Pro Se Chicago's Weblog

July 31, 2014

Inability to pay child support, court fee, & court-appointed counselor or examiner


A COURT MAY AWARD THE NONCUSTODIAL PARENT CHILD SUPPORT IF THE CUSTODIAL PARENT IS MUCH WEALTHIER THAN NONCUSTODIAL PARENT. THIS IS SO THAT CHILD CAN LIVE SAME LIFESTYLE WITH BOTH PARENTS.

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 court’s order required him to pay $600 per month in child support and to fund medical expenses not covered by insurance. The father’s 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 father’s claim of no obligation to pay child support, and it affirmed this aspect of the trial court’s ruling. However, it remanded for an evidentiary hearing for reconsideration as to the support amount. It did not, however, interfere with the circuit court’s 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 parent’s 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 parent’s 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 father’s 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.

________________________________________________________________

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT HAS HELD THAT BEFORE A PERSON CAN BE JAILED FOR NONPAYMENT OF CHILD SUPPORT HE MUST BE GIVEN DUE PROCESS AND IN SOME CASES AN ATTORNEY – IF THE COURT DOES NOT PROVIDE THAT DUE PROCESS AS DEFINED IN THIS CASE

Turner v. Rogers, 131 S. Ct. 2507, 180 L. Ed. 2d 452 (2011) [2011 BL 161240]

If incarcerated for failing to pay child support must have been given due process – notice, due process evidentiary hearing where it must be proven that defendant has ability to pay child support, and counsel. In a civil case, due process does not always involve appointment of counsel.

This is true only if there are procedural safeguards:

These include (1) notice to the defendant that his “ability to pay” is a critical issue in the contempt proceeding; (2) the use of a form (or the equivalent) to elicit relevant financial information from him; (3) an opportunity at the hearing for him to respond to statements and questions about his financial status; and (4) an express finding by the court that the defendant has the ability to pay,

and the opposing counsel (parent) is pro se, then the court is not required to appoint counsel.

 

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