Justia Family Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
Smith v. Vanguard Group Inc.
Donald initially listed no beneficiary who would take any funds remaining in his individual retirement account at his death. In 2013, he was hospitalized. During his hospitalization, someone designated his wife, JoAnn, as beneficiary. When Donald was released from the hospital, he sought a temporary restraining order and injunction. The spouses stipulated to an injunction ordering that neither party engage in any transaction regarding the parties’ financial accounts. That injunction action was later combined with a dissolution action. While still bound by the injunction, Donald changed the beneficiary designation to his sons. After the combined actions were dismissed, Donald died. JoAnn filed suit, alleging that the beneficiary change violated the injunction so that the change was void. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the suit. The injunction did not mention changes of beneficiaries; the change of beneficiary did not vest during the pendency of the injunction or the combined underlying actions. The change of ownership did not occur until after the injunction was dismissed. The circuit court could have distributed whatever amount of the IRA that it found equitable had the dissolution action proceeded to a final judgment. An individual does not, however, have the same interest in her spouse’s property at probate that she does at dissolution. View "Smith v. Vanguard Group Inc." on Justia Law
In re N.G.
N.G., born in 2011, was declared a ward of the court, based on neglect, and was placed with relatives. Her father, Floyd, was incarcerated. The Will County Circuit Court terminated the parental rights of N.G.’s mother and of Floyd, on the grounds that he was an unfit person under section 1(D) of the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/1(D)) because, before N.G.’s birth, he had been convicted of at least three felonies and was therefore “depraved.” The appellate court held that because one of the felonies on which the circuit court had relied, a 2008 conviction for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A), (d)), was based on a statute the Illinois Supreme Court declared unconstitutional under the Second Amendment in 2013, the conviction had no legal effect and should not have been considered in making the fitness determination. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, finding that it had “an affirmative duty to invalidate" Floyd’s AUUW conviction and to treat the statute on which it was based as having never existed. Absent that conviction, the statutory presumption of depravity under section 1(D)(i) would not have been triggered. Under Illinois law, there is no fixed procedural mechanism or forum, nor is there any temporal limitation governing when a void ab initio challenge may be asserted. View "In re N.G." on Justia Law
In re Marriage of Goesel
Christine, represented by Goldstine, sought dissolution of marriage from Andrew. Andrew was represented by Boback. Holwell later became Andrew’s counsel. Before withdrawing, Boback successfully moved to disqualify Goldstine for improperly ordering Christine to provide Andrew’s mail that arrived at the marital home, opening and viewing the mail. Holwell billed Andrew $37,094.49 for the disqualification matter. Later, Jaquays appeared for Christine. LeVine appeared for Andrew. Christine sought interim attorney fees, arguing that she had paid Jaquays a retainer of $5000 and had an outstanding balance of $27,142.60 and that if the court determined that Andrew lacked the ability to pay her fees, it should order disgorgement from the money that Andrew had paid to Holwell. Andrew also sought attorney fees, owing $17,500.38 to Holwell and $26,000 to LeVine; Holwell testified that she was holding $13,000 that Andrew had paid to Boback because of a dispute as to who owned the money. The court found that both parties lacked an ability to pay reasonable attorney fees. Andrew had paid $66,382.28 to Holwell, $10,000 to LeVine, and $23,639.99 to Boback. Christine had paid $5000 to Jaquays and $13,117.04 to Goldstine. The court held that to “level the playing field,” each party should have $59,069.65 for attorney fees. The court ordered Holwell to disgorge $40,952.61 for payment to Jaquays. Holwell was held in contempt. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed reversal of the disgorgement order. Fees that have already been earned by an attorney in a dissolution of marriage proceeding are not considered “available funds,” such that they may be disgorged under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5/501(c-1)(3). View "In re Marriage of Goesel" on Justia Law
In re Marriage of Heroy
Tuke and Heroy married in 1980 and divorced in 2006. Heroy was ordered to pay $35,000 per month in permanent maintenance, based on a finding that the couple had enjoyed a lavish standard of living while married. The court found that Tuke could reasonably be expected to earn $40,000-$50,000 per year, based on her prior experience as a law librarian and publisher of a law bulletin. Months later, Heroy sought to terminate or modify the award. Tuke sought contribution to her attorney fees. In 2012, the court concluded that Heroy had proven that his income had decreased, justifying reduction of the maintenance award to $27,500 per month. The court concluded that Tuke had some ability to pay her attorney fees but that if she were required to pay all of the fees, her financial stability would be undermined, while Heroy was able to pay Tuke’s fees. The court instructed Heroy to pay $125,000. Heroy appealed; the court ordered Heroy to pay $35,000 in prospective attorney fees. The appellate court concluded the maintenance award should be $25,745 per month but reversed the attorney fee awards. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court holding. That court properly considered the factors in the Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act; the record supports that Tuke’s financial stability would be undermined if she were required to pay all of her attorney fees. The court carefully considered the factors set forth in section 510(a-5) of the Act, including Tuke’s efforts at supporting herself. View "In re Marriage of Heroy" on Justia Law
In re M.I.
