APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. WILLIAM
HOMER, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE BOYLE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Cora Fuqua, hereinafter plaintiff, filed a complaint for divorce against her husband, Millard Fuqua, hereinafter defendant, in the circuit court of Lake County. The complaint alleged mental cruelty as grounds for divorce, averred that the parties owned certain real and personal property, and asked the court to make an equitable division of the real and personal property owned by the parties. Defendant responded to this complaint by filing an answer and counter-complaint for divorce. On June 27, 1977, Judge William F. Homer granted the divorce decree to plaintiff and awarded her certain of defendant's joint tenancy property and other interests, both in lieu of alimony and as a division of property. Defendant does not contest the validity or sufficiency of the divorce decree itself, but appeals only from the court's order which disposed of his joint tenancy interest in both the marital home and the parties' bank accounts.
Two basic issues are presented for review: (1) Whether the trial court erred in awarding plaintiff the defendant's joint tenancy interest in the marital home in lieu of alimony; and (2) Whether the trial court's finding that plaintiff was entitled to the parties' joint tenancy bank accounts was against the manifest weight of the evidence.
A brief summary of the material circumstances of the parties, as well as the pertinent sections of the trial court's decree is necessary to discern our holdings.
The trial court's order disposed of the respective property rights of the parties in the following manner:
(1) The court awarded plaintiff, in lieu of alimony, defendant's share of the household furnishings, goods, furniture, fixtures and equipment, and ceramic equipment, and defendant's undivided one-half interest in the marital home which had been purchased in 1965 in joint tenancy for $17,500 with funds of both parties. The home had an appraised value at the time of the hearing of $36,000 with a $6,400 mortgage;
(2) The court granted plaintiff the approximately $8,000 remaining in joint tenancy bank accounts which the court found had been started with funds received by plaintiff as an inheritance and over which plaintiff had always maintained exclusive control. These accounts were in the form of two certificates of deposit in joint tenancy accounts which had amounted to $11,000 at the time plaintiff's complaint for divorce was filed.
(3) The court also ordered that the household goods, tools and equipment in the defendant's possession at the time of the hearing, as well as the compressor, claw hammer and other tools in the marital home of the parties, were to be the property of the defendant; and
(4) The court further directed that a 1976 Ford van, a 1970 Ford van, and a 1969 Rambler Ambassador should remain the property of the defendant. The 1976 van had been purchased by the defendant a month before trial and had an outstanding loan on it of approximately $5,600 at the time of trial.
Plaintiff and defendant had been married for 33 years and all their children were of legal age at the time of this action. Plaintiff, a 52-year-old able-bodied woman, had started a full-time job at Fann Steel in North Chicago, Illinois, approximately one month before the commencement of trial. Her gross salary was $198 per week, and her net salary amounted to $150. According to joint income tax returns, the plaintiff had earned approximately $16,000 over the preceding 10 years in the performance of various part-time jobs.
Defendant, a 63-year-old able-bodied man, had retired from American Motors Company approximately one month prior to trial. His pension was $184 a month and he was entitled to monthly Social Security payments in an amount still undetermined at the time of this action. Over the last 10 years the defendant had earned over $165,000, according to the parties' joint tax returns.
The defendant contends as to the first issue that the trial court erred in awarding plaintiff defendant's joint tenancy interest in the marital home in lieu of alimony because there was no evidence of plaintiff's need or the ability of the defendant to pay alimony. The plaintiff, in rebuttal, contends that this award in lieu of alimony was permissible under section 18 of "An Act * * * in relation to divorce" (hereinafter the Divorce Act) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 40, par. 19) because the plaintiff was entitled to alimony and this conveyance is equitable.
Section 18 of the Divorce Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 40, par. 19) provides that:
"The court may order the husband or wife, as the case may be, to pay to the other party such sum of money, or convey to the party such real or personal property, payable or to be conveyed either in gross or by installments as ...