APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. CHARLES
A. FLECK, JR., Judge, presiding.
MISS JUSTICE MCGILLICUDDY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Roberta Hill, plaintiff, filed a complaint against her husband William Hill, defendant, for separate maintenance and for support for herself and her three minor children. The defendant answered and added a counterclaim for annulment or, in the alternative, a divorce. At a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County, the plaintiff's complaint for separate maintenance and the defendant's counterclaim for divorce were denied and the defendant's counterclaim for an annulment was granted. The plaintiff appeals.
The issues presented for review are: (1) whether the trial court's finding concerning the plaintiff's misrepresentation of her pregnancy to the defendant was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence; (2) whether the trial court erroneously granted the defendant an annulment; (3) whether the court erred in refusing to determine paternity of the plaintiff's three minor children, and (4) whether the trial court erred in denying the plaintiff's complaint for separate maintenance.
It is undisputed that the plaintiff and the defendant were married on October 12, 1975, and that the defendant left the plaintiff on December 26, 1975. A review of the record, however, indicates an inconsistent factual account of the parties' relationship. The plaintiff on direct examination testified that she first met the defendant and had sexual relations with him in April 1960. She further testified that she and the defendant went to hotels and in 1964 began living together in an apartment. The plaintiff alleged that in 1968 the defendant lived with her in her house on a continuous basis but also said he was not present every night. On further questioning the plaintiff said the defendant started living with her on a seven-day-a-week basis when her son Steve was born in 1967.
On cross-examination, however, the plaintiff said she met the defendant in 1961 and started having an affair with him in 1965, when they stayed at hotels. She further stated they began living together in 1969 on a continuous basis. When asked to define continuous, the plaintiff said at least five days a week but not seven.
At the time the plaintiff met the defendant she was living with Claude Drummond and had given birth to two illegitimate daughters by Mr. Drummond. The plaintiff testified that Drummond left her in January of 1964.
The plaintiff gave birth to three illegitimate sons, Craig Drummond, on January 19, 1966, Steve Drummond, on June 11, 1967, and Daniel Hill on July 14, 1972. She contended the defendant is the father of her three sons and denied having sexual relations with any man other than the defendant after their relationship began.
In support of her paternity claim the plaintiff submitted into evidence an insurance policy on the life of the defendant. Attached to the policy was an application allegedly signed by the defendant which listed "Daniel Hill, my son" as a beneficiary. Also admitted into evidence was a letter dated September 7, 1973, allegedly signed by the defendant which stated that he made child-support payments for Daniel Hill to the plaintiff. Although the plaintiff testified that the signatures on the document belonged to the defendant, she did not present witnesses to corroborate the authenticity of the signatures.
On cross-examination the plaintiff admitted she had applied for and received Social Security benefits for Craig and Steve as surviving children of Claude Drummond, deceased. Although the plaintiff admitted that she told the Social Security Administration that Craig and Steve were Claude Drummond's sons, she also stated that the "Application for Surviving Child's Benefit," which contained such a reference, had been completed by a government employee. She claimed she signed the form without reading it. On recross, the plaintiff denied that Craig or Steve were Claude Drummond's sons. In response to defense counsel's question as to whether the defendant ever acknowledged in writing or in court that Craig and Steve were his sons, the plaintiff responded in the negative.
The plaintiff's three boys were called to testify concerning their relationship with the defendant. All three boys identified the defendant as their father and testified that he bought them items such as school supplies and took them places. Craig "thought" the defendant introduced them as his boys.
Claudette Drummond Bush, the plaintiff's daughter, testified that the plaintiff and defendant began their relationship in 1955 or 1960 and that they started living together in 1969, although she was not living with her mother at that time. She also stated that in 1973 the plaintiff showed her checks from the defendant for Daniel but on cross-examination admitted the checks were payable to the plaintiff and did not specifically refer to Daniel. The witness further testified that although her father, Claude Drummond, was living with the plaintiff at the time Craig and Steven were born, he maintained they were not his children. On cross-examination she testified that the plaintiff lived with Drummond until September 1968, two months before he died.
Darnise Drummond Strossier, the plaintiff's other daughter, testified that the defendant and plaintiff began to live together in 1969 or 1970 and that she saw the defendant two or three times a week at her mother's house. She could not remember how the defendant referred to the three boys and said he never expressed his relationship with the boys to her. She said the defendant treated the boys like his sons but on cross-examination admitted he treated her like a daughter.
The defendant denies that he is the father of the plaintiff's three minor children. He alleges he did not have sexual relations with the plaintiff until after Steven was born. He said the plaintiff lived with Claude Drummond until he died. He further testified that he did not live with the plaintiff at any time prior to their marriage and he never spent more than two nights in any week with her. He also denied ever acknowledging that the boys were his sons. He admitted letting the boys refer to him as father but said he also let the plaintiff's daughter refer to him as father.
The defendant presented three witnesses: Janice La June Hill, his daughter by a previous marriage; Willa Mae Hill, a friend and business acquaintance, and Doreen Muffet, a former secretary. All three women testified that the defendant lived with his previous wife, Mary Hill, until their separation in February 1973. The defendant's daughter said he lived with her mother continuously and was never gone for more than two nights on business trips.
In support of her complaint for separate maintenance, the plaintiff testified that the defendant never complained regarding her failure to care and cook for him. She said that before and after they were married the defendant had his own bedroom and his meals were served to him in his room. The plaintiff further testified that the defendant told her she treated him the way he liked to be treated. She alleged that over the course of her relationship with the defendant, she gave him approximately $25,000 for business enterprises, including $8,500 the month before their marriage. She also contended that the defendant sponsored a ...