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In Re Marriage of Lentz

OPINION FILED APRIL 18, 1980.

IN RE MARRIAGE OF LINDA S. LENTZ, APPELLEE, AND LARRY DEAN LENTZ, APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County, the Hon. Harold L. Jensen, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE RYAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This appeal involves the construction of certain provisions of the recently enacted Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 101 et seq.). It concerns the appealability of a judgment entered pursuant to sections 401 and 402 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, pars. 401, 402). The resolution of this issue requires the examination and construction of certain language contained in section 413(a) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 413(a)).

Linda S. Lentz filed a petition for dissolution of marriage in the Champaign County circuit court. Larry Dean Lentz, her husband, filed a counterpetition for legal separation and an answer to the petition for dissolution. The hearing on the grounds for dissolution was conducted in accordance with section 403(e) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 403(e)), which provides for a determination of the dissolution or separation issue separately from other issues. The trial court entered a judgment order wherein respondent's counterpetition for legal separation was denied and the petition for the dissolution of marriage was granted. The judgment order reserved the questions of maintenance and property division for future court action. The order did not contain language to the effect that there was no just reason for delaying enforcement or appeal. (See 73 Ill.2d R. 304(a).) Subsequent to the trial court's denial of respondent's motion for reconsideration, the respondent appealed from the judgment.

On appeal, the appellate court, sua sponte, questioned its jurisdiction to entertain the appeal. (73 Ill. App.3d 93.) The court noted that multiple claims for relief were presented and that an appeal from a final judgment entered on less than all of the claims was permissible only under our Rule 304(a) (73 Ill.2d R. 304(a)). The court found the judgment of dissolution to be final as to the marital status and non-final as to the claims left pending. Since the final judgment, which was entered on less than all of the claims, did not include language to the effect that there was no just reason to delay enforcement or appeal, as required by our Rule 304(a), the appellate court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal.

In the case of Strukoff v. Strukoff (1979), 76 Ill.2d 53, this court upheld the validity of section 403(e) of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 403(e)), which provides that a bifurcated procedure is to be followed in the event of a contested trial. We must now determine whether an appeal may be taken from a judgment of dissolution, entered subsequent to the hearing on the grounds for dissolution, which reserves further matters for judicial consideration. We must necessarily construe the meaning and effect of section 413(a) of the Act, which provides in part:

"A judgment of dissolution of marriage or of legal separation or of declaration of invalidity of marriage is final when entered, subject to the right of appeal." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 40, par. 413(a).

The language of section 413(a), on its face, appears to make the judgments enumerated therein appealable. However, article VI, section 16, of our constitution provides, in part:

"The Supreme Court shall provide by rule for expeditious and inexpensive appeals."

This court has held that this language (which was then contained in article VI, section 7, of the Constitution of 1870) places the responsibility for rules governing appeals in the supreme court and not in the General Assembly. (People ex rel. Stamos v. Jones (1968), 40 Ill.2d 62, 66; see also People v. Taylor (1971), 50 Ill.2d 136, 140.) For historical analysis of the rule-making power of the court, see People v. Jackson (1977), 69 Ill.2d 252.

Our Rule 1 provides in part:

"The rules on appeals supersede statutory provisions inconsistent with the rules and govern all appeals." (73 Ill.2d R. 1.)

Rule 301 provides in part:

"Every final judgment of a circuit court in a civil case is appealable as of ...


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