Father filed a motion to modify his child support obligation. After the hearing, the trial court properly denied father’s motion. The court found that no substantial change in circumstances had occurred warranting modification.  Father appealed.

The Appellate Court stated that, typically, a substantial change in circumstances means the child’s needs, the non-majority parent’s ability to pay, or both have changed since the entry of the most recent support order. Nonetheless, a change in parenting time of a certain nature can, based on the facts of the case, constitute a substantial change. Perhaps, where custody of the child is transferred from one parent to another, a substantial change had occurred. Some change in circumstances of any nature that would justify equitable action by the court in the best interests of the child is required. A trial court has wide latitude in determining whether such a change in circumstances has occurred.

Father does not direct this court’s attention to any case law that supports the argument he advances. Instead, he argues that the statute does not state, nor require, that there be a showing of a substantial change in financial circumstances. As laid out above, although the term is not defined in the statute it has been judicially construed.   When “judicial interpretations have settled the meaning of an existing statutory provision, repetition of the same language in a new statute” is presumed to incorporate that.

A mere increase in parenting time for one parent does not necessarily result in the reduction of the financial burden associated with raising the child for the other. Presenting the court with a calendar showing that Respondent was exercising additional overnights was insufficient to establish a substantial change in circumstances.

There was no discussion about how the change in parenting time impacted the parties from a financial perspective.  Or whether there was a change in the child’s needs. Without some evidence about either of these issues, the trial court is left to guess who is shouldering the financial burden of raising the child.  Or whether the child would suffer detriment from a modification in support.

While it may seem implicit that an increase in parenting time automatically includes an increase in expenses for the parent exercising additional time, trial courts are not in the position to make such bold assumptions.  A Petition to modify child support must be decided on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Father failed to carry his burden in this matter. Accordingly, the trial court’s finding that no substantial change in circumstances occurred was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.

In re Marriage of Wengielnik, 2020 IL App (3d) 180533 (January 2, 2020) Will Co.

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