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In Re Marriage of Morris

ILLINOIS APPELLATE COURT — FIRST DISTRICT (1ST DIVISION) JUDGMENT AFFIRMED.


OPINION FILED JULY 7, 1986.

IN RE MARRIAGE OF ROBERT J. MORRIS, PETITIONER AND COUNTERRESPONDENT-APPELLEE, AND BEVERLY R. MORRIS, RESPONDENT AND COUNTERPETITIONER-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Richard H. Jorzak, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE BUCKLEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied October 16, 1986.

Respondent-counterpetitioner, Beverly R. Morris (Beverly), appeals the denial of her motion to vacate a judgment for dissolution incorporating an oral property-settlement agreement reached between her and petitioner-counterrespondent, Robert R. Morris (Robert). Beverly alleges that the settlement agreement was unfair and was obtained through fraud and coercion. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the denial of the motion to vacate.

The parties were married on September 11, 1948, and had three children during the marriage, all of whom were emancipated at the time of dissolution. On March 30, 1982, Robert filed a petition to dissolve the marriage on the ground of mental cruelty. Beverly generally denied Robert's allegations and filed a counterpetition. At the time the proceedings were initiated, each of the parties was 55 years old. Robert was employed as an executive with Felt-Products Manufacturing Company (referred to by the parties as Fel-Pro). Beverly, a housewife, was temporarily employed in 1983 as a hospital fund raiser.

Beverly initially retained attorney Jerome Kaplan to represent her in this matter. In March 1983, the law firm of Feiwell, Galper & Lasky, Ltd. (intervenor), now known as Feiwell, Galper, Lasky & Berger, Ltd., appeared as additional counsel in this case on behalf of Beverly. George Feiwell of the intervenor firm became the trial attorney in the case and Kaplan served as co-counsel.

To prepare the case for trial, Beverly's attorneys took numerous depositions, employed and consulted with experts and reviewed thousands of financial documents. Intervenor, through Feiwell and David Levy, along with Kaplan, also took part in numerous settlement negotiations on behalf of Beverly. It is undisputed that extensive negotiations occurred on April 3, 6, 9, and 10, 1984. The record further shows that while the negotiations were proceeding, intervenor kept Beverly apprised of the status of the settlement discussions. Beverly was present during the meetings which took place on April 9 and 10, 1984. Beverly and Kaplan kept notes of the settlement discussions.

After the basic provisions of the settlement had been reached, Beverly consulted with three attorneys, in addition to Feiwell, concerning the agreement. One of those attorneys was Kaplan. The other two were Bernard Hammer and Marshall Auerbach. After consulting with each of these attorneys, Beverly agreed to the settlement.

On April 10, 1984, a prove-up of the settlement agreement was conducted, at which time Beverly testified that she was satisfied with the provisions of the agreement and agreed to be bound by it. After hearing Beverly and Robert testify at the prove-up, the trial court concluded that the settlement was "fair, just and equitable" and would be incorporated into the judgment for dissolution. The agreement approved by the court provides that Beverly is to receive the following assets and maintenance:

ASSET VALUE

Marital home $200,000 *fn1 1981 Buick 5,000 California time sharing 20,000 *fn2 condominium investment Half of Israeli bonds 3,000 $125,000 up front 125,000 (after taxes) (as portion of profit-sharing plan)

MAINTENANCE

If Unmarried -First 7 1/2 years: 25% of Robert's yearly gross income. The amount of maintenance is not to exceed $175,000 per year and in no event is it to be less than $100,000 per year. -Thereafter: $100,000 per year.

If Remarries -First 7 1/2 years: 25% of Robert's yearly gross income. The amount of maintenance is not to exceed $175,000 per year and in no event is it to be less than $100,000 per year. -Next 7 1/2 years: $75,000 per year. -Thereafter: $50,000 per year.

Robert receives the following assets under the settlement agreement:

ASSET VALUE

Fel-Pro realty & stock $6 million (non-marital) Robert's life estate in no value *fn3 revocable trust, corpus of which is Fel-Pro realty and stock Robert's profit-sharing 415,000 (before taxes plan paid on all $540,000) Half of Israeli bonds 3,000 Liquid assets less 500,000 (non-marital) liabilities


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