Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon.
PRESIDING JUSTICE SEIDENFELD DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The marriage of Carol A. Marquardt to Earl Thomas Marquardt was dissolved on May 30, 1979. On July 25, 1981, the wife remarried and the husband petitioned for termination of certain obligations provided in the settlement agreement incorporated in the decree. After a hearing in which no evidence was offered or adduced, the trial court found that the agreement amounted to a property settlement rather than a provision for maintenance and granted the wife's motion for summary judgment, thereafter denying the husband's motion for reconsideration. The husband appeals.
Portions of the decree particularly in question state:
LUMP SUM SETTLEMENT IN LIEU OF MAINTENANCE FOR WIFE AND WAIVER OF MAINTENANCE OF HUSBAND
1. Husband agrees to pay wife, and wife agrees to accept as and for a lump sum settlement in lieu of maintenance or other marital rights not specifically included herein, the sum of one hundred and thirty thousand ($130,000) dollars to be paid in weekly installments of five hundred ($500.00) dollars; provided, however, that the husband shall be released from the obligation of payment as to any installment falling due subsequent to the death of the wife.
2. The foregoing payment, when made by the husband to the wife, shall be in full and complete settlement of all claims or rights held or asserted by the wife against the husband for maintenance, and she shall be forever barred from asserting such claims.
3. Husband hereby waives any and all claims for maintenance, past, present and future; and husband shall have no further claims against wife for maintenance, and he is forever barred from asserting said claims.
4. All payments made by the husband to the wife as provided in ARTICLE VIII will be in discharge of a legal obligation imposed by the husband under a written instrument incident to divorce, all within the meaning and intent of Section 71(a) and Section 215 of the Internal Revenue Code as amended and now in effect, and of similar provisions of future laws, and that such payments will be includable in the wife's gross income pursuant to Section 71(a) and will be deducted by the husband pursuant to Section 215 to determine their respective taxable incomes.
5. The parties acknowledge their awareness of the provisions of Illinois Revised Statutes Chapter 40 Section 510(b) which provisions terminate the obligation of a party to pay maintenance upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the recipient of maintenance payments and the parties hereby declare their intention not to be bound by such provisions; it being the intent of the parties that the obligation of the husband hereunder shall terminate only upon death of the wife and that this Separation Agreement and the rights, duties and obligations of the parties granted and assumed hereunder shall exist independent of any decree of dissolution of marriage or separate maintenance and said rights, duties and obligations shall not be reduced, eliminated or modified by the court in any way except insofar as the court shall specifically find the provisions of this Separation Agreement to be unconscionable or shall specifically modify the provisions hereof pertaining to child support, custody or visitation."
Husband will pay for the cost of the wife obtaining seven (7) full years of full time college education including, but not as a limitation, tuition, books and fees. The husband will pay for said college education while the wife is attending full time school upon presentation of bills or appropriate request by wife.
It is further agreed by the parties hereto that `full time school' shall be defined as a minimum of twelve (12) college credits per quarter or semester."
In interpreting settlement agreements, ordinary rules of contract construction apply. (In re Marriage of Kolb (1981), 99 Ill. App.3d 895, 899-900.) Whether the agreement or decree is ambiguous is a question of law to be determined by the trial court. (In re Marriage of Kolb (1981), 99 Ill. App.3d 895, 900.) The parties' intentions must be determined from the language of the instrument itself, unless the instrument is incomplete or the language is ambiguous, in which case extrinsic evidence may be introduced as an aid to interpretation. (Sudler v. Sudler (1972), 6 Ill. App.3d 546, 548.) An agreement is ambiguous if it is susceptible of being interpreted in more than one sense, having characteristics of ...