Part of workers comp settlement can pay child support: CourtPosted On: May. 28, 2013 12:00 AM CST
An Illinois circuit court was correct in awarding 20% of a man's workers compensation settlement to his ex-wife for child support payments, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled last week.
Howard Mayfield received a lump-sum settlement of $300,000 in 2010 based on a work-related injury he suffered in 2007, according to court records, which do not give details on Mr. Mayfield's job or his accident. Mr. Mayfield took home nearly $240,000 after attorney fees and medical expenses.
Records show that Mr. Mayfield used most of the settlement money to pay off his home mortgage and a $9,000 loan, as well as to buy a hunting property for $44,000, take a $5,000 Florida vacation, and purchase $23,000 in furniture, appliances, jewelry and furs.
Since 2003, Mr. Mayfield had been ordered to pay child support to his ex-wife, Shannon Dykes, for their two children, records show. Though he had filed several requests over the years to modify his child support payments, Mr. Mayfield did not reveal his workers comp settlement to Ms. Dykes until a 2011 child support hearing.
Ms. Dykes filed a petition requesting that Mr. Mayfield's settlement be considered income under Illinois child support laws, records show. She noted in the filing that Mr. Mayfield had been unemployed since his 2007 work injury, and that his unemployment “caused a significant reduction” in his child support payments.
Illinois' Woodford County Circuit Court ordered Mr. Mayfield to pay 20% of his settlement, or $47,984, as child support for his youngest child, records show. The Illinois Appellate Court upheld that order in 2012.
Mr. Mayfield appealed, arguing that the court apportioned too much of his settlement for his then 14-year-old daughter, records show. Rather than paying 20% of his entire settlement, Mr. Mayfield contended that his daughter's child support award should be based on 20% of a monthly prorated amount of his settlement, or $116.06 per month until his daughter turned 18.
That calculation would have resulted in $5,222.70 in child support being taken from Mr. Mayfield's settlement, filings show.
The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously upheld the lower court decisions Thursday. In its ruling, the high court said that Mr. Mayfield's settlement should be treated as income, and that the lower courts followed Illinois case law by ordering 20% of his total settlement to be paid toward child support.
Mr. Mayfield “provided no details about his injury or his prognosis for future employment, other than the settlement agreement, which stated only that he is 'seeking employment (within) his restriction,' but provided telling details about how he spent the settlement,” the ruling reads. “Accordingly, the trial court was correct to set child support at 20% of the lump-sum settlement in the absence of any evidence to support a different amount.”