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Vance v. Joyner

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

December 5, 2019

Rhonda VANCE, Petitioner-Appellee,
Roderick JOYNER, Respondent-Appellant.

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          Appeal from the Circuit Court of McLean County, No. 09-F-65; the Hon. Paul G. Lawrence, Judge, presiding.

          Gina L. Wood, of Thomson & Weintraub, LLC, of Bloomington, for appellant.

          Angela K. Skinner, of Allison & Mosby-Scott, of Bloomington, for appellee.



         ¶ 1 In October 2018, the trial court ordered respondent, Roderick Joyner, to pay $766.90 per month in child support. Roderick filed a motion to reconsider, and the court reduced the obligation to $760.03. In April 2019, the trial court also ordered Roderick to pay petitioner Rhonda Vance's attorney fees resulting from the litigation of this case.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, Roderick argues the trial court erred in (1) calculating the parties' child support obligation by failing to include gifts Rhonda received from her parents as income and miscalculating his net income and (2) ordering respondent to pay petitioner's legal fees.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 In March 2009, Rhonda filed a petition pursuant to the Illinois Parentage Act of 1984 (750 ILCS 45/1 et seq. (West 2008)) to determine the existence of the father-and-child relationship with respect to her minor child M.J., who was born in 2006. The parties were not married at the time the minor was born and had not married thereafter. The petition named respondent as the presumed father of M.J., sought the initiation of child support payments, and requested all such payments be made to the State Disbursement Unit.

         ¶ 5 In July 2009, after a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) test established Roderick as M.J.'s father, the trial court entered an order establishing a parent-child relationship between Roderick and M.J. Three months later, the court entered a child support order, reached by the agreement of the parties, requiring Roderick to pay child support in the amount of $55.49 per week until June 1, 2025, and child support arrearages in the amount of $11.10 per week until the delinquency was satisfied. Roderick satisfied the delinquency support obligation in June 2010, and the court dismissed the claim for child support arrearages on July 2, 2010. After the court entered this order, Roderick quit making all child support payments to the State Disbursement Unit.

         ¶ 6 On August 27, 2015, Rhonda filed a petition to modify child support, alleging Roderick's income and M.J.'s needs had substantially increased. Rhonda also filed a petition alleging Roderick was in civil contempt of the September 2009 child support order because he had not paid any child support after July 2, 2010. Rhonda asked the court to enter a new deficiency judgment against Roderick and order Roderick to pay her attorney fees. Additionally, after Roderick failed to properly respond to Rhonda's discovery requests, Rhonda filed a motion to compel on December 28, 2015.

         ¶ 7 On October 4, 2017, Rhonda also filed a petition for interim fees and costs pursuant to section 501(b) of the Illinois Parentage Act of 2015 (750 ILCS 46/501(b) (West 2016)). Rhonda alleged she had incurred significant attorney fees because Roderick had kept information from her and delayed court proceedings. She further

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indicated she did not have the ability to pay the balance of her attorney fees and asked the court to order Roderick to pay $8000 for her attorney fees.

         ¶ 8 Hearings on Rhonda's petition to modify child support were held on June 28, 2017, March 22, 2018, and April 9, 2018. After the June 28, 2017, hearing, Roderick presented the trial court with 29 new pretrial exhibits. Rhonda objected to all of the exhibits— arguing that they should not be admitted because they were not timely and the information they contained had not been disclosed during discovery— and requested sanctions. Although the trial court recognized in its November 2017 order that Roderick violated supreme court rules and failed to comply with discovery, the court allowed Roderick to present the exhibits. The court reserved the issue of sanctions.

         ¶ 9 A. Rhonda Vance

         ¶ 10 Rhonda is the mother of four children. M.J. is the only child she has with Roderick. She testified M.J. attended public school and participated in several different sports. Roderick had paid child support until sometime in 2010, which resulted in child support arrearages exceeding $17,000. However, he infrequently gave her money for some of M.J.'s special expenses, such as sports equipment. From 2010 until the time she testified, Rhonda estimated Roderick had given her a total of $500, but no more than $40 on a single occasion.

