Friday, May 24, 2013

Supreme Court Rules that lump sum worker's comp award = lump sum child support award.

     The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled in a recent case that child support is due from a lump sum worker’s compensation award in the amount equal to the percentage due for the number of minor children supported (20% for one, 28% for two, etc.). Thus a lump sum worker's comp award = lump sum child support award.

      In this case, four years after a divorce the former husband was injured at work and received a $240,000 settlement of his worker’s compensation claim. Somehow he spent all of that without first telling his ex-wife of the claim or the settlement. She caught up with him a year later and filed a petition to modify support payments to try and get a piece of the settlement for child support.
      The divorce laws of Illinois provide guidelines to help courts determine the minimum amount of child support. These guidelines do not always have to be followed and the court can “deviate” from them as long as the court explains its reasons for the deviation but that for some reason was not an issue here. 


     The parties apparently did not dispute (and the law already says) that a lump-sum workers’ compensation award is considered income for the purposes of child support. As a result the court then ordered the ex-husband to pay $47,984 (or 20% of the entire settlement) for support of the one remaining minor child of the parties. The appellate court agreed as did the Illinois Supreme Court.
      The ex-husband had argued for a different calculation than just a straight cut of the settlement. He wanted the court to figure the support based on separating the lump sum award into monthly amounts based on his life expectancy. The court would then base his monthly payment of child support on 20% of what he would have received if he had taken the settlement over his lifetime – not as a lump sum. This would be a huge difference and if the court accepted his argument the ex-wife would have received $5,222.70 in total – not a straight cut of the settlement which was $47,984. The trial court had basically said that had he wanted to pay the child support over time, he would have taken the worker’s compensation settlement over time. Therefore, if the husband took the lump sum payment on the workers comp claim, the ex-wife got the lump sum percentage on the child support claim.
Ouch. 

In re Marriage of Mayfield, 2013