Parties are divorced already.  The circuit court granted the wife’s Petition to increase child support.   She also filed a Petition for contribution to her attorney’s fees.  For most of the case, husband did not have an attorney.  Husband appealed on a number of grounds.

Husband’s first argument on appeal is that the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to modify the child-support order. He claims that once wife and the children moved to Indiana, Illinois lost subject-matter jurisdiction.

Husband’s argument confuses subject-matter jurisdiction with personal jurisdiction. Subject matter jurisdiction “refers to the power of a court to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceeding in question belongs.”  Personal jurisdiction refers to the court’s power to bring a person into its adjudicative process.  Husband waived any objection to the court’s jurisdiction over his person by filing an answer to wife’s Petition without objecting to personal jurisdiction.

Wife’s petition for contribution toward her attorney’s fees in the nature of sanctions.   The circuit court was within its discretion in ordering husband to contribute toward wife’s attorney’s fees as a sanction.  

Husband contends that the contribution order was improper because wife did not properly plead contribution.  And because the court did not hold an evidentiary hearing on the parties’ ability to pay.    The circuit court had found that a lot of the motions that were tendered by husband were frivolous. Husband spent so much time on this case arguing over stuff that didn’t matter.

Under section 508(b), a circuit court can impose fees as a sanction.  Without having to consider the parties’ ability to pay.

In re Marriage of Davis, 2019 IL App (3d) 170389 (November 6, 2019)

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