Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Illinois Supreme Court
In re Marriage of Mayfield
Four years after he was divorced, the ex-husband suffered a workplace injury for which he received a lump-sum settlement of $239,920. He spent most of the money without notifying his ex-wife of the claim or settlement, but she later sought to modify support payments. The oldest of the couple’s children, who had been living with his father, had reached the age of majority, while the younger child, age 14, was living with her mother. The circuit court ordered the ex-husband to pay $47,984, 20% of the entire settlement. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The ex-husband sought to apportion the lump-sum award into monthly amounts (using his life expectancy of 34 years) and base his monthly liability on 20% of the monthly amount. He argued that the minor child would reach the age of majority in a few years, and that monthly payments of 20% of $580.30 ($116.06) would= yield $5,222.70 in total, a significantly smaller amount than awarded by the court. The court said that the ex-husband had not presented sufficient evidence to support a deviation from the statutory guidelines and had never specifically asked for a departure. The trial court was correct to set child support at 20% of the lump sum in the absence of any evidence to support a different amount. View "In re Marriage of Mayfield" on Justia Law
DeHart v. DeHart
Donald died in 2007 at age 84. His will, dated December, 2006, was admitted to probate. The woman he had married one year before execution of that will, Blanca, was named as executor. James, who had been held out by Donald as Donald’s biological son throughout his life, sued Blanca in her individual capacity and as executor, contesting the will. In 2000 James had learned from Donald that James’s mother, who died in 2001, married Donald, after James’ biological father abandoned them. Donald stated that a “secret” adoption had taken place. There is no legal documentation of an adoption. The disputed will states, “I am married to Blanca DeHart. I have no children.” James cited this as evidence of unsound mind and alleged that, during the brief marriage, Blanca became joint tenant on real estate, bank accounts and brokerage accounts worth millions of dollars, and obtained a power of attorney to act on her then-husband’s behalf, exercising control over his real estate dealings and sale of the family farm. The circuit court dismissed with prejudice. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that the complaint alleged sufficient facts to state causes of action as to lack of testamentary capacity, undue influence, contract for adoption and equitable adoption. The court erroneously denied a motion to compel deposition of the attorney who drafted the disputed will. View "DeHart v. DeHart" on Justia Law
Julie Q. v. Dept. of Children & Family Servs.
In 2009, Julie was reported to the Department of Children and Family Services by her estranged husband concerning events involving alcoholism. After an investigation, DCFS made an indicated finding of child neglect and an ALJ issued an opinion that the mother had created an environment injurious to the health and welfare of her minor daughter under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. The circuit court upheld the results. The appellate court reversed and the supreme court agreed. The Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act permitted a finding of neglect, prior to 1980, based on placing a child in an environment injurious to the child’s welfare. The “injurious environment” language was deleted in 1980 and was not restored until 2012, after the events at issue. During that time DCFS had promulgated rules describing specific incidents of harm constituting abuse or neglect that included “Substantial Risk of Physical Injury/Environment Injurious to Health and Welfare;” the court held that, after the legislature specifically removed the injurious environment language from the Act, DCFS was without authority to reestablish an injurious-environment definition of neglect. The fact that the Juvenile Court Act, a different statute, includes injurious environment in its definition of neglect does not mandate a different result. View "Julie Q. v. Dept. of Children & Family Servs." on Justia Law
Cooney v. Rossiter
Plaintiff (ex-wife) and her parents sought damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendant is a psychiatrist who was court-appointed to make recommendations in connection with plaintiff’s custody dispute with her ex-husband, following the 1998 entry of a marriage dissolution judgment. Plaintiff initially requested the evaluation, but was unhappy with the results. Defendant reported that plaintiff and her parents were delusional and that the children should be removed from their mother’s custody and have no further contact with her. A change of custody was granted. The Department of Children and Family Services later made a finding of abuse and neglect against the plaintiff. Plaintiff accused defendant of making false statements and a false evaluation. The trial court dismissed on the basis of res judicata; the appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, based on a separate civil rights class action that plaintiff had filed earlier in federal court against defendant and others for their role in custody proceedings. That action was dismissed for the immunity of such evaluators, and that dismissal was affirmed on appeal.View "Cooney v. Rossiter" on Justia Law
In re Marriage of Mathis
The parties married in 1977, had three children, and started marriage dissolution proceedings in 2000. In 2001, the circuit court entered judgment of dissolution, reserving ancillary issues. In 2004 the court again entered a dissolution order, still reserving ancillary issues. In 2005, husband sought to establish a property valuation date, contending that it should be the date of dissolution. The trial court held that current values should be used and, initially, set a date of January 1, 2006. Matters were continued until the court held hearings in 2010 and set a new valuation date of December 31, 2010. The circuit court certified a question for interlocutory review: In a bifurcated dissolution proceeding, when a grounds judgment has been entered and there is a lengthy delay before the hearing on ancillary issues, is the appropriate date for valuation of marital property the date of dissolution or a date as close as practicable to the date of trial on ancillary issues? The appellate court held that the date of trial on ancillary matters is the time for evaluation. The supreme court disagreed, holding that the valuation date is the date of dissolution. Once dissolution has been entered, the property in question is no longer marital property.View "In re Marriage of Mathis" on Justia Law
In re A.P.