         ¶ 11 Rhonda also testified to the contents of her financial affidavit. She reported earning a gross income of $24,850 in 2015. She earned $2070.83 per month. Her total monthly expenses for herself and M.J. totaled $6385.14. She also made monthly debt payments. Each month her expenses and debts exceeded her income by $4468.90. On cross-examination, she acknowledged her parents helped to make up the deficits by paying her directly or making payments to her creditors. The financial assistance she received from her parents was not listed as a loan on her financial affidavit or included as income.

         ¶ 12 Rhonda estimated Roderick's income at approximately $83,000. He owns a barbershop, "A Kut Above," in Bloomington, Illinois, where he only accepts cash payments. Roderick told her he only accepted cash payments because cash cannot be tracked. He also has four rental properties. She also testified to calculating his gross income based on deposits made into his accounts; however, she did not take into consideration or make any deductions based on transfers between Roderick's personal and business accounts. After assessing deductions for income taxes and social security, she believed Roderick should pay $970.93 per month in child support. In October 2017, while this matter was ongoing, Roderick also purchased a 2014 Cadillac Escalade for $38,799. On loan documents, which showed Roderick as the only loan applicant and purchaser, his annual income was shown as $105,000.

         ¶ 13 B. Gary Mohamed

         ¶ 14 Gary Mohamed is Roderick's friend and a barber at A Kut Above. He has rented a chair from Roderick for over a decade. His rent payments have been $600 for the past two years. Mohamed testified Rhonda came to the barbershop every one-to-two weeks from 2010 through 2015. During some of those visits and from his workstation, he saw Roderick give Rhonda money. He testified Roderick probably gave her money at least 50 different times.

         ¶ 15 C. Willie Brown

         ¶ 16 Willie Brown is a client of Gary Mohamed and regularly visits the barber shop every two weeks. From 2010 through 2015, he saw Rhonda at the shop approximately two to three times in a two-month

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period. During some of her visits, Roderick would give Rhonda something; however, he did not know what Roderick gave to Rhonda.

         ¶ 17 Brown also testified he loaned Roderick $7000 in 2015. A promissory note created and executed by Roderick stated the loan amount was $6000, but Brown was certain he had loaned Roderick $7000. He made the loan because road construction on the nearby bridge on Market Street caused the barbershop to lose business and caused Roderick to experience financial difficulties.

         ¶ 18 D. Tyrus Smith

         ¶ 19 Tyrus Smith is Roderick's friend and a longtime customer at A Kut Above. He gets his hair cut at the barbershop every two weeks and also visits the shop two to three times a week. Once every two weeks, he saw Rhonda at the barbershop. Approximately twice a month, he observed Roderick give Rhonda money.

         ¶ 20 Smith also loaned Roderick $7000 in 2015. He made the loan because Roderick said the barbershop was in trouble and he needed help with child support issues.

         ¶ 21 E. Doni Tornowski

         ¶ 22 Doni Tornowski is Roderick's friend, and her sons are customers of A Kut Above. When she took her sons to the barbershop for haircuts, which occurred at least once a month, she saw Rhonda there as well. On five or six different occasions from 2010 to 2015, she observed Roderick give Rhonda money. However, she did not know how much money Roderick gave to Rhonda or the purpose of the exchange.

         ¶ 23 F. Keith Faris

         ¶ 24 Keith Faris, Roderick's friend since high school, is a customer of the barbershop, which he visits two to three times per week. During 8 to 10 of these visits, he observed Roderick give Rhonda an envelope or a check. He specifically recalled at least one occasion where Rhonda waved a check around and said Roderick needed to "take care of his baby mammas."

         ¶ 25 G. Shawn Maier

         ¶ 26 Shawn Maier became a customer of A Kut Above in 2011 when he moved back to Illinois, but he has known Roderick since high school. He goes to the shop twice a month. He testified to seeing Rhonda at the barbershop and, approximately eight times, he saw Roderick give her ...

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