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In Re Marriage of Ryan

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 4, 1985.

IN RE MARRIAGE OF JANET CRABB RYAN, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, AND MICHAEL JAMES RYAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. John Reynolds, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE WHITE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant Michael James Ryan appeals from the portions of the judgment for dissolution of marriage relating to the distribution of marital property and the award of attorney fees to plaintiff Janet Crabb Ryan.

Plaintiff and defendant were married on June 5, 1976, in Northbrook. No children were born to the marriage; none were adopted. The parties separated in September 1981.

Plaintiff filed her petition for dissolution of marriage on September 25, 1981, alleging that defendant was guilty of extreme and repeated mental cruelty. She also alleged that through their joint efforts and contributions, the parties acquired various pieces of property including the marital residence on Janssen Street in Chicago, real estate in Florida and Arizona, and a business, Impulse Fasteners, Inc. Plaintiff requested that all of the above property be awarded to her; she requested no maintenance.

At the hearing on distribution of marital property, plaintiff testified that she was 33 years old and was employed as a real estate salesperson with Kaplan and Associates in Chicago. When plaintiff married defendant, she owned no real estate but had a Buick and two or three savings accounts totaling $10,000. She testified further that her savings were eventually used to renovate the marital residence (the Janssen Street property) and to contribute toward the purchase of two pieces of real estate: a one-third acre of vacant land in Arizona and a townhouse in Florida. Both pieces of property were sold prior to the hearing: the Arizona property sold for $46,500 and the Florida property sold for $76,000. As a result of the sales, the parties received $12,500 cash which was held in an escrow account and monthly income of $532 from the Arizona property and $135 from the Florida property. Plaintiff also testified that she and defendant lived in the marital residence for approximately two years before it was sold for $140,000. Lastly, plaintiff stated that her income from the beginning of 1983 to the date of the hearing in August 1983, was approximately $19,000 gross.

Defendant testified that he was president and chief executive officer of his inherited business, CSM Screws Company (CSM), which manufactures screws an rivets. Defendant owned 60 shares of the company, and his salary at CSM was more than $3,000 per month for the year 1983 up to the date of the August 1983 hearing. Defendant testified further that at the time of the August hearing, CSM had liabilities of $405,000 and a negative net worth of $13,849. Defendant said he consulted attorneys regarding the filing of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition for reorganization in an effort to delay creditors until CSM was in a better financial position.

Defendant testified that he also operated Impulse Fasteners, Inc., a business which he, plaintiff and two others founded. He stated that the business owed the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) $25,000 for unpaid payroll taxes. Lastly, defendant stated that his monthly expenses included child support for two teenaged children from a previous marriage.

The record shows various debts that arose during the course of the marriage. Those debts amounted to approximately $103,000. After hearing the evidence, the court distributed the assets as follows. Plaintiff was awarded (1) the $32,000 unpaid balance of the proceeds of sale of the Arizona property secured by a mortgage and note payable at $532 per month, and (2) $6,175 cash representing half of a joint savings account and an escrow account. Defendant was awarded (1) the $12,000 unpaid balance of the proceeds of sale of the Florida property secured by a mortgage and note payable at $135 per month, with a payment of $11,789 due December 1984; (2) $6,175, the other half of the savings and escrow accounts; (3) Impulse Fasteners stock and CSM Corporation stock, neither of which was evaluated; and (4) Champion Parts stock valued at $1,000. In addition, the court ordered that the $12,500 cash proceeds from the sale of the Arizona and Florida properties be applied to defray the $25,000 IRS tax liability incurred by defendant and the Impulse Fasteners Company. Lastly, the court held defendant solely responsible for repaying the $103,000 debt which arose during the course of the marriage.

Subsequently, plaintiff's attorney filed a petition requesting that defendant pay plaintiff's total attorney fees, $7,500, plus $83 for court costs. At the hearing on the petition, defendant testified that as of August 1983, his salary was decreased to $2,000 per month as a result of a 30% pay cut taken by all salaried employees of CSM due to poor business conditions. Thereafter, the court ordered defendant to contribute $2,500 towards plaintiff's attorney fees.

Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion: (1) in dividing the marital property unequally in favor of plaintiff and (2) in ordering defendant to pay a portion of plaintiff's attorney fees. On the issue of the unequal distribution of marital property, defendant, citing In re Marriage of Clearman (1980), 85 Ill. App.3d 584, 407 N.E.2d 189, maintains when the marital property is divided in substantial favor of one party, the division is facially unjust unless there are extraordinary circumstances.

• 1 Section 503(c) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 40, par. 503(c)) does not require a showing of extraordinary circumstances to justify an unequal distribution of marital property. The Act requires only that the court divide marital property in just proportions considering all relevant factors. (See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 40, pars. 503(d)(1) through (7).) Decisions construing the Act have established that an equitable division of marital property is not necessarily an equal one (In re Marriage of Rossi (1983), 113 Ill. App.3d 55, 446 N.E.2d 1198; In re Marriage of Borg (1981), 96 Ill. App.3d 282, 421 N.E.2d 214); thus, the court can properly award one spouse a greater share where the relevant factors warrant that result. In re Marriage of Rossi (1983), 113 Ill. App.3d 55.

• 2 The trial court has broad discretion under the Act, and its apportionment of property will not be disturbed absent an abuse of that discretion. (In re Marriage of Bentivenga (1982), 109 Ill. App.3d 967, 441 N.E.2d 336.) An abuse of discretion occurs only when no reasonable man would take the view of the trial court. (In re Marriage of Rossi (1983), 113 Ill. App.3d 55.) We believe the trial court's distribution of marital assets and its allocation of debts are justified under the Act. In re Marriage of Rossi (1983), 113 Ill. App.3d 55; In re Marriage of Borg (1981), 96 Ill. App.3d 282.

• 3 The gravamen of defendant's argument is directed toward the court's allocation of the $103,000 debt. A detailed appraisal of the amounts and the structure of those debts will aid in understanding why the trial court held defendant solely responsible for their repayment.

The evidence shows that $25,000 of the debt consisted of individual income taxes owed by defendant and delinquent payroll taxes of the Impulse Fasteners Company. As shown above, this $25,000 tax liability was defrayed in part by $12,500 of the marital assets. Approximately $1,500 of the total debt represented a 1981 IRS debt for interest and penalties incurred by plaintiff for ...


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