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In Re Marriage of Voight



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Charles J. JUSTICE DOWNING DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

William M. Voight (William) petitioned for dissolution of his marriage to Irene A. Voight (Irene), who counterpetitioned for the same relief. Dissolution, without cause or provocation, was granted in favor of Irene. Irene filed a post-trial motion contesting the court's property distribution order. Irene appeals the court's denial of her request for partition of the couple's residence and the order requiring Irene to convey by quitclaim deed to William her interest in a house on Pulaski Avenue.

William and Irene, who met through their employment as police officers for the Chicago police department, were married December 10, 1977. Although the parties disagree about the manner in which the events of their lives together came about, there is no dispute that the couple met in July of 1976 and began to see each other socially some time in July of 1977. Both were 29 years old at the beginning of these proceedings and both had previously been married once. The harmony ends here.

A petition for dissolution was filed by William on October 30, 1979. Irene counterpetitioned. Following a hearing on Irene's counter-petition, dissolution in her favor was granted. After hearings were held, the circuit court ordered the following: (1) the dissolution of the couple's marriage; (2) that Irene execute a quitclaim deed transferring sole title of the property on Pulaski Avenue to William; (3) the sale of the couple's Wisconsin property and division of the proceeds, 60% to William and 40% to Irene; (4) that William execute any documents necessary to transfer sole title and interest in a 1977 station wagon to Irene; and (5) that William pay Irene $3,500 in consideration of her interest in the home improvements on Pulaski Avenue and for appliances purchased during the marriage. Each was barred from any interest of the other as to maintenance, attorney fees and a pending personal suit of Irene's.

The testimony in the property distribution hearings focused on each party's contribution toward the marital assets and joint funds. Both parties were of equal rank on the police force and earned approximately the same amount of money. William earned slightly more as a result of seniority.

Irene stated that beginning in July of 1977, she contributed portions (ranging from 50% to all) of her paycheck to a joint fund with William in anticipation of their marriage. She was married to her first husband at the time, but expected an early dissolution of that marriage. A joint checking account was opened in January 1978.

William disagreed with Irene regarding the date the account was opened and the amounts and frequency of her contribution. According to William, she contributed six of her checks from the police department to their joint checking account. William attempted to substantiate his claim by offering into evidence Irene's cancelled paychecks during the time of their marriage, showing that all but six (bearing the joint account number) were cashed at currency exchanges and other banks. Irene said that she stopped contributing to their joint fund in June 1979 when the relationship with William broke down and she moved out.

There is little dispute about the use of the joint funds, which included the following: mortgage payments on the Pulaski property; partial payment for two autos; partial payment for Wisconsin property; improvements and appliances at the Pulaski property; expenses of a dog-grooming business run by Irene; taxes and insurance on the Pulaski property; and normal household expenses.

Although Irene testified that she began to contribute to a joint fund *fn1 with William in July of 1977, there is no dispute that in October 1977, William provided the down payment for the house on Pulaski Avenue. That down payment was $7,500. William testified that, as he was tired of apartment living, he purchased the house as an investment. Irene's explanation of her understanding of why William purchased the house was that he purchased the house in anticipation of their pending marriage; however, in her testimony, she agreed that he bought the house as an investment.

William stated that he moved into the house in October of 1977 and that Irene moved in around November 20, 1977. Irene said that the two moved on the same day. On August 16, 1978, the title of the property was changed from William to William and Irene as joint tenants. Irene testified that the transfer occurred in January or February of 1978. William testified that he was pressured into making this transfer by Irene and that the couple had agreed that if he placed the property in joint tenancy, she would have a will drafted granting to him her interests in other property from her first marriage. This was never done. Six months after title was placed in joint tenancy, Irene moved out.

The parties also disagreed about Irene's contribution to the remodeling of the house and her efforts in cleaning the house, which William claims was a source of continued turmoil and embarrassment. Irene said that she assisted in the house improvements by constant cleaning in addition to normal domestic chores.

The couple purchased property in Wisconsin after they were married. The price of the property was $5,000, of which $3,000 was from a loan secured by an account of William's with the police credit union, the balance coming from the couple's joint funds. At the time the petition was filed, $2,200 was still owing on this property. The monthly payment on the loan ($95) came from the joint fund.

Additionally, the couple jointly held title to a 1977 station wagon, purchased with $500 from the joint account and $3,500 from the sale of an auto Irene received as part of the settlement of her first divorce. There was a balance due on the old auto when Irene received it, which was subsequently paid for from joint funds. Title to the 1977 auto was originally taken in Irene's name. There is conflicting testimony regarding Irene's knowledge and consent to the transfer of the title from Indiana to Illinois and to joint ownership. Irene denied any knowledge of the transfer or that the signature on the title transfer was hers.


• 1 Initially, we consider Irene's argument that if the house on Pulaski Avenue is non-marital property, the court erred by ordering her to transfer her joint interest to William and in denying her ...

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