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In re Marriage of Davis

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

November 6, 2019

In re MARRIAGE OF LISA M. DAVIS, Petitioner-Appellee, and CALEB A. DAVIS, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois. Circuit No. 11-D-494 The Honorable David Garcia, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: Caleb A. Davis, of Dallas, Texas, appellant pro se.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Marc A. Bangser and Bradford L. Bennett, of Bennett & Bangser, LLC, of Chicago, for appellee.

          JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Carter and Wright concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          McDADE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The petitioner, Lisa M. Davis, sought an increase to the child support she was being paid by the respondent, Caleb A. Davis. After the circuit court granted the petition, Caleb appealed. On appeal, he argues that (1) the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to modify the child-support order, (2) the court erred when it ordered him to contribute toward Lisa's attorney fees, and (3) the court erred when it denied his motion for a protective order. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 Initially, we note that Caleb's statement of facts is replete with argument and omissions such that we choose to strike it as violative of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 341(h)(6) (eff. July 1, 2017), which requires a statement of facts that includes "the facts necessary to an understanding of the case, stated accurately and fairly without argument or comment."

         ¶ 4 The parties were married in May 2004 and divorced in December 2011. Pursuant to an agreed custody judgment, Lisa was given residential custody of the parties' two children, who were born in 2008 and 2010. Pursuant to the marital settlement agreement, Caleb agreed to pay Lisa $1183.97 per month in child support, which totaled approximately 16.33% of his monthly income. This agreement was made in part due to Caleb agreeing to pay the visitation travel costs for himself and the children, as he was living in San Diego, California, while Lisa and the children were living in Crete, Illinois.

         ¶ 5 Around the end of 2012, Caleb retired from the Marine Corps and enrolled in law school in New York. In September 2015, Lisa learned that Caleb was employed as an attorney in Dallas, Texas. After Lisa requested information on his new income, Caleb provided a pay stub to her in November 2015 that indicated he was making $185, 000 per year. Caleb was also receiving $31, 716 per year in veteran's benefits.

         ¶ 6 As a result of her learning of Caleb's increased income, Lisa filed a petition to increase child support on January 8, 2016. In part, the petition alleged that Caleb had visited with one or both children only 14 times over the past four years, for a total of 33 days, such that the main reason for the downward deviation in child support was no longer applicable. Lisa requested the court to raise Caleb's child support obligation to the statutory guideline amount of 28% of his net income. In his answer, Caleb agreed that a reasonable increase in child support was warranted, but he proposed his obligation be raised only to $1600 per month with a $2400-per-year increase in his contribution to the children's college fund.

         ¶ 7 Numerous pleadings were filed by the parties over the next year, and the litigation became increasingly acrimonious, due at least in part to both parties alleging discovery abuses. In July 2016, Lisa and the children moved to Munster, Indiana. On August 11, 2016, the circuit court issued an order after it held a hearing on multiple matters. The court allowed Caleb's attorney to withdraw, and he proceeded pro se. Among other things, the court also gave the parties 28 days to file new financial disclosure statements.

         ¶ 8 After he began representing himself, Caleb filed several motions, including a combined motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim for which relief could be granted. Because Lisa was residing in Indiana with the children, he also filed for modification of the child-support order in Indiana. Lisa was required to hire Indiana counsel to litigate Caleb's additional claims.

         ¶ 9 Caleb failed to comply with the financial disclosure statement deadline, causing Lisa to file a petition for rule to show cause in September 2016. She alleged that Caleb was attempting to delay the resolution of her petition to modify the child-support order. The circuit court granted the petition and issued a rule against Caleb ordering him to comply within five days. In addition, the order stated that Caleb ...


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