In 2010, the younger child, a boy aged 2½ years, was brought to the emergency room by his mother. He had second-degree burns on his face. His mother had found him, injured, at the home of her boyfriend, who had been babysitting her two children. She did not live with the boyfriend. The children were determined to be neglected based on a finding of “environment injurious to their welfare.” The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court, noting that the evidence did not show that the mother had any prior indication that the boyfriend would not provide a safe environment and also noting that she immediately took the child to the hospital. The finding of neglect was against the manifest weight of the evidence. View "In re A.P." on Justia Law
Karbin v. Karbin
Wife suffered brain damage after a serious car accident in 1997 and became totally disabled. Husband became unable to care for her by 2004, due to his own Parkinson’s disease. Wife went to Ohio to live with her daughter, who became plenary guardian. In 2007, after living apart for nearly three years, husband filed a petition for marriage dissolution in Cook County, and, in 2008, the guardian filed a counter-petition for dissolution on behalf of wife. Husband was granted voluntary dismissal of his petition, and, claiming that wife had said that she did not really want a divorce, moved to dismiss the guardian’s petition. He argued that the guardian had no authority to seek it. The circuit court dismissed the wife’s petition, and the appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, overruling a 1986 case, which had involved proceedings commenced before enactment of the no-fault divorce law now in effect. Protection of vulnerable individuals, such as wife n this case, should now be allowed. On remand, the guardian must satisfy a clear and convincing burden of proof that marriage dissolution is in the ward’s best interest.View "Karbin v. Karbin" on Justia Law
In re Marriage of Coulter
The parties, married in California, moved to Illinois in 2004, and have three minor children. In 2005, husband filed a petition for dissolution of marriage and, in 2006, the parties signed a joint parenting agreement which was incorporated into the judgment of dissolution in May 2008. Under the agreement, mother had primary residential custody and would stay in Illinois for 24 months, but could return the children to California after 36 months. The period in between was reserved for mediation. After 24 months, mother notified father of intent to relocate, but no mediation took place until two months before expiration of the 36-month period. Father sought an injunction, claiming that mother had not requested mediation and a substantial change in circumstances that would justify giving him sole custody. The circuit court refused his request, and mother and children moved to California in June, 2011.The appellate court reversed; the trial court ordered return of the children. The supreme court reversed, holding that mother had complied with the judgment of dissolution. Father’s petition to modify custody remains pending; he is free to attempt to meet the statutory burden of showing that circumstances have changed so significantly that custody modification would be appropriate. View "In re Marriage of Coulter" on Justia Law
In re Marriage of McGrath
The parties, who had twin children, divorced in 2007, while husband was unemployed. The issue of child support was reserved. The husband lived off assets that had been awarded to him as part of the marital estate, withdrawing about $8,500 from his savings account each month. The wife, who had custody, subsequently petitioned for child support, and, in 2010, was awarded $2,000 a month, even though the husband was still unemployed. For two children, the statutory guideline refers to 28 percent of net income, defined as “the total of all income from all sources,” 750 ILCS 5/505(a)(3). The appellate court affirmed. The supreme court set aside the support order, remanding for specific findings and recalculation. The amount withdrawn from savings should not be considered “income” because the money already belonged to husband. However, if use of the statutory guidelines then generates a support amount that the trial court finds inappropriate, it should make a specific finding to that effect and then adjust the support amount accordingly. One factor it can consider is “the financial resources and needs of the noncustodial parent.” View "In re Marriage of McGrath" on Justia Law
In re Haley D.
The baby was exposed to cocaine in utero; the state took the child into protective custody and filed a petition pursuant to 705 ILCS 405/2-13. The petition did not seek termination of parental rights. Mother was personally served; abode service was made on father by leaving the summons and petition with his mother at the house they shared. The circuit court made the baby a ward of the court. By the time of the permanency hearing, mother's whereabouts were unknown. Although father did not comply with all aspects of the service plan, the court continued to set return to the family as the permanency goal. When the baby was about 18 months old, the court allowed foster parents to intervene and the state to begin termination proceedings and subsequently entered a default judgment against father. The appellate court reversed because the state had made no attempt to serve father. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The court noted many procedural defects and that father had made progress in meeting goals during nine months following the adjudication of neglect. Because he was not found to be deficient until after that period, the petition for termination was untenable as a matter of law.