Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed June 19, 2014
In re Marriage of Turk 2014 IL 116730
Appellate citation: 2013 IL App (1st) 122486.
††††† JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
††††††††††† Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Kilbride, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.
††††† Justice Theis specially concurred, with opinion, joined by Justice Thomas.
††††††††††† The parties to this Cook County child support dispute divorced in 2005 and have two sons, now ages 17 and 15. In 2012, the circuit court entered an agreed order establishing the father as custodial parent and setting up a visitation schedule for the mother under which she had regular visitation with the older boy once a week, for dinner on Wednesdays, and regular visitation with the younger boy, with weekly visits from Monday to Wednesday mornings, plus alternating weekends. This system gave her nearly equal time with him. At this time it was determined that the father earned approximately $150,000 per year and that the mother was earning less than $10,000. The father asked for termination of his obligation to pay support based on his custodial status, but the circuit courtís order required him to pay $600 per month in child support and to fund medical expenses not covered by insurance. The fatherís claim that his designation as custodial parent meant that statute precluded requiring him to pay child support to a noncustodial parent was rejected by the circuit court, and the father appealed.
††††††††††† The appellate court, like the circuit court, rejected the fatherís claim of no obligation to pay child support, and it affirmed this aspect of the trial courtís ruling. However, it remanded for an evidentiary hearing for reconsideration as to the support amount. It did not, however, interfere with the circuit courtís ruling as to medical expenses.
††††††††††† In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court said that the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act expressly confers on courts the option to order either or both parents to pay an amount that is reasonable and necessary for the support of the child, and, in its discretion, to order payment of various expenses determined to be reasonable, including health needs not covered by insurance. The supreme court explained that a parent who is technically noncustodial may have visitation rights which place the child in that parentís care for periods of time which involve commensurate cost. This can be problematic if the noncustodial parent has fewer resources to meet the substantial support costs of an extensive visitation schedule. This would not only be unfair, but would leave the poorer parent with insufficient resources to care for the child in a manner even minimally comparable to that of the wealthier parent. A child should not end up living commensurate with the wealthier custodial parentís income only half the time, when staying with the wealthier custodial parent. This could be detrimental to the child. Therefore, a trial court may order a custodial parent to pay child support where the circumstances and the best interests of the child warrant it.
††††††††††† While rejecting the custodial fatherís claims as to the meaning of the statute, the appellate court had remanded for an evidentiary hearing, with directions for the circuit court to clearly explain the basis for any support awarded. It was correct in this regard, but the supreme court held that, on remand, the circuit court should also revisit with specificity the issue of what portion of uninsured medical expenses the father should be required to pay.
††††††††††† The appellate court was, thus, affirmed in part and reversed in part.