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In Re Marriage of Thompson



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ALBERT S. PORTER, Judge, presiding.


Mr. JUSTICE McNAMARA delivered the opinion of the court:

Respondent, Venan E. Thompson, Jr., appeals from a judgment of the circuit court of Cook County which made a distribution of the parties' marital property under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, pars. 101-802), which became effective October 1, 1977. On September 30, 1977, petitioner, Janet P. Thompson, was granted a divorce and was awarded custody of the parties' three children. (Neither the decree of divorce nor the order of custody are involved in this appeal.) After the effective date of the new act, the trial court conducted a hearing and entered an order disposing of the parties' marital property. On appeal respondent contends that the new act is unconstitutional in several respects; that the trial court erred in the disposition of the parties' real estate; and that the court erred in parts of its order relating to child support.

On June 14, 1978, the trial court conducted a hearing concerning the disposition of property. Both sides submitted real estate appraisals of the fair market value of the marital residence, which was occupied by petitioner and the children. The appraisal offered by petitioner indicated that the residence had a present fair market value of $62,500, while that submitted by respondent set the value at $76,000. The trial court ordered an independent appraisal, but those results were not disclosed. There was a mortgage of approximately $25,000.

The residence had been purchased by the parties in 1967 for $40,000. The down payment for the home had come from an inheritance received by respondent. The proceeds of the inheritance also paid for the furniture. Petitioner's parents at the time gave the parties an additional $3,000. Through 1973, respondent was employed at a hospital while petitioner was a homemaker. Beginning in 1974, petitioner became employed and, by 1976, the mortgage payments were being paid exclusively from funds earned by petitioner. At the time of the hearing, petitioner had a take-home pay of $480 a month; respondent's take-home pay was $1400 a month. Respondent had assumed the payment of family debts amounting to $2676, and he maintained life insurance policies for the benefit of the minor children. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court made certain rulings pertinent to the appeal. The court found that there was an arrearage of $377.50 in temporary child support. The court awarded petitioner attorney's fees, and ordered respondent to pay for any future extraordinary medical, hospital, or dental expenses of the minor children. The court awarded petitioner the marital residence, subject to a lien interest for respondent in the amount of $17,000. Petitioner was not required to pay respondent the $17,000 until one of the following events occurred: the subsequent remarriage of petitioner; the emancipation of all the minor children of the parties (this would occur on October 3, 1984); or the cohabitation of petitioner with another person.

On appeal, respondent contends that the Act is unconstitutional. He initially argues that it is invalid because it encompasses more than one subject in violation of article IV, section 8(d) of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. He states that the Act includes marriage, dissolution of marriage, public aid, civil procedure, child custody, property, and probate.

• 1 The constitutional requirement that no act shall encompass more than one subject was designed to prevent the joinder of incongruous and unrelated matters in one act. (People ex rel. Royal v. Cain (1951), 410 Ill. 39, 101 N.E.2d 74; Village of Averyville v. City of Peoria (1929), 335 Ill. 106, 166 N.E. 488.) Section 8(d) of article IV is not a limitation on the comprehensiveness of a subject. (People ex rel. Ogilvie v. Lewis (1971), 49 Ill.2d 476, 274 N.E.2d 87; Co-ordinated Transport, Inc. v. Barrett (1952), 412 Ill. 321, 106 N.E.2d 510.) The term "subject," in the constitutional sense, is comprehensive in scope. (Stein v. Howlett (1972), 52 Ill.2d 570, 289 N.E.2d 409; Jordan v. Metropolitan Sanitary District (1958), 15 Ill.2d 369, 155 N.E.2d 297.) An act may include all matters germane to a general subject, including the means and methods reasonably necessary or appropriate for the accomplishment of the legislative purpose and including any other provisions not inconsistent with, or foreign to, the general subject of the act. People ex rel. Gutknecht v. City of Chicago (1953), 414 Ill. 600, 111 N.E.2d 626; Michaels v. Barrett (1934), 355 Ill. 175, 188 N.E. 921; Public Service Co. v. Recktenwald (1919), 290 Ill. 314, 125 N.E. 271.

• 2 The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act was enacted to create a uniform law governing domestic relations. The provisions questioned by respondent merely define the nature and scope of the Act's operation and relate to the firm establishment and maintenance of a comprehensive system regulating this single subject. All the provisions are germane to domestic relations and are reasonably necessary to accomplish the legislative purpose. We find no violation of the single-subject requirement of the 1970 Illinois Constitution.

• 3 Respondent also contends that the Act is violative of due process because it is vague and without fixed standards regarding the distribution of marital property. He asserts that distribution is left solely to the unfettered discretion of the trial court, guided only by nebulous factors.

The Act provides in relevant part:

"[The trial court] shall divide the marital property without regard to marital misconduct in just proportions considering all relevant factors, including:

(1) The contribution or dissipation of each party in the acquisition, preservation, or depreciation or appreciation in value, of the marital and non-marital property, including the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker or to the family unit;

(2) the value of the property set apart to ...

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