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Scifo: Full lump sum of workers' compensation award subject to child support calculation

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 9:58 a.m. CDT

Simplified case scenario for the reader: 

Mom and Dad divorce and have one child. Child is 14 years old. Mom is the custodial parent for child. Dad pays 20 percent of his statutory net income to Mom for child support until child turns 18. Dad is then injured at work. Dad’s injury permanently prevents him from performing his work duties. 

Dad files a workers’ compensation claim and is awarded his choice of either $600 per month for life or a lump sum of $240,000, based on his life expectancy of 34 years. Dad chooses the lump sum amount. Mom then files a motion for modification of child support based on Dad’s workers’ compensation award. 

Mom argues she should be entitled to 20 percent of the $240,000 award because Illinois considers workers’ compensation awards as income when determining child support obligations. 

Dad argues the court should prorate the workers’ compensation award into a monthly amount and order him to pay 20 percent of that monthly amount for four years, when child becomes 18 years old. Dad argues that the workers’ compensation award is to compensate him for lost wages over his life expectancy, and the court would unfairly force him to pay child support for 30 additional years if the court awarded Mom 20 percent of the full $240,000.  

The District Court granted Mom’s motion and ordered Dad to pay 20 percent of the full $240,000 workers’ compensation award to Mom as child support. Dad appealed, and the Appellate Court concurred with the District Court’s ruling. Dad then appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court. 

The Illinois Supreme Court concurred with the District and Appellate Courts, ruling that lump-sum workers’ compensation awards are considered current income when determining child support obligations. However, the court reiterated that Illinois empowers the District Court to deviate from the child support guidelines if sufficient evidence is provided to support the deviation. 

The case is In re: Marriage of Mayfield, 2013 IL 114655.

• Anthony Scifo is a resident of Kane County and an associate attorney with Shaw, Jacobs, Goostree and Associates P.C. in St. Charles, where he concentrates in divorce and family law, personal injury and wrongful death. His goal with this occasional column is to help educate the public regarding the court system and the law. Contact him with general legal questions at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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