In 2010, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services petitioned for wardship of M.I., a minor, 705 ILCS 405/2-3, alleging that M.I.’s mother had neglected her and that M.I.’s father had an extensive criminal history. The juvenile court granted the petition, finding M.I. to be neglected. The court ordered father to obtain a drug and alcohol assessment, submit to random drug testing twice monthly, undergo a psychological examination, and complete a parenting class. Until he dropped out of high school, father was enrolled in special education courses for learning disabilities. He had been unemployed since 2007. Father had been incarcerated on eight different occasions for approximately 18-19 years in total but had not been incarcerated since 2005. He suffers from bipolar disorder and admitted to regular marijuana use, indicating that he had been clean for two months. Father is functionally illiterate, and possesses an IQ of 58. The state asserted that he did not attend drug testing or participate in a drug and alcohol evaluation and refused to provide an address to his caseworker. The court found both parents unfit. Thereafter, at five different permanency hearings, the juvenile court found that father had failed to make reasonable efforts to achieve the service plan and permanency goal. The court appointed DCFS as guardian. The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the termination of father’s rights. The statute, 750 ILCS 50/1(D)(b), does not contain a willfulness requirement. The juvenile court considered father’s intellectual disability and other circumstances, such as his sporadic attendance at visitation, when it found him unfit under subsection (b). View "In re M.I." on Justia Law
In re M.M.
The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) sought wardship of 9-and-10-year-old children, 705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b). The minors then lived with their father, Larry, who had a criminal history. Larry entered into an agreed order of protection, allowing the minors to reside with their paternal grandparents. Larry subsequently disclosed the name of the mother, who filed an answer. No information concerning mother was presented at the hearing. The court found that the minors were neglected and that mother did not contribute to the injurious environment. A subsequent report stated that mother had stable housing and had obtained a certified nursing assistant certificate. She was not addicted to alcohol or illegal substances, had passed a random drug screening, and had never been arrested. She takes prescription medication for bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. Mother completed a parenting class and a domestic violence class, had engaged in an intact family program and indicated a willingness to participate in services. The caseworker took no position as to who should be appointed guardian. The state and the guardian ad litem agreed that mother was fit, but argued that DCFS should be appointed guardian. Mother requested custody and guardianship. The court ordered DCFS appointed as guardian, found mother to be fit, and found that placement was necessary, “based on all that was presented in the materials for my review for this disposition and upon considering argument.” The appellate court concluded that the trial court violated 705 ILCS 405/2-27(1). The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed and remanded. The Act does not authorize placing a ward of the court with a third party absent a finding of parental unfitness, inability, or unwillingness to care for the minor. View "In re M.M." on Justia Law
Blumenthal v. Brewer
Blumenthal jointly owned her Chicago home with Brewer, her domestic partner since 1981. In 2010 Blumenthal sought partition of the residence when the relationship ended. Brewer counterclaimed for common-law remedies, including an interest in Blumenthal’s ownership share in a medical group so that their overall assets would be equalized. Blumenthal moved to dismiss the counterclaim under the Illinois Supreme Court’s 1979 Hewitt decision, which rejected a woman’s suit to divide assets she accumulated with a man during a long-term relationship in which they lived together, had children together, but never married. Brewer argued that it was “particularly irrational” to apply this principle to her because she and Blumenthal could not marry at the time their relationship ended because same-sex marriage was not recognized in Illinois. The counterclaim was dismissed; the partition action proceeded to final judgment. The appellate court vacated the dismissal, calling Hewitt “outmoded and ill-considered.” The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the trial court decision. The legislature intended marriage to be the only legally protected family relationship under Illinois law. Permitting unmarried partners to enforce mutual property rights might “encourage formation of such relationships and weaken marriage as the foundation of our family-based society.” Marriage is a legal relationship that all individuals may or may not enter into, Illinois does not act irrationally or discriminatorily in refusing to grant benefits and protections under the Marriage and Dissolution Act to those who do not participate in that institution. View "Blumenthal v. Brewer" on Justia Law
In re A.A.
The guardian ad litem (GAL) for the minor, A.A., petitioned the circuit court to vacate a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity (VAP) signed by respondents Matthew A. and Caitlin S. with regard to A.A. The appellate court affirmed and held that after DNA testing established that Matthew was not the biological father of A.A., the trial court was not required to make a “best interests of the child” determination prior to granting the petition. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re A.A." on Justia Law