Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed May 23, 2013
In re Marriage of Mayfield, 2013 IL 114655
Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (4th) 110737-U.
JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.
In 2007, four years after he was divorced, this Woodford County ex-husband suffered a workplace injury for which he received a lump-sum settlement of $239,920 in 2010. He spent most of the money without notifying his ex-wife of the claim or settlement, but, in 2011, she filed a petition to modify support payments. The oldest of the couple’s two children, who had been living with his father, had reached the age of majority, while the younger child, who was 14 years old, was living with her mother and still needed support.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act provides guidelines to help trial courts determine the minimum amount of child support. These guidelines state that the minimum amount for one child is 20% of the supporting party’s net income. These guidelines may be deviated from by the circuit court based on evidence presented by the parties, but the court must explain its reasons for any such deviation. That a lump-sum workers’ compensation award such as this is income is not disputed here. The circuit court ordered the ex-husband to pay $47,984, or 20% of the entire settlement. The appellate court affirmed, as did the Illinois Supreme Court in this decision.
The ex-husband had argued for a different calculation, which would apportion the lump-sum award into monthly amounts and then base his monthly liability on 20% of them. The settlement agreement had, in fact, stated that his life expectancy was 34 years and that monthly payments equivalent to the lump-sum settlement amount would be $580.30. (He did not take his award in the form of monthly payments, however, but took the lump sum.) He argued that the child who still needed support would reach the age of majority in just a few years, and that monthly payments of 20% of $580.30 (or of $116.06) would, once they were all completed, yield $5,222.70 in total, a significantly smaller amount than the $47,984 awarded by the court as 20% of the lump sum. The ex-husband argued for such an apportioned order, setting child support as 20% of the prorated monthly equivalent. The trial court, in contrast, had opined that, if he “desired to pay his support in weekly or monthly payments, he could have *** taken his compensation over his life expectancy.”
The supreme court said that the ex-husband had not presented sufficient evidence to support a deviation from the statutory guidelines and, indeed, had never specifically asked for a departure from them. The trial court was correct to set child support at 20% of the lump sum in the absence of any evidence to support a different amount. The results below were affirmed.