated a December 9, 2015, order, which had directed the Secretary of State to release the suspension on Jaime's driver's license caused by his failure to make child support payments, or to issue Jaime a driving permit.

         ¶ 7 On October 11, 2016, after a hearing on both Martha's petition for plenary order of protection and Jaime's motion for visitation, the circuit court entered a two-year plenary order of protection against Jaime, which protected Martha and the children. The plenary order of protection suspended Jaime's visitation with the children until further order of the court "per [a] 12/28/15 order" and prohibited Jaime from communicating with Martha and the children. A separate order entered on that date stated that the court had heard the parties' testimony and considered the evidence at the hearing on both the petition for plenary order of protection and the motion for visitation. The order allowed Jaime to send cards and letters to the children (to be addressed to Martha) and provided that, should the children wish to see Jaime, they could "communicate their wishes in writing to him."

         ¶ 8 On November 10, 2016, Jaime filed a motion to vacate the plenary order of protection. The court set a briefing schedule on the motion to vacate and set the matter for hearing on January 11, 2017. On December 20, 2016, Martha filed a combined response and motion to strike and dismiss Jaime's motion to vacate.

         ¶ 9 Additionally, as to a separate matter, on October 3, 2016, the Department brought a petition for a rule to show cause why Jaime should not be held in indirect civil contempt, alleging that Jaime had willfully failed to make the child support payments that were ordered on June 22, 2016. As a result, the court entered an order issuing a rule to show cause why Jaime should not be held in indirect civil contempt for his failure to pay child support, which was set for hearing on January 11, 2017.

         ¶ 10 In an apparent response to the rule to show cause, Jaime filed a motion for abatement or suspension of child support on December 12, 2016. In his motion, Jaime asserted that he was unemployed and, as a result, could not make the court-ordered child support payments. Jaime explained that (1) he was unable to pay the renewal fee for his contractor's license and it had lapsed, (2) his driver's license had been suspended for his failure to pay child support, and (3) both licenses were necessary for him to operate his business. He maintained that the Illinois Secretary of State would "release" his license if the court entered an order stating that he did not "owe money to the [I]llinois department of health and family services." Jaime further contended that the court, in a prior order relating to child support, had directed the Secretary of State to release his driver's license, but his driver's license had not been released. For relief, Jaime requested that his child support obligation be abated or suspended in full and be contingent on his obtaining full-time employment "or re[-]establishing *** [his] business" and then calculated at the statutory rate. Jaime asked "[t]hat any suspension or abatement of child support *** be effective immediately."

         ¶ 11 On January 11, 2017, the circuit court entered an order finding Jaime to be in indirect civil contempt for his willful failure to pay child support. The order stated that Jaime's commitment for the contempt finding was stayed until February 22, 2017. However, the order did not include the imposition of any period of commitment. In that same order, the Department was granted 28 days to respond to Jaime's motion to abate child support. The Department, however, did not file a response before the hearing on that motion, scheduled for February 22, 2017. Nevertheless, a hearing was held on that date, and the court denied Jaime's motion to abate child support. The court granted Jaime leave to file a motion to modify child support and continued the matter for a hearing on March 22, 2017.

         ¶ 12 On March 21, 2017, instead of filing a motion to modify child support, Jaime filed a motion to vacate the denial of his motion to abate, arguing that he was entitled to "judgment by default" because the Department had not filed a response to his motion ...


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