Wife had filed a petition to dissolve her marriage to husband, which was granted. The judgment required husband to pay a certain amount per week in child support for the parties’ two children. However, husband failed to meet his child support obligations.  Orders were entered for payment of the original amount of child support plus payment of an additional amount towards the arrearage.

Husband contacted the trial court by letter.  The trial court treated the letter as a petition for modification.  Husband indicated that he had been found disabled.  A social security dependent disability allowance well in excess of his child support obligation had begun at that time.

Husband himself had been receiving public aid for years.  He had contacted the Department in an attempt to obtain relief from his child support obligation.  He continued to be charged with such obligation.

His letter to the court further indicated that his wages had been garnished as ordered and his tax refunds applied toward the arrearage. The trial court found that “it would be inequitable to find that husband did not fulfill his support obligation commencing when payment of the social security dependent disability benefits had begun”.  Therefore, his child support was only in arrears from before when his social security benefits began.  The Department appealed.

The issue presented is not whether a trial court may retroactively modify or alter a previously entered order for child support. Dissolution of marriage and collateral matters such as child support are entirely statutory in origin and nature.

Any judgment respecting maintenance or support may be modified only as to installments accruing subsequent to due notice by the moving party.  A trial court has no authority to retroactively modify a child support order   In contrast, the issue in the instant appeal is whether payment of a social security dependent disability allowance on behalf of the obligated parent satisfied such parent’s child support obligation.

The courts have created a situation when the payor parent shall receive credit for payments made to the child by a third party.  The Illinois Supreme Court held that Social Security dependent disability payments made to the child because of the payor’s disability satisfied the payor’s child support obligation.  The court reasoned that the payor had earned the benefits through his labor. Therefore, the payments are paid on behalf of the payor parent.

IRMO Henry, 156 Ill.2d 541.